The value of digital geospatial information is recognized in many applications, and today it touches nearly every part of our lives. Easy access, data sharing, security, and consistency are just a few of the advantages of digital databases. In addition, the ability to generate maps and charts as visual aids enhances communication between internal and external personnel. If information cannot be retrieved, summarized and analyzed in a timely manner, it is not very useful.

No one enjoys filling out forms and filing paperwork; however, having a good document management system saves time and money in the long run. Accurate and complete information supports analysis of expenses and operations and supports better decision making, as well as assisting with audits that occur in regulated industries and potential lawsuits brought against organizations for damage to health or property. 

Focus on Health and Wellness

The application of pesticides and herbicides is highly regulated at federal and state levels due to associated health risks to people and animals and potential for damage to water supplies and the environment. Several high-profile court cases involving glyphosate have raised awareness about the risks related to commonly used chemicals and have brought added scrutiny to the industry. Violations of regulations introduced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, state departments of agriculture and other agencies can result in civil and/or criminal penalties.

A wide range of organizations are expected to comply with these regulations, including schools, golf and resort properties, organic food growers, mosquito control districts, federal facilities, departments of transportation, and food processing facilities. Every entity that applies restricted-use pesticides and herbicides must have licensed pest control professionals oversee the work. With multiple active ingredients present in many products, attempting to keep up to date with complex requirements is daunting, particularly for small businesses that may not have personnel dedicated to this task. 

Historically, records documenting the fight against invasive species and other pests have been paper based, making it nearly impossible to establish a clear picture of how much and what kinds of specific treatments — chemical and non-chemical — have been applied over time. An online geospatial solution is able to store important data metrics such as application dates, areas treated, weather conditions, hydrologic unit code (HUC) watershed designations and chemically active ingredients used, making reporting and analysis less of a chore.

“We advocate for the digital transformation of the entire workflow involving integrated pest management (IPM) because the chemicals can have significant impacts on the environment and public health and safety,” explains Sally Holbert, president of Land Logics Group. “Digital data collection and management using geospatial technology supports a consistent and accurate record of activity, which is essential for complying with regulations and responding to inquiries.”

Insect and Weed Management

By applying years of mapping and GIS database experience to IPM, Land Logics Group, a geospatial consulting and mapping services firm headquartered in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, developed PESTLogics to address the need for better chemical usage record keeping. This web-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) provides tools to create a comprehensive digital record of pest management activities, including the amount, date, and location of all chemical applications. The content management system is based on open source technology and uses a point, line and polygon format to build electronic forms and other tools, which are accessible in the field or the office. It also offers additional resources, such as the Best Management Practice (BMP) Module, pesticide inventories and labels, work orders, performance charts, budgets and pest sighting logs.

“As an early adopter of geospatial technology for landscape architecture and watershed management, I appreciate the many advantages that digital data brings to IPM,” says Holbert. “Workers complete a simple electronic form with an embedded map onsite or in the office that includes the products used for treatment, targeted pests, weather details and amounts used for treatment. Total pounds of active ingredients are automatically calculated and stored for each recorded pest task activity, and each activity record is logged with geospatial coordinates and any additional information. To expedite the data collection process, each organization builds its own short list of allowable pesticide products in an ‘Approved Use’ list.”

Any mobile device connected to the internet, such as a smartphone or tablet, can be used to map a location and input the necessary information into a PESTlogics task form. If an application requires a higher level of accuracy, for example around a water supply area, PESTlogics is designed to work in Esri’s Collector app for higher accuracy data collection using an Eos GNSS Arrow 100 receiver. 

For additional time-savings, PESTLogics allows voice recordings, pictures, written descriptions, and detailed chemical information to be stored as part of the cloud database for future uses, such as IPM adaptive management, responding to audits or right-to-know requests, or submitting invoices for reimbursement. 

Trend Towards Digital

Increased awareness of the damage that toxic chemicals can do to our water and food supply, as well as overall public health, is driving improvements in IPM to reduce risk and liability. Deciphering complex ingredient labels and complying with restrictions that vary state by state is not an easy process; however, access to complete information online is a step in the right direction. Comparing the history of pest management data to current infestations helps improve operations over time. The simple process of tracking pounds of chemically active ingredients in pesticide products used at a specific location helps to quantify the “chemical footprint” that is being created and supports better assessments of the long-term impact on the environment. 

Some states, such as Maryland, have worked on requiring digital record keeping for herbicide and pesticide usage, although today it is still optional. Taking into consideration the time needed to search through paper records, compile summaries, answer questions, etc., and the potential for financial liability if an organization is found to be non-compliant or at fault, a digital database should be a viable option. Digital records can also expedite receiving payments, since some states, like Florida, reimburse Mosquito Control Districts based on reports detailing product usage by pounds of active ingredient and services provided by location.

“We’ve created a customizable platform that works for anyone dealing with pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, from facilities managers to mosquito mitigation specialists,” says Holbert. “The regulations are not going to get less complicated, so the future of legacy, paper-based systems is limited.”