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New communication technology's knocking on the farm gate

Agriculture.com Staff 07/02/2009 @ 11:00am

They may seem like toys and timewasters now, but more folks in farm country are starting to glean value from new technology like smartphones and social networking.

Andy Kleinschmidt got an unexpected phone call the other day. A producer from CNN wanted to put him on the air to talk about his use of smartphones and similar technology in his work as an Ohio State University Extension educator and certified crop adviser in Van Wert County, Ohio.

"CNN found me via my blog, reinforcing the value of blogs, in my mind," says Kleinschmidt, also an Agriculture Online Crop Tech Tour CCA Correspondent.

Blog? Smartphones? Sound like a foreign language to you? If it does, it won't for long, says University of Illinois Extension soybean specialist Vince Davis. But, that growing necessity doesn't make it easier to figure it all out.

"Methods and tools used to communicate are changing worldwide, a reality that has not excluded agriculture," says Davis, a self-proclaimed "full-fledged member of 'Generation X.'" "I suspect that some new tools and methods will fade out with time, and not having spent energy understanding or learning to use them might be a benefit to some. However, the greatest benefits will be accrued by early adopters who can continue to improve the volume and efficiency of news and information they receive."

Davis says the development of today's new communication tools is not too different from some other new technologies of the recent past that are now, to most farmers, integral to their daily work. "You can probably remember life without computers, cell phones, digital cameras, and the Internet, but would your work today be as efficient without these luxuries? Do most of us even consider those items luxuries, or have they become necessities for our daily operations?"

One such "gadget" that's becoming a needed tool for some already is the smartphone. Kleinschmidt has relied on his Samsung Omnia i910 smartphone now for months in the work he does in the field (including recording this video with his phone), and he's starting to find and use more ag-specific applications.

"I use Excel Mobile for data collection, I'm looking into a field station transmitter for recording soil/air temperatures, rain and wind, and I also use mobile web for weather radar images all the time," he says. "It allows me to get better and more timely information for me to make decisions. Better info equals better decisions. Also, because it is seamless, I do not need to 'go to the office' to check e-mail -- this helps to free up time to keep me in the field."

The smartphone is a relatively new tool, and that means the number of applications is beginning to grow rapidly. That includes agriculture, Kleinschmidt says.

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