Smartphones For Your Stocking

If you aren’t using a smartphone for your farming operation, it may be time to add it to your holiday wish list.

Research conducted this year by Successful Farming magazine indicates that farmers are quickly adopting smartphone technology and making greater use of the device than the general public. In fact, more than 70 percent of survey respondents said that they access agriculture-related information and services via their phones, including sending and receiving email, checking the weather, news and markets and text messaging family and employees.

But how exactly can smartphones benefit farmers?

According to the Successful Farming article, farmers say that it's important to first identify the specific parts of your operation for which you want to use your smartphone. Instead of downloading every application (app) that you think you might use, consider how you can best use the app.

For example, Michael Lewis, a farmer near Bayard, Iowa, uses his smartphone to keep track of historical yield data in his fields, which allows him to compile and track long-term data and make informed decisions.

"When I'm combining corn, I want to be able to bring up historical yield data as I’m going through the field and compare it to previous years,” says Lewis. “There could be certain variables that produced better yields and if it is something that I can control, I want to be able to know those things so that I can make each field more profitable. The biggest advantage for me is to have all my financial data and notes with me at all times."

Lewis also uses his smartphone's camera to document things like equipment performance while in the field. With this tool, he's seen a direct correlation between its use and payback to the farm.

"I use the camera quite a bit to record items that are and aren’t working, like locations where I need tile, for future reference."

When considering agriculture applications for your smartphone, farmers who own smartphones advise other farmers not to overlook some of the basic functions of the device. This Week in Ag identifies some of the most-used farming apps:
  • Agriculture Crowdsourcing: Uses the smartphone and crowdsourcing (sourcing tasks performed by individuals to a group of people or community through an open call) to bring data from the field into a lab database
  • Agriculture Management Information: Includes mobile extensions of a farm or operation-management system
  • Agriculture Calculator: Includes samples of smartphone tools to help make in-field calculations without having to return to your home office
  • Agriculture Information Resource: Primarily used as a lookup tool to help identify species, review a piece of regulation or learn the specifics about an agriculture issue
  • Agriculture News: Includes samples of agriculture-media focused news aggregators
  • Weather: Includes samples of smartphone weather applications
What’s the future look like for smartphones? A growing trend will be the adoption of more location-based services or apps that can track data based on specific geographic location. In addition, more "streaming data" services will appear in the future. As mobile-data infrastructure improves and farmers can get a more solid signal in rural areas, new apps will use real-time streaming services to collect more field data, making every in-field decision an informed one.

Do you use a smartphone for your farm or do you know of a farmer who does? If so, how have you used it to help your farming operation? Are there any particular applications that you find you can’t live without?

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