August 2012
The Business of Farming

Mobile Applications for Agriculture

 


Are you using your smart devices like the iPhone, Blackberry and iPad to their fullest potential? There are several ag-related applications available to help with farming and more.

In the late 1990s I bought my first cell phone. It was the size of a small brick and the manual was twice its size. Those were the days when the device could only be used to make calls. Today, when I buy a phone, it can easily slide into my front pocket and perform many times more tasks than my first phone and the manual is razor thin. It seems manufacturers have decided instead of providing instruction on the operation of the phone, they want us to play with the phone to figure out the features.

Recently one of my colleagues traded his flip-phone, which he had had for almost 10 years, for an iPhone. He admittedly resists change, but finally bit the bullet and embraced technology. Now armed with his new smartphone, he’s faced with a challenge: how to use the phone to its full capabilities. Without a clearly written and lengthy manual, he must now tinker with the gadget to discover its capabilities. He also can rely on others to suggest features he might find beneficial.

If you have a smartphone, are you taking advantage of its full capabilities? There are many mobile applications to help you with farming and more. If you aren’t much of a tinkerer and don’t like to discover new apps on your own, there will be a few suggested apps.

Personally, I have found it difficult to locate useful agriculture apps. For example, if you search "weeds" to find an app to identify weeds, your results will yield games about cannabis. If you search for "tank mix," your results yield military games with tanks. The first thing to consider when searching for an app is how to filter down to what you really want.

Once I find an useful one, I see what other app the developer has because, most likely, if they have one good app, they have more. Also, when you are viewing an app before download, you typically can see related apps as well as what other users have viewed and installed. Finding good apps is sometimes like following a gingerbread trail, but in the end it’s worth it.

If you haven’t the time or desire to follow the gingerbread trail, the list can give you a starting point. By no means is this all-inclusive. It is my attempt to highlight some of the many available apps for use in agriculture.

So you’re ready to try a new app, but don’t know where to start? To locate apps for your mobile device:

• Android devices: Locate the Google Play icon on your phone.

• iPhone & iPad: Go to the Apple App Store.

• Blackberry devices: Locate the BlackBerry App World icon on your phone.

If you ever think, "It would be great if I could do XYZ with my smartphone," chances are someone has developed or is in the process of developing an app to perform the task. Do note I left Windows Phone 7 off the list; I have nothing against the device or OS, I just lacked access to this device.

The Good, Bad and Ugly. The good is you’ll find apps you’ll love and can’t believe you lived without. The bad is technology is constantly changing and so must you in order to take advantage of its capabilities. The ugly is you may have to pay for a good app, but remember developers have to eat and you wouldn’t want them stopping by your field and picking your crops without paying.

The world of technology is constantly changing. This article was written in June and is appearing in the August issue of AFC Cooperative Farming News. There are most likely new apps now available. If we have overlooked an application or you have a favorite one, please share it with us: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The items covered in this article are informational only and are not meant as advice. The author does not endorse any websites, companies, applications, developers, manufacturers, carriers, etc. and cannot attest to the accuracy of the information provided by third-party sites or any other linked site. Some applications may require you to purchase them and/or pay a usage fee. Data rates may apply.

The author is an Extension Economist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. For more information about farm management and financial analysis, please contact your County Extension Coordinator or an Extension Specialist: North Alabama: Holt Hardin, (256) 574-2143 or Robert Page, (256) 528-7133; Central Alabama: Jamie Yeager, (334) 624-4016; Southwest Alabama: Steve Brown, (251) 867-7760; Southeast Alabama: Thomas Hall, (334) 693-2010.