Our data tracking is so much cleaner with Field Maps. Our trappers love how much easier the workflow is, and it is easier for them to manage their work.
Napa County Agricultural Commissioner's Office Digitally Transforms Workflows for Pest Detection with Mobile Solution for Data Collection, Reporting
The unique biodiversity of Northern California's Napa County, home to Napa Valley wine country, is composed of a rare Mediterranean climate, an array of wildlife species and plants, and coastal redwood forests. These elements lend themselves to an environment suitable for growing crops like grains, nuts, and grapes as well as supporting livestock. A recent Napa County crop report showed an increase in the gross value of agriculture production totaling more than $894 million in 2022, a 19.9 percent increase over 2021.
The Napa County Agricultural Commissioner's Office is responsible for the implementation of federal, state, and local regulatory programs to promote and protect the growing agricultural industry. The county office surveys more than 46,000 production acres, works with more than 700 local growers, and monitors thousands of properties to protect local agriculture through a variety of programs, including pesticide use enforcement, weights and measures, pest exclusion, and pest detection.
The county's pest detection program helps protect against the introduction of exotic pests in commercial agriculture by catching them in detection traps and identifying them early before they become established. Field-based work is a critical part of the program and mobile workers are responsible for data collection in the field and maintaining comprehensive records. The previous workflow included paper trap cards and daily trap summaries (DTSs), written by hand, to create the federally required auditable record.
When the team members at the agricultural commissioner's office wanted to transform their time-consuming, paper-based processes, they turned to Esri technology for an all-in-one application for mobile data collection and reporting. The new solution has helped improve their field data collection processes and electronic reporting while enabling the office to achieve its goal of protecting local agriculture more efficiently.
The work of trappers, or the ones responsible for placing and maintaining traps, included completing a map card with details, such as drawing the location of what they were inspecting (like a tree); documenting the GPS coordinates; and placing the trap to catch the invasive pests. Each trapper then would place the map cards in a binder. According to Anna Norton, Napa County deputy agricultural commissioner and sealer of weights and measures, having the crew working with these individual paper records led to a costly lack of efficiency, with multiple employees servicing the same property for different traps.
"We would have one project in one type of binder and another project in another type of binder. And because we were [putting records] on paper . . . there was no way to get everybody in the room [to align staff]," says Norton. "There was no way to integrate and overlap those projects without having some sort of electronic tool where everybody could see live what traps were in action."
This manual process also extended to the DTS, which each trapper is required to complete daily. The summary includes a handwritten record of every trap servicing the trappers did, which was hours of work every day. Staff would also use this data from trap cards for preseason planning and mandatory federal reports, requiring the transfer of the handwritten data from the DTS to another form and increasing the likelihood for data transfer errors.
Norton explains, "Because we have to evolve and change our trapping project year over year, we would have multiple full-time staff [members] going through all of those binders of trap cards, hand drawing all of the updated maps to then plan where our traps were going to go for the next season."
Improved reporting would also help in instances of quarantine. If a dangerous pest is found in the county, there are strict regulatory requirements to follow to ensure that it doesn't spread. Data must be readily accessible by federal and state agencies so that they know how the dangerous pest is being eradicated. According to Norton, auditors previously had to be in the Napa office and spend days looking through trap books for data.
"Our international partners aren't going to let us continue to ship anything until we prove, through this laundry list of scientific methods, that we have executed everything perfectly and sent them that data in an auditable fashion," explains Norton.
The team members at the agricultural commissioner's office began their digital transformation journey of collecting and maintaining trap records with ArcGIS Collector. Later, when Collector was retired, they transitioned to using its replacement, ArcGIS Field Maps. ArcGIS Field Maps is a comprehensive mobile solution that allows users to capture data in the field, perform inspections, take notes, and share information.
They initially tested ArcGIS Field Maps by having a trapper use it in the field for one season and report results. The feedback from the trapper was excellent, and the office transitioned full-time to Field Maps in the winter of 2020.
