What the world needs is a good Web site for agriculture. At least that's what Crop & Soil Sciences graduate student Stuart Pocknee figured. When he arrived in Tifton from Australia in 1993 to begin work on his doctorate on soil spacial variability in precision farming, Pocknee already loved the Internet.
From the 'Land Down Under' to Sandy South Georgia
When your family and friends are half-way around the world and you're living on a grad student's income, e-mail is a natural fit for communicating long-distance, Pocknee says.
Soon he was looking to the Internet for more than letters from home.
"I was interested in news, sports, anything not in the local media, and the Web had so much," Pocknee recalls. "But it didn't have a lot of information on precision agriculture."
Brainstorming with Major Professor
Pocknee's major professor, Craig Kvien, agreed. They decided the listservs and a few other sites just weren't enough. And they knew the Web could be a great way to get news out about precision agriculture. So Pocknee developed a small scale information resource on the Web - a compendium of information linked together.
"None of this is difficult, it just takes time," Pocknee says. "So I decided I needed to write programs to automate the process. The programs collect links and look after them and make changes that make the Web site more efficient. It worked well but then we wanted to make applications bigger. That's where AgriSurf came from."
Especially for Aggies
AgriSurf is designed for farmers, agribusiness people, farm press, educators and others to find out what they need to know about agriculture rapidly. The Ag Index lists 12,751 sites in various categories. Pocknee's automated system allows groups to add their site to his index themselves.
You can also check ag news, ag weather, ag shows, ag sounds and an ag forum. Add your vote to the poll, which asks, "Who feeds the world?" Farmers cornered 91 percent of the vote, but visit the comments section to find out why people cast their votes for politicians and researchers as well. Check out the archive s for some fascinating facts.
Over a Million Hits a Month on a Shoestring Budget
And while you're there, notice the advertisers.
"They about cover the costs of keeping up the site," Pocknee says. "Their dollars cover the connection costs, the news feed and computers. I tried to come up with a system that gave me the most control and still be cut- throat cheap with the best technology I could afford."
The site may run on a shoestring, but it doesn't look cheap. Not to the 35,000 regular users who account for 1.2 million hits a month.
"That's pretty good for a little site with only word-of-mouth advertising," Pocknee says.
But Pocknee isn't done with AgriSurf yet.
"What I want to do is expand the search capabilities," he says. "Right now it's more of an index but it doesn't search these sites for the information they have."
AgriSurf. That's what a little ingenuity and technology will get you.