UofS CompSci students harvest experience for Farm@Hand mobile app


Three Computer Science graduate students collaborate to develop a prototype farm management application to take to market.

The market for smart phone applications is very competitive and tech start-ups must work with aggressive deadlines to bring their apps to market. Three Computer Science graduate students from the University of Saskatchewan helped start-up application developer Farm@Hand to advance their product with a quick turnaround so that they can take it to market in Canada’s fast-paced digital sector.

Agriculture and farming in the 21st century is an increasingly complex operation that requires sound organization and planning, from seed inventories to tractor parts and harvest planning, among other tasks for the farmer. Farm@Hand, a start-up mobile application company, was built to help farmers address the complex needs of their operations "from seed to sale."

But the app was running into challenges as it grew and gained popularity. It was limited to devices running outdated mobile operating systems and lacked the server and database infrastructure to effectively manage continued growth.

To address these challenges, Mitacs Business Development Officer Chris Bowman approached Professor Ralph Deters to find a graduate student suited to the task. M.Sc. candidate Khaled Haggag was initially brought on board, but when it became clear that the task was greater than anticipated, Nam Hoang and Rahnuma Kavi joined the team. With Chris Bowman’s assistance and Mitacs Accelerate’s fast approval process, they were able to get to work quickly. 

Together, the students rebuilt the server infrastructure and investigated ways to make it suitable to newer operating systems and higher client demands. They also enhanced the app’s reliability for farmers with poor cell coverage, added Facebook integration and real-time weather updates. At the end of their internship, the students were able to produce and submit both server and application prototypes to Farm@Hand. The company may soon be able to take their application to market from these prototypes.

Throughout the internship, the students learned some valuable lessons in project management, communication and team work. Khaled spoke on behalf of his colleagues saying, “The experience with Mitacs Accelerate was incredibly beneficial: we learned to work within corporate deadlines in the work atmosphere, and about time and task management for these kinds of projects.”

Professor Deters, who has supervised over a dozen students on Mitacs Accelerate projects, praised the program for giving his students relevant experience that employers look for:

"Mitacs Accelerate is the most applied program for students—it helps them to understand and solve the problems which have an impact on companies, and ultimately on people’s lives. Frequently employers look to my students and see their experience with Mitacs as valuable assets for hiring."

Khaled will be expanding his industry-relevant experience through another Mitacs Accelerate internship this year and is considering joining the burgeoning tech sector upon completion of his master’s degree. Meanwhile, Nam was offered an internship with a major international technology company based on his experience building the Farm@Hand application and Rahnuma was hired by a Toronto start-up.

Artcile Credit: Mitacs Newsroom