A High-School Student Designed an App That Could Save Farmers’ Lives

File - In this May , ... ]

File - In this May , ... ] David Goldman/AP File Photo

CalorApp aims to give farmworkers the immediate information they need to serve as their own inspectors

Growing up in Shafter, a small city in California’s Central Valley, Faith Florez would pass farmworkers stooped over in the fields each morning on the way to school. “There were strawberries, carrots, almonds, cotton—everything you could imagine,” she says. The world of the farmworker was a familiar one. Florez’s great-grandparents had arrived in Shafter from Mexico and, with money earned by harvesting crops, built their own house from the ground up.

Not that it had been easy, of course. “I heard a lot of horror stories from family members about the brutal conditions,” says Florez, now a high school senior. “They would work 10 hours or more a day, through 100-degree heat, sometimes without breaks, water, or shade.” When she was 10, Florez’s family moved from Shafter to La Cañada Flintridge, a city 15 miles north of Los Angeles. Here she entered a very different world: instead of Latino and working-class, La Cañada was mostly white and affluent. But it was Shafter that left its mark. “Growing up there instilled a lot of the values that I have, of hard work, dedication, and loyalty,” she tells me.

In 2016, Florez, then a high school sophomore, learned that University of Southern California’s (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering was soliciting proposals for coding projects that addressed social justice issues. She flashed back to Shafter, and to those working in the fields under the scorching California sun. Florez knew that farmworkers routinely suffered heat illnesses, and that many didn’t know their rights. And she certainly knew what their rights were: Her father, Dean Florez, was a former state Senator who had helped write California’s heat regulations after four farmworkers died in the fields during the summer of 2005.

“I wanted to start a project that was based on solving that specific problem,” she says. Her proposal, which USC accepted, sought to create a mobile application that would alert farmworkers to heat dangers and educate them about their rights. Over the past two years, Florez and a team of graduate students have met with growers, farmworkers, and state regulators as they designed their new project, called CalorApp. (Calor means “heat” in Spanish.)

The key feature of CalorApp is a notification system that alerts farmworkers when the temperature reaches 95 degrees. That’s when, under California’s first-of-its-kind heat illness protection law, farmers must give their employees 10-minute rest periods every two hours in a shaded area with access to cold water. The law is straightforward, but it’s not easy to enforce. The fields of California are vast, and inspectors are only able to visit a small number of crews on any given day. (In Kern County, where Shafter is located, agricultural fields cover more land than New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco combined.)

CalorApp aims to give farmworkers the immediate information they need to serve as their own inspectors, alerting each other—and their employees—when conditions become potentially dangerous.

“Many times, heat stress happens because farmworkers don’t take breaks,” says Florez. “They’ve been working the job for many years, and their family before them for many years, so they have a sense of reduced risk associated with the job. They think they know what they’re doing. Often times they do—but sometimes they don’t.”

Those risks will increase in the future, as temperatures rise with climate change. And despite California’s forward-thinking approach, there is still much more work to do. Last year, according to California’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA), heat killed one farmworker and made another 63 sick. (The heat illness number is almost certainly an undercount, as many farmworkers likely don’t seek medical treatment.)

“Too many California farmworkers have died from extreme heat,” said Arturo Rodriguez, president of the United Farm Workers, the union that helped push through California’s original heat regulations in 2005, which were strengthened in 2015. He says the app will “supply workers with an important tool with which to protect themselves.”

Along with temperature alerts, CalorApp will allow farmworkers to quickly report unsafe work practices and be connected directly to Cal/OSHA, whose inspectors can be dispatched to the fields. It will also host a range of bilingual educational content, from videos on labor rights to tips about how much water they should consume each hour.

The next big step will come this summer, when they launch a pilot project of CalorApp with farmworkers at two companies, Fabbri Farms in Bakersfield and the Grapery in Shafter. During the pilot, 50 employees on grape and watermelon harvesting crews will use CalorApp and provide feedback to Florez and the graduate students. They plan to use the period to work out any kinks, and hope that, in the coming years, the app will be adopted on farms across the state.

“Most of the time, when I bring up the application to teachers of mine, they say, ‘Wow, an application for farmworkers? Is that feasible? How much is that going to cost?’” Florez laughs. “But you go to Silver Lake, [a trendy Los Angeles neighborhood], and the waitresses have iPads with fancy seating charts and systems to make and cancel reservations. Farmworkers work in way more intense conditions than waitresses, and they deserve tech at their jobs, too.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.