Make Mobile Work For You

You are walking around with a computing and communication powerhouse in your pocket, but are you maximizing your smartphone’s potential? Get your money’s worth from that expensive device and take it to the next level with these mobile apps and tools.

Peter Gredig is a corn, soybean and wheat producer based near London, Ontario. As a partner in AgNition Inc., Peter is involved in developing mobile products and strategies for agri-business, producer organizations and for farmers across North America. peter.gredig@agnition.ca

When I started talking with fellow farmers eight years ago about the power of smartphones to save time, money, and make them more organized and efficient, there were only about a dozen true ag apps.

Today, there are literally hundreds of ag and mainstream apps to consider and it’s up to you to find the apps, sites and functionalities inherent in smartphones that work for you and your farm. It takes some time and effort, but the cumulative payoff is significant.

When searching for new apps use Google, rather than the search function at the app stores, and be as specific as you can with your search. Also, think about non-ag apps that you can make work for your situation. There are real estate apps that you can use to calculate field area, traveling sales apps that you can use to keep track of custom work, clients and invoicing, and timesheet apps that may be helpful for employee management. Chances are there is an app of some kind that will address your needs.

To get started, there are categories of apps, services, built in functionalities and software that should be considered and revisited on a regular basis. For sunflower specific apps and mobile sites, see the box below.  Start with these categories and keep going!

  1. Marketing: The best case scenario is to have a crop price app or mobile site that provides local bids and more importantly, allows you to enter alert values so that if a price objective is reached, the app sends you a notification so you can pull the trigger on a sale. I also use an app called Grain Storage Manager to keep track of on-farm storage inventories as loads come in and out.
  1. Agronomy/Scouting: There are numerous apps to help growers identify weeds, diseases and insects. Trial and error is required to find the best fit. The Ag Phd Field Guide app is a good example. There are numerous scouting apps that let you record what you see, pin drop (mark via GPS) where the problem is in the field and make notes. There are free and subscription-based options, some of which are linked to comprehensive desktop record keeping software. You can try Trimble’s free version of Connected Farm™ Scout to get a feel for GPS enabled scouting apps.
  1. Weather: The old joke here is that we all need three or four weather apps so we can keep checking them until we find one that tells us what you want to hear. An accurate forecast is great, but during the growing season a good radar app is even more valuable to help you make decisions around field work (spraying, seeding, harvesting, etc.). Animated radar apps let you see where the rain is, where it’s heading and how big/small the system is. I use the Intellicast mobile website (www.intellicast.com) and an app called Rain Alarm that lets me know if rain is imminent. Weather Underground lets you see connected weather station information in your area.
  1. Record Keeping/Note Taking: There are a wide range of options here ranging from fully customized farm financial and production record keeping software with mobile capability, to simple generic and free note apps like Evernote®. It should be easy to keep track of what is happening on the farm day to day without having to visit the desktop in the office at the end of the day to transfer written notes into the computer. Check out FarmLogs, Sirrus and eCropScout for free trials. The advantage of cloud-based apps is the ability to access records stored on the cloud from any connected device and you don’t lose anything if you drive over your smartphone.
  1. GPS and Mapping App: GPS enabled smartphones were not developed with farmers in mind but there are so many potential uses for growers. Step one is to get comfortable with Google Maps or Apple Maps (or others) so you know how to create and name a favorite location, use pin drops to record a problem area in a field, and get directions to the hydraulic pump repair shop in town that you are visiting for the first time. It’s not an exaggeration to say that your smartphone can save your life, partly because it knows where you are. Just remember that your smartphone can only save you if you have it available. It should be with you when you leave the tractor or combine, not sitting in the cup holder. A personal safety app like Mandown App automates the alert process in an emergency.
  1. Communication/Community: Mobile technology lets us connect with our peers via social media platforms, literally creating a global virtual coffee shop. I follow progressive farmers, extension experts, agronomists and researchers on Twitter so that I know what they know and share in their experiences in real time. Collective intelligence can be a powerful thing when an unexpected pest or production issue arises through the growing season. Other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram can work equally well. Follow smart people who will help you be a better farmer.
  1. Utilities/Calculators: There are dozens of calculator apps to help with sprayer fills, unit conversions, field area, fertilizer blends, crop nutrient removal and more. Find utilities that make it easier to do common tasks on your operation. Smartphones are great at making complex math quick and easy. Try the TankMix Calculator and the nutrient removal calculator called PlantCalc from IPNI to get a feel for these easy to use number crunchers. Keep looking for more!

Apps and sites for sunflower growers.

  1. NDSU Pest Management App: Applies to sunflowers. Search at Google Play and Apple App store
  2. ND Sunflower Nitrogen Calculator: (www.ndsu.edu/pubweb/soils/ sunflower/)
  3. Canadian National Sunflower Association: (www.canadasunflower.com/ production/resources/) offers info on planter set-up, mildew assessment, and other production resources
  4. Daily sunflower prices and other marketing resources are available via the National Sunflower Association at www.sunflowernsa.com/growers/ marketing/
  5. Under the Resources section at nuseed.com you can also access Confection Best Practices and Planting guides plus additional tools specific for sunflowers

#winningwithsunflowers