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Collecting Data on Mass – Trialling at Fleetwood Town FC

Posted on: February 21st, 2014 by Owen Mullen
Fully functioning prototype of the Mow & Sense in the capable hands of groundsman Ash Roche. Taken at Fleetwood Town FC, 20/01/2014.

The challengeTrialling Precision Turf Management (PTM) on a football pitch to look at turf health and vigour.

Up to this point we had only tested our Turf-eye technology on golf greens, using one Turf-eye sensor mounted on a Toro 1000 hand mower. What challenges would we face moving from golf to football? Some of the considerations we had to take into account included, GPS signal quality in a stadium, moving to a larger mower with two optical sensors. However, these were overcome and we ramped up the scale with an upgraded GPS system which collected ten data points per second to an accuracy of +/- 2cm.

In mid-December we approached Head Groundsman Dale Frith from league two football club Fleetwood Town to see if we could trial our technology on his stadium pitch. Intrigued by what the Turf-eye did we were given the green light to collect data. We introduced the grounds staff to the mower, lent to us by Cheshire Turf Machinery; showed them the start/stop switch and asked if they could incorporate the mow and sense alongside their usual management practice. I’d like to say we then left them to get on with it, gathering the data on their own but no, we visited regularly to collect moisture and firmness readings whilst seeing the system in action. The decision to visit on each mow was to ground truth the Turf-eye and to see how the grounds staff responded to the system. Furthermore we wanted to be confident with what the system was collecting both through proximal sensing and seen through the naked eye. Also, it gave us the opportunity to taste the local cuisine; chicken burger and chips!

We were really interested to know if management practices were visible in our maps and if we could objectively gauge how the turf responded to different treatments using the NDVI measurements collected by the Turf-eye. Over the last two months, management programs continued on the pitch with aeration, the application of nutrients and wetting agents. To date, there are signs that the turf responded to the treatments. However, in the coming months we hope to extend this from a ‘sign’ to a ‘know’ through further research.

The information gathered by the ground staff and analysed by us have shown some really good results. There a clear relationship between the moisture, firmness and the NDVI readings.

We would like to take the opportunity to thank Dale and the Fleetwood groundstaff for the assistance with the trial to date. If you are interested to know more about the pitch search @dalefrith on twitter.

pdfPitch report Fleetwood Town FC