Mobile Data Collection in Agriculture: RAID Hosts MAD Workshop

  • Project: Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID) Hosted a Workshop on Mobile Acquired Data Apps
  • Industry: Agriculture
  • Location: Australia
  • Purpose:  Train Australia-based researchers on how to use CommCare. This workshop brought together over 20 Australia-based researchers to the University of Melbourne to learn how to use CommCare for digital data collection in international agriculture research.


Three agriculture researchers using CommCare on their computers.

Researchers learning how to use CommCare. Image credit: University of Melbourne


The CommCare Training

Researchers in Agriculture for International Development (RAID) is an Australia-based network that brings together researchers with an interest in agriculture and international development. This year the group held a two-day workshop about using CommCare to replace paper surveys and how to digitize field work. AgImpactUniversity of Melbourne, and the Austrailian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) were all involved in the training.

This was a great opportunity for researchers from several different project spaces and locations to get together and learn from one another. By the end of two days, the researchers were able to start building their own CommCare applications, deploy surveys to a tablet, and start collecting data.


What the Researchers are Saying

The researchers who attended the RAID training weighed-in on whether they thought CommCare was a valuable tool. We’ve included some feedback below. To hear more from the researchers, watch the video below.

All of my research to-date has been using pen and paper to collect my data, and this workshop was all about ‘up-skilling’ Australian and international researchers in use of digital technology for that kind of research.” – Caspar Roxburgh, University of Queensland

The highlight of being here is just how much of a game-changer the app will be for data collection. Not only the different linkages you can make between your data, but also being able to translate your app to English and your results as well. That’s just gonna make everything so much faster.” – Nichola Calvani, University of Sydney

I can say that CommCare has a lot of application in the work I do both domestically and internationally, and not just in the project space, but also within our teaching roles and within the industry itself working farmers. The potential is just limited by our imagination.” – Michael Campbell, Charles Sturt University

CommCare for Agriculture

Using mobile data collection apps like CommCare can help organizations increase efficiency and reduce data errors.

David McGill, from RAID’s management committee, said streamlining data collection is a huge step in the right direction for saving time and increasing research quality.

In the past, and even now, lots of researchers use paper-based systems to record data, enter it into Excel and then do the data analysis. We can take out a couple of those steps now using a lot of these cloud-based or internet-based solutions, which reduces your data errors by 20 to 30 percent and frees up data analysis time by up to a couple of months.”

When considering various mobile application platforms, a key feature for many organizations working in the agriculture space is the ability to work offline while collecting data. The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) recently funded a study designed to determine the feasibility of using a single, off-the-shelf mobile data collection solution for future use. After looking at the results from the field test, ACIAR determined that CommCare was the best solution for their work. CommCare received a 100 percent approval with ACIAR’s field staff for the ability to function offline. This was an important consideration because many ACIAR projects take place in remote locations with limited or nonexistent wireless data connectivity. To learn more about this study and how CommCare is used in agriculture projects, check out this blog post.

Parts of this article were first published by the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Melbourne. You can read more here.


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