For Napa County, supporting trappers through this transition from maintaining paper records to using a fully mobile solution was very important. Tracy Cleveland, Napa County agricultural commissioner and sealer of weights and measures, says, "Anna [Norton] was really critical in helping the [trappers] embrace it and understand it and creating our whole training program around it."
Norton explains that at the beginning of each season, a full week is dedicated to hands-on training and each trapper has an Apple iPad with Field Maps installed. Training also includes presentations on the revamped process. The second week of training involves as much field training as the trappers need over five days, though Norton says they usually only need two days because of how easy and intuitive Field Maps is.
"We had this wonderful buy-in where it was great to have staff come in, and we just really encouraged lots of questions; lots of training; and this change in culture where it's like, 'Hey, if something's not working, let's see what we can do,'" says Norton.
Norton and her team also developed how-to videos, presentation slides, and documents that are available offline for trappers to access in the field. These resources are updated regularly when changes are needed.
The use of ArcGIS Field Maps has helped the Napa County Agricultural Commissioner's Office digitally transform its data collection and reporting processes as well as enhance collaboration among staff. With new digital workflows, Norton says staff are eager to help one another because they have embraced the technology.
Norton feels that the success of this digital transformation has also had a great impact on quality of work life for associates in the field. "The culture has grown enormously . . . and I have to say that the majority of why is because of the technology shift. They're happy to collect new data that otherwise would have been a nightmare," says Norton. "Now you drop a beautiful little point on the map and move on. They're happier workers."
The office has seen more accuracy when performing preseason planning and distributing daily work for staff. Preseason planning is typically completed at the beginning of the year, which involves proposing traps and naming them as well as drawing map cards. The lengthy process is now completed in one week or less with only two people. Before, four staff members would work nearly full-time from October through February. The proposed traps are entered into Field Maps, and mobile workers can easily view their assigned routes by touching the trap icon on their iPad.
ArcGIS Field Maps has made the jobs of the trappers easier as well. While trappers are placing or maintaining the invasive-species traps, they now have access to all available trap history in one mobile app. This enables them to know who has serviced it and when and, more importantly, what they need to do next. They also use a function, called Markup, in Field Maps to share the areas that have been covered or are outstanding, as well as the routes they take from trap to trap.
"Even just simply sharing and covering routes was almost impossible on paper. [Now] everybody knows exactly where everybody is at any given time," explains Norton. "And because of the symbology, it's super easy for other staff to then jump into other people's routes."
Back in the office, electronic reporting enables the agricultural commissioner's office to query all records in minutes and send them as needed. Norton says that with handwritten trap cards and DTSs, it was very time-consuming for staff to find the data they needed. Now, when it comes time to send mandatory reports to state or federal partners, the data they need is at their fingertips.
"Being able to pull the data live or well after the fact . . . [and] having that data readily accessible, and [how] it doesn't take us months to prepare, is everything," says Norton. "We can put reports together in a matter of hours, which is incredible."
The fast access to a worker's DTS means the summary can be printed and immediately reviewed for accuracy. This is critical because each time records were transferred from paper, the error rates became high. According to Norton, the office's error rate is now less than 1 percent.
Digital smart forms have replaced trap cards, providing readily available and up-to-date information, including notes that can be quickly added with the use of Dictation on iPad. Previously, staff would draw map cards all winter, and when trappers were in the field, they would have to update the card to match what was there. Now, data is prepopulated, so there are fewer fields to complete and less room for error.
The use of Field Maps has helped the agricultural commissioner's office improve the early detection of invasive pests and reduced operations costs. For example, preparing map cards in winter previously cost $106,000 in time and labor; now it costs about $5,000. Norton says being able to run the program on an electronic device and still meet required audit goals would not have been possible with the paper-based workflow.
"The favorite part of my career here . . . has been this evolution with Field Maps and being able to find solutions for field staff. We want them to be successful and show them that we care and that we're working hard to create solutions for them to improve [their jobs]," says Norton.