No one likes a good mobile app more than I. I think I have about 200 apps on my iPhone and iPad. Somehow, I seem to use most of them often. This includes apps like SoilWeb, Planimeter and four or five weather apps. However, there are times when I just need to write something down quickly, such as when a call comes in from the grove on something that needs to be acted upon right away. In these cases, I might not have time to whip out the PDA, turn it on, enter the passcode, start an app, get the type screen called up, and start typing away.

In these instances in the past, I’d jot something on a piece of paper lying around, or in an increasingly disorganized notepad. But I eventually worked out a better way. I call this, the GroveDex™ system. GroveDex™ is a PIM (personal information management) system that uses 3×5 index cards specially designed to handle the kind of grove information I have to use every day. In this post, I’ll show you what GroveDex™ is, and how you can even adapt it for your own use. In a second post to follow, I’ll show you a companion system that I call, “GroveMod™ PIM, which is based on the popular PocketMod technique for carrying ready-to-access information in your pocket.

Information management in the citrus industry is based on forms. Sometimes these forms are paper and other forms are routed through digital sources. Most of the time, these forms are not very aesthetic, and this can be a mind-numbing proposition when you have to fill out dozens or hundreds of forms on a weekly basis. There has to be a better way, right?

Roy Scott and David Seah have designed some outstanding productivity forms that provided the inspiration for my GroveDex™ system. Their forms use type, design and color to make the forms easy to understand and use. What’s more, it’s easy to quickly glance at their forms and get the main point of their content right away. Roy Scott has helped us design great-looking forms that we use in the research community. (Roy Scott is an internationally-recognized illustrator who’s produced stunning designs for science and technology. Be sure to check out his website.) But, it’s about time we had cool-looking forms out in the groves!

Most people in the citrus business know me for my research and computer technologies, but I’m also out in the groves just about every day as well. This includes checking on field operations, harvesting, collecting and running fruit tests and other samples and so forth. What I usually do is talk to our main field supervisor for an update on the operations before heading out to the grove. Instead of typing notes form this conversation into my iPhone, what I did was work out a simple form (inspired by David Seah) to simply jot the information down as I talk. My form is in the form of an Adobe InDesign template, and I just print out as many as I need onto Avery #5833 index cards. Here’s the template design, which I usually modify a little bit at a time as I figure out better ways to use it. I prefer to use these index cards (hence, the name, GroveDex™) instead of having a custom notebook printed. Each GroveDex™ card can be tweaked each time I use it when printed onto Avery’s form off own template. Currently, I have about 5 GroveDex™ designs based on what my main activity is for which I’m using the card. These are: a) field operations; b) harvest crews; 3) sampling and surveys (soil, tissue, insects, diseases); d) crop quality, yield and damage assessments; and, e) miscellaneous tasks. Cards could just as easily be designed for any grove task or data collection effort. Their use would probably be limited to smaller, quicker tasking rather than detailed, intensive surveys, however. I also use them to associate notes to the frequent photos I shoot in citrus groves. You can download a PDF of the template below if you’d like to try it out. You just need to print it out on Avery #5833 index cards. Either that, or cut your own after printing onto another stock.


InDesign template for the GroveDex™ Low-Tech PIM. (Click to enlarge.)
InDesign template for the GroveDex™ Low-Tech PIM. (Click to enlarge.)


It’s not a good idea having a bunch of index cards lying around, so you need a way to keep them organized. I’ve used a Levenger International Pocket Briefcase for years, and although it’s well constructed, it’s not quite tough enough for a citrus operation. I came across the Rite in the Rain brand of 3×5 index cards and a wallet for them that I like a lot. I’m showing this in the featured image at the top of this post. Here it is again below so you don’t have to jump back to the top of this post to see it. The left images shows the inside of the wallet and how it holds unused GroveDex™ cards, a pen and another pocket for smaller cards or other information. The right side shows the reverse side of the wallet and how the cards clip to it. The backside of the wallet is reinforced for easy writing. The wallet is also weatherproof. Rite in the Rain makes weatherproof index cards, but those are difficult to print, so I use the Averys, which are not weatherproof. (The right image below shows an early version of GroveDex™.)


GroveDex™ displayed in a Rite in the Rain index card wallet.
GroveDex™ Display


Although Rite in the Rain makes an all-weather pen (which I’ll try someday), I like the Zebra G-301 Gel medium point for this purpose. It’s just the right size to fit in the Rite in the Rain wallet, and it’s cheap enough that you don’t feel too bad if you lose it.


At the end of the day, I most often just shred that day’s GroveDex™ card as it’s no longer needed. However, sometimes they contain information I need to keep and which I might not want to take the time just yet to transfer it somewhere else (e.g., if they contain contact or email info, or a map or drawing). For preservation, I use a Fujitsu ScanSnap iX500, which provides near-flawless and insanely fast two-sided scanning. I just collect a week or two of the cards, then scan them all at once using ScanSnap’s batch mode.

GroveDex™ would be a great giveaway for a product manufacturer. It wouldn’t be too difficult to brand the wallet or the cards with GroveDex™ on one side, and product info on the reverse side. Although I have received some very nice product promotion items in the past, I think something like the GroveDex™ cards and wallet would be something every grower could put to good use.

It’ll be interesting to see how my GroveDex™ idea develops. Clearly, you can design a GroveDex™ card to meet just about any information-collection need in a citrus operation. I’ve found GroveDex to be most useful for jotting information that will be used quickly (within a day or two) and that is disposable. You could do the same with certain todo tracking programs (Daylite Server is my go-to app for this), but GroveDex™ has found a place in my everyday work now because it’s faster than cranking up an app out in the grove-especially if that app depends on a data connection.

And, GroveDex™ works even better when you combine it with my GroveMod™ system. More on GroveMod™ in the next post.

• Aperture:ƒ/2.8• Camera:DMC-LX7• Taken:October 4, 2014• Focal length:4.7mm• ISO:80• Shutter speed:1/100s