New app to measure water stress of grapevines

A new smartphone app that helps grape growers measure the water status of their vines is being trialed across Australia.

The portable viticultural tool has the potential to help grape growers make improved water management decisions for their vineyards.

Grape growers use a thermal camera attached to their smartphone to take images of the canopy of the grapevine. The image is analysed by the app, which calculates the vine water status.

The technology is being tested by 15 vineyards in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Tasmania for the rest of the growing season.

The Wine Australia-funded project is being led by the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), a division of Primary Industries and Regions SA, in close collaboration with The University of New South Wales (UNSW).

Dr Kathy Ophel-Keller, Acting Executive Director of SARDI said, “Water and associated pumping costs can be a significant component of the production costs for grape growers.

“Uncontrolled water stress has the potential to reduce the yield and quality of grapes and the resulting wine, which in turn reduces the return to growers.

“The management of vine water status is a key tool for grape growers to regulate yield and optimise fruit quality and style.

“This new app offers grape growers instant feedback on the water status of their vines, and provides them with the flexibility to assess multiple blocks or sections of blocks, and to make irrigation decisions in real time.”

Dr Liz Waters, General Manager of Research, Development and Extension at Wine Australia said, “Irrigating effectively and efficiently helps to optimise vineyard production to produce high-quality wine grapes for fine Australian wines.

“Through many years of extensive research, methods have been developed to assess grapevine water status. This new app provides a portable solution to measure water status quickly and easily in the vineyard.

“‘The app allows growers to make informed irrigation decisions that support the production of high-quality fruit grown to specification.”

Make a fresh start with your fridge in 2017: apps to reduce food waste and save money

I have never been good at sticking to New Year’s resolutions. Whether it’s to floss my teeth more or to join a gym, I just don’t manage to keep them up. But this year I am setting myself a better goal – one that will save me money, time and be good for the planet. I’m going to start using a meal planning and pantry inventory app.

If you barely have time to scribble together a shopping list, let alone browse recipes or check cupboards before leaving the house, then meal planning apps are a great tool to help manage shopping, cooking and eating.

They have a range of features that help you track what’s in your pantry and fridge, import recipes, create meal plans, generate shopping lists, and sometimes all of the above. They take a bit of time to set up, but once that’s done they can make your life a lot easier.

Why plan meals?

It doesn’t sound very sexy, but planning meals and knowing what’s in your fridge and pantry when you go shopping is a great way to reduce food waste and save time and money.

Globally, one-third of edible food produced is wasted. This puts a strain on scarce resources such as land and water, and generates significant greenhouse gas emissions.

If food waste were a country, it would have the third-highest emissions after China and the US.

Menu planning also means fewer trips to the supermarket and less impulse spending, as well as helping you use leftovers more efficiently.

So what are these apps?

To get you started, I’ve put together an overview of a few useful apps that I came across during my research. Results of a recent survey by MenuForMums in the UK found that 90% of members saved time and money (and by default reduced food waste) by using its online meal planning service.

1.) Pepperplate is a mobile app that helps you to compile and organise your recipe collection, create meal plans, generate shopping lists and cook the recipes that you want to try.

Recipes can be imported by pasting their URL from the web or by entering them manually. They can then be used to create meal plans and interactive shopping lists which allow you to tick off items as you go and share with others. When cooking, Pepperplate will walk you through the recipes, complete with cooking timers. Other similar meal planning apps are BigOven and AnyList.

Recent research has shown that Melbourne wastes 200kg of food per person a year.
Food waste image from www.shutterstock.com

2.) Cloud-Freezer helps you create shopping lists like Pepperplate, but focuses on inventories rather than meal planning. It allows you to keep track of the items you already have in your fridge, freezer and pantry, including expiry dates so you can plan what you need to eat first to reduce food waste.

Items can be added to shopping lists from a library of previous entries, moved between shopping lists and inventories, and between the inventories themselves (for example, if you move something from the freezer to the fridge to defrost). The app has a barcode scanner function connected to user-driven databases to help you enter items quickly. There are similar but less sophisticated cross-platform apps called GrocerEaze and Out of Milk.

3.) MealBoard offers the most features and could be life-changing if you take the time to set it up. It’s a combination of Pepperplate and Cloud-Freezer because it enables you to import recipes, plan meals, generate shopping lists and do inventories. Integrating these features turbocharges your ability to organise food activities because it automatically populates shopping lists with what you have to buy, taking into account what you already have at home.

This could save a lot of time and effort, and prevent a lot of duplicate shopping. If you’re prepared to do that, it’s a powerful tool. Another cross-platform app, FoodPlanner, boasts the same features as MealBoard.

So if you have some spare time in the holidays, after recovering from your food coma and before you join that gym, maybe take one of these apps for a trial run. Between Christmas leftovers and forgotten items in the back of your pantry, you may not need to shop for weeks.

The time you save might make it easier to stick to all your other resolutions, and your wallet and the planet will thank you for it.

The Conversation

Seona Candy, Research Fellow: Food and Urban Systems, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Mobile paperless HACCP inspection app

Techs4Biz has developed a paperless app for food safety inspectors to make sure their inspection meets safety and HACCP requirements. 

The mobile app takes away the hassle of lugging around packets of papers and clipboards and additional camera. The paperless app works on a variety of mobile devices (such as iOS and Android tablets and smartphones), and the speed and ease it affords saves all stakeholders time and money. 

The new paperless HACCP inspection app addresses the various limitations of conventional paper-based HACCP inspection methods including the laborious paperwork that needs to be manually filled up at every stage of the inspection. 

Apart from taking a lot of time, entering information in a paper form is not only tedious and error-prone but also confusing, especially when the inspection is being conducted in new sites environments.

The new app can help food inspectors use their mobile devices to enter data using pick lists or speech to text; take photos using the mobile device’s in-built camera; capture electronic signature; get real time access to reference material such as instructions, previous inspection history, and relevant standards (e.g ISO 22000); send completed report and images back to the office in real-time; automatically generate reports on the spot and send to clients; and follow up on required corrective actions.

Techs4Biz’s paperless HACCP inspection solution has been specifically configured to suit the inspection requirements of any type of food safety program including pest control, food handling, sanitation checks, equipment calibration, personal hygiene and many more.