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Get smart

Jeff Caldwell
Agriculture Online Multimedia Editor

The farm office is changing. Gone are the big oak desk and
file cabinets. Now, you can do the same work from the seat of your pickup,
tractor, or combine with a smartphone that fits in your shirt pocket.

There are a lot of choices for service plans and models.
Matching what you need with the right smartphone is key.

"It is nice to be able to put all my farm files on my
phone so I can look up, at any time, to see what my costs are for a certain
field," says Linton, North Dakota, farmer Brian Grossman, who uses a Palm
Treo.

The number of smartphone applications, or apps, is growing
daily. Firms like AgriCharts (a division of Barchart.com, Inc.) and Farms
Technology, LLC¬ (who recently pooled resources to create a new electronic
grain marketing platform) are offering these tools on mobile devices. Now you
can market your grain as you're planting it.

"I e-mail bid and market updates through the day,"
says Marc Smith of Griswold, Iowa, who uses a Blackberry 8830 World Edition
smartphone. He says his service plan costs around $100 per month.

Michael Lewis of Bayard, Iowa, uses these types of apps on
his Apple iPhone. But, that's just the tip of the iceberg for the farmer and
computer database manager.

"Another app is an online connection to a weed/insect
database with a picture of every item and its attributes," Lewis says.
"You might even be able to take a picture of the weed out in the field and
get instant feedback as to what it is."

In the near future, smartphone apps will cover most aspects
of crop management. "Some of the apps that come to mind deal with GPS,
real-time soil sampling/mapping, instant fertilizer analysis, chemical/seed
conversions, and a farmers' knowledge base that contains recommended practices,
tips, manuals, and articles," he says.

Like any computer, there are hardware and software
compatibility issues. That makes it crucial to do your homework before you
choose a smartphone, Lewis says.

"Windows does have a huge presence in ag equipment and
devices, so a Windows Mobile phone might seem like a logical choice because of
familiarity," he says. "However, as more apps are developed for the
iPhone, I see an increase in the number of accessories and interfaces between
these Windows devices and smartphones like the iPhone."

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