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What's the best computer mix for your farm?

12/21/2010 @ 3:30pm

Though it may be tough to resist the latest new piece of communication technology to roll off the line, you’re better off with a good laptop or netbook computer and a smartphone for your farm.

With a solid web connection, these devices can turn a truck, tractor or even a four-wheeler into a mobile business office, for less money and more benefit than higher-profile consumer interactive gadgets.

Farmers are starting to take both computers and smartphones to the field. Choosing a smartphone for the farm increases the monthly bill for mobile phone service, but provides a huge boost in productivity and efficiency.

“While they’re in the field, they can conduct business,” says David Krueger, owner/founder of FieldRecon software company, AgRenaissance Software.

“They can place an order or be selling things while they’re in the cab. That’s given a lot more power to the grower,” Krueger says. ”The grower can be in the tractor with his Blackberry. He receives an e-mail with his consultant’s recommendations for a field. If he agrees, he can forward that to his applicator or his retailer."

Consultants who carry FieldRecon on a portable computer, can scout a field, produce a PDF report in the truck office, and email it to the smartphone used by a client. 

Krueger’s popular farm software won’t work yet on Apple products like the iPad or iPhone. He says, “I don’t know (if we’ll see the iPad in the truck). Not a lot of agricultural software is written for the Apple operating system; nearly everything is Windows-based.”

That’s an important point. The PDA tree has many manufacturers, but only a few operating systems.

PocketRecon, a data-collection portion of FieldRecon, uses the Windows Mobile platform for handheld devices. It is working on handheld PDAs from smartphones to outdoor rugged computers provided by companies like Panasonic and Trimble.

Apps for scouting

Agri ImaGIS Technologies, Fargo, North Dakota, now is developing software for smartphones, notebooks and even the iPad. It has worldwide sales through www.satshot.com, and still operates as a family business.

“We’re seeing farmers getting more smartphones. They run the Web through the phone. Lots have map storage and applications,” says Nathan Faleide, spokesperson and son of founder, Lanny Faleide.  

“Some new smartphones are in the order of 10 times more powerful than the controller in the tractor cab. Any tablet computer that uses an app could run all the controls of your tractor through your smartphone, in theory.”

Given time, he believes the tablet computer may become more powerful and be a better device than a notebook or netbook because of the built-in GPS, web connectivity and size.

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