Get smart

Agriculture.com Staff 07/16/2009 @ 7:16am

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."

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.

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