How to Find Ag Apps

04/02/2014 @ 11:03am

Brian Arnall had no idea what he was getting into last summer when he was asked to speak at a conference about smartphone apps for agriculture. The precision nutrient management specialist at Oklahoma State University (OSU) said he would do it, however. 

He started exploring crops-related apps, those independent computer software application programs that load onto a smartphone or tablet. He’s been on something of a whirlwind tour since, rapidly building a reputation as an authority on the subject.

“This has become one of the three major trending things in ag crop technology today: drones, variable-rate technology, and smartphone apps,” he says. 

He found 52 crop-related apps for his first presentation, and then he got more requests to speak on the topic. At each outing, someone would point him to at least one new app that he hadn’t seen before. 

Now, he has well over 100 apps on his own iPhone. He’s developed a My Favorites list by subject category. 

The apps he uses are iPhone- and iPad-based because that’s his personal system. The number of apps available for Android systems is growing, too, and Arnall suspects they are as good and just as useful. While his app favorites are grain- and fiber-based (he’s an agronomist), he’s sometimes asked about livestock apps. 

“There are probably just as many for other subjects, I just haven’t explored them,” he says.

How to find 
Curiosity and browsing in the app store are the best way to find apps, he says. You can search there under appropriate keywords like corn fertilizer or field boundaries, or any topic you’re interested in. It won’t necessarily turn up all the apps you can use. Many on his phone are there because someone told him about them. Arnall’s personal blogging site within the OSU site is a starting point to find his recommendations.

“Most of my favorites are free apps – no cost to download and use,” he says. “I don’t like paying for things if I don’t have to, and there are a lot of good tools from college Extension sites and agribusiness sites. Some of the apps from agribusiness are advertisements by the companies, but that’s not a bad thing. If the app has a tool that you can use, that’s what counts.
“I’m also for simplicity,” he continues. “I have a three-minute rule. If I can’t figure out how to use an app in three minutes, it’s gone. I don’t have time for something that makes me work hard.”

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