Mobile Tech in the Fields

by Leah M. Abel

Float Mobile Learning reports on the rise of mobile technology in farming…

In 2012, the Morton-based technology firm Float Mobile Learning released a series of in-depth reports on the use of mobile technologies in the agriculture industry. Float, which works with major agricultural groups and even Fortune 500 companies, presented over 100 pages of information on the increased implementation of mobile devices, wireless machinery and more than 60 apps designed to facilitate faster, more efficient operations.

This trend, known as mobile agriculture or mAgriculture, actually started more than a decade ago in developing countries, where mobile devices are often the only means of communication available to farmers. Only in the last few years have North American producers done the same, but they’re making up for lost time by adopting mobile technologies—and most significantly, tablets. Recent studies show that mobile adoption by ag producers increased from around 10 percent in 2010 to 47 percent in 2012—a higher rate than that of the general public—and just last year, 83 percent of farmers were using computers in their work.

“Agriculture industry professionals can benefit from using mobile technology… because it offers a way to stay connected,” says Chad Udell, Float managing director. “Because of its ubiquitous nature, learning with smartphones and tablets may be the only way to get just-in-time information to these professionals when they are on the road or in the fields.” Indeed, many ag websites include grain market information, weather forecasts, news stories and Twitter feeds, supplying critical information that farmers can access anywhere, any time with mobile devices.

Having identified 60 ag-specific mobile apps in their reports, Float classified them into nine categories:

  • Information apps. These apps provide general information about agriculture, including agronomy, agricultural law and regulations.
  • Business apps. These range from providing landscaping estimate forms and work orders to guidance on purchasing equipment.
  • Conference apps. Generally, these apps feature convention site maps, conference programs and exhibitor data. They may also include access to social media portals.
  • Diseases/pests apps. These apps can help producers locate and identify harmful infestations before they get out of control.
  • Farm management apps. The largest category of ag apps includes programs that assist with row planting accuracy, estimate yields, predict dates that crops will mature, maintain inventories, monitor moisture levels, and calculate chemical mixture ratios and application levels.
  • Field mapping apps. GPS and GIS technologies enable these location-based apps to aid farmers in measuring and identifying land and land use, as well as recording data from scouting or inspecting their fields.
  • Learning and reference apps. Designed for learning or reference, these apps include encyclopedias, dictionaries and simulators.
  • Market data apps. Since grain market prices change constantly, the up-to-the-minute information these apps provide is key in tracking commodities and monitoring purchases and sales.
  • Weather apps. These apps offer information about rainfall, temperature, humidity and other meteorological conditions to ensure producers can best manage the health of their crops.

With a wealth of real-time data available at producers’ fingertips, mAgriculture means not only higher yields, healthier harvests and better profits—it’s also better for the environment and the consumer. iBi