His years in the software industry certainly helped.
John Moss, a 33-year-old cranberry grower from Cranmoor, Wisconsin, whose family farm is in the Ocean Spray co-op, created a smartphone app for his irrigation system that allows him to control and monitor it remotely. He also developed the software program Blossom, which tracks equipment maintenance and inputs and outputs like crop yield and the amount of fertilizer used. Let’s just say that cranberries aren’t the only fruits of his labor he’ll be selling soon. We wanted to learn more so sat down for a Q & A with Moss.
MF: How does the smartphone irrigation app GrowerOne work?
JM: It controls a system of computers, wireless networking equipment, sensors in the field and other hardware. When you have many pumps to run, being able to start them all instantly and have them run through a proper warm-up sequence automatically is a big time-saver. When we’re running the sprinklers for frost protection, time is of the essence, so being able to start them quickly is a huge help. In addition, the system provides real-time feedback while the pumps are running. We know right away when there’s an issue, like a burst pipe or an overheated engine.
Another benefit is that the system uses wireless modems throughout the property and is local to the farm. Other systems on the market often rely on cellular modems, where each device connects to a cell tower and the Internet. We have our system connected, too, so we can use the app, but if we were ever worried about security, we could disconnect the system from the Web and still run the pumps.
MF: What about Blossom, the record-keeping app?
JM: I also wrote a farm management app, Blossom, for the Web and mobile devices. It allows us to readily examine inputs, such as fertilizer used, and outputs, such as barrels delivered to Ocean Spray. It has helped us organize our data for easy access. This allows us to not only see individual items but also aggregate information and gain a holistic view of the farm and insight about our business. The current version of the software is specific to cranberry farming, but I hope to expand to other crops in the future.
MF: Do you think other, younger-generation farmers could do what you’ve done?
JM: Besides having my computer science degree, I spent 10 years in the software industry before returning to the farm, so I’d like to think my experience counts for a lot. But it all depends on their drive. I’ve seen recent grads who could do this. Then again, I’ve seen people with 10 years in the industry who wouldn’t know how to go about it.
MF: You plan to sell Blossom. When will it be available, and how much will it cost?
JM: I had hoped to sell it by the end of the year, but I haven’t locked down the price structure yet. When I do sell it, I’ll work with farmers to customize it for their operations. In the future, I hope to think of other apps that will save time and make farming operations more efficient.