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UNL students create award-winning app: a profit calculator for farmers

Samantha fox

In only six weeks, a group of University of Nebraska-Lincoln students created an award-winning application that can make life easier for crop growers.

“We sat down and thought about what we could do in a short amount of time that will make the most impact, and finding a way to make people profitable was a good answer,” said Matthew Pedersen, the driving force behind the app.

Pedersen and Fernando Napier led the group of five who created the “Farm Profit Calculator” app, which gives farmers insight on how they can maximize their profits. The other members included Glen Obear, a current agronomy grad student and Chris Proctor and Justin Van Wart, both former agronomy graduate students at UNL.

The app won three awards in a contest held by Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in January. The students won best student-made app, best open source app and an honorable mention — a feat their advisor, Roch Gaussoin, said was unexpected.

“They thought they would be competitive. They didn’t think they’d come away with three of the eight awards.”

“They thought they would be competitive,” he said. “They didn’t think they’d come away with three of the eight awards.”

Gaussoin is the head of the department of agronomy and horticulture at UNL and was the one who first told Pederson about the competition.

Pederson said the group’s goal was to make an app that could help farmers. They used technology already available, but not easily accessible.

The group drew on resources like the current regional prices for corn, wheat and soybeans. The app lets farmers input their crop size and expenses to see an estimated profit based on projected yield.

The app is only available on Android systems, but the team plans to use the $63,000 they won to develop the app further. The next steps include making the application compatible on Apple and Windows operating systems as well.

There is no time table on when it will be out, Napier said, but Android systems allow for more freedom for developers, something Napier was able to toy with in his first non-class related project.

“The coursework is great to get started with programming concepts, but to create a fully functioning application is a challenge in it’s own right,” he said. “You have full control on how the software looks, works and interacts with users.”

Pedersen sees the app as a beta and said he wants to, in the short-term, use data specific at the state, then county level, rather than by region.

Lucas Joppa, an environment scientist at Microsoft, was a judge for the app competition said he agreed that specific data was important for the app moving forward.

But even with more goals in mind, the app is already impressing producers who are utilizing it, and with the feedback, the plan is for students to start using the app in their classes in UNL.

“I’ve been very impressed with producer reaction to it,” Gaussion said. “(Producers) said they’ve struggled with what to do with the data available. With the application, they are now able to use real-time data, so the producers seem really excited.” ❖


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