APR 20, 2018 07:57 AM PDT

Calor App Protects Farmworkers in the Heat

WRITTEN BY: Julia Travers
3 7 173

Working on a farm in the sun is difficult and sometimes dangerous. A teen in California who comes from a family with generations of farmworkers has invented an app to help protect this population from some of the perils of working outdoors. It’s called “Calor,” which is Spanish for heat.

Seventeen-year-old Faith Florez’ grandmother died of heat stroke in the fields and her father has told her stories of his own struggles picking cotton, almonds and other crops.

“I heard their stories of swollen backs and how their feet would ache after work and just the kind of brutal conditions they worked in, especially back then … I don’t want to hear about a farmworker that died because they were too far away from water and shade,” she said.

image of Calor app on a smart watch, credit: Calor

During her dad’s era, workers toiled without access to shade or water, sometimes passing out in the fields or crawling under cars for relief from the sun in triple-digit temperatures. Many agricultural laborers today still face similarly dire weather conditions. Also, climate change continues to bring an increase in extreme weather, including record high temperatures.

Calor Serves Immigrants

The app Calor functions on Apple watches that farmers buy for their workers to share between shifts. It’s purpose is to prevent cases of farmworker heat stroke and heat exhaustion. It does this through three main functions: offering notifications of weather data, a 911 hotline service, and educational content on job risks and safety.

Calor is intended to play a vital role for immigrant laborers in particular. In 2014, about 76 percent of farmworkers identified as Latino and/or Hispanic, according to U.S. Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Workers Survey data compiled by the nonprofit, Farmworker Justice. Estimates of the portion of these workers who are undocumented range from the upper 40s up to 70 percent. Florez points out that undocumented workers may choose not to visit a hospital if they faint or become otherwise ill in the heat. She adds that many of them live below the federal poverty line while carrying out essential but largely unappreciated work.

Meanwhile, President Trump’s immigration crackdown has led to a shortage of farm labor in California, Alabama and other areas of the U.S., and many crops were left to rot in 2017. ICE arrested 41 percent more undocumented immigrants in 2017 than 2016, and some people are also returning to Mexico on their own.

Getting Calor Off the Ground

Florez came up with the idea for the app as a junior and ended up pitching it to the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering, which is in Los Angeles, where she now lives. A group of graduate students partnered with Florez to create Calor.

While a smartphone seemed like a natural medium for the app at first, farm owners didn’t favor workers having their phones with them in the fields. The specialized smart watch idea arose next. To pay for the GPS tracking, weather data and hotline development, the team turned to crowdfunding and raised $60,000 within months. Locals, as well as celebrities like Lin-Manuel Miranda, Eva Longoria and Gina Rodriguez, stepped up to fund the initiative. So far, three farms have signed up to pilot the program in Kern County, where Florez’ family has long farmed.

“I do want to expand the project outward and make sure more farmworkers have access to it,” Florez said.

One of the workers in the video below describes Calor as potentially life-saving and “very smart.” Florez’ efforts to reduce the serious risks of this type of labor have offered her purpose and fulfillment, and she now believes, “we are capable of change.”

Sources:

ABC

Remezcla

About the Author
  • Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher. She frequently covers science, tech and conservation.
You May Also Like
MAY 29, 2018
Space & Astronomy
MAY 29, 2018
SpaceX's Latest Falcon 9 Launch Melted a Photographer's Camera
The Falcon 9 rocket that SpaceX launched last Tuesday became somewhat famous; not just for sending NASA’s GRACE-FO mission into space, but also becau
JUN 06, 2018
Neuroscience
JUN 06, 2018
Brain Surgery Without A Scalpel
When you think of brain surgery, in addition to being incredibly intricate and delicate, scalpels and clamps and an OR come to mind. As it happens, there i
JUN 14, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
JUN 14, 2018
Automated Blood Drawing Device Coming to Your Doctor's Office
A robot arm could soon be coming to your doctor’s office to take your blood and analyze it for you. From scientists at Rutgers University, this techn
JUN 22, 2018
Cardiology
JUN 22, 2018
Gene Editing and Stem Cell Tech Predict Heart Disease Risk
Scientists are developing technology to predict an individual’s risk of developing heart disease via gene editing, stem cell technologies, and identi
JUL 09, 2018
Technology
JUL 09, 2018
App Preventing Thousands of Child Marriages
App Used in Bangladesh Stops Child Marriage
JUL 17, 2018
Neuroscience
JUL 17, 2018
Walking Through the Brain
Any time a patient is diagnosed with a brain tumor, it can be overwhelming for them, their families and caregivers. Brain cancer can be extremely aggressiv
Loading Comments...