Farming from your phone

by ‎05-09-2011 04:22 PM - edited ‎05-10-2011 09:07 AM

photo.PNGI’ve been using a smart phone for a couple years now, but this weekend I became completely, absolutely, inextricably sold on its utmost practical value for what I do, and am convinced the same’s true for farmers, too.


In the space of an hour or two on Saturday, I used my iPhone (version 4.2.6, Verizon network) to check the weather, map a route with the GPS, write an e-mail, take scouting photos in a farm field (and share them with a colleague), find true north, remind myself of a meeting, and set a wake-up alarm for early rising the next day.  


I dropped a pin on a Google map of a farm I want to visit this spring (image left). I took a few notes for this column, wrote a tweet on planting progress, caught up on e-mail and received a text message from my daughter.


I did all of this before, during and after a bike ride in the country. Just stuck the thing in my pocket and off I went, like having my whole office in tow.


Later, I downloaded two apps, one for accessing soil map info, and another for managing pH levels in soils.


Oh, and for fun at home that evening I used the phone to play chess with a computer while following live coverage of my beloved Cleveland Indians.


Many farmers have been early adopters of smart phones and are pioneering use of the hand-helds. In a recent farmer panel survey, 43% of farmers said they own a smart phone. That’s a higher percentage than the general population who own the devices.


And why not? Farms are businesses, businesses that are conducted on the go. From your tractor cab, you can check the markets, news and weather. You can bank online with the thing. Your lines of communication are all wide open to your family, friends and advisors.


New uses for the smart phone continue to evolve. I recently learned of a site called Glympse, which lets you share your location  through a web link. How handy would that be for keeping track of the family and farm hands at harvest time?


For entertainment, the possibilities seem endless. A friend told me today he uses his phone as a remote control for his Apple TV box, which lets him watch movies and access other programming from iTunes and the web.


When you’re old enough to remember the invention of the web browser, you can recall what a profound effect that had on the way we communicate and access information. The smart phone brings that same big sense of dramatic change. 


What uses are you making of your smart phone these days?