Friday, August 23, 2013
An Analog App on a Digital Farm
A well-respected ag Twitterer recently posted this statistic; seems high but it points out a trend: In 2010, 10% of farmers had smartphones; in 2011, it was up to 48%; and in 2012, a whopping 94% of farmers were using smartphones.
I guess we need an app to keep up with new ag apps--and then an app to clear our heads as the digital cloud gets thicker. Farmers and ag-related folks are taking to smartphones and apps in increasing numbers, and those of us with dumb phones slowly slide into App Envy—an anxiety complex that comes when you think everyone else is digitally tuned into the newest thing, while you’re still trying to remember your password to access voice mail messages on your archaic cell phone.
But no matter which digital wave you surf, apps and smartphones are transforming food production, as this Farm Bureau article explains. App topics range from soil testing data to seed analysis to voice-activated email. Many farmers now keep up with markets and the weather using apps. This site provides many good examples: 20 Best Mobile Apps for Agriculture; and for something different and funny, check out this parody list of farm apps.
If only these apps had been available when I was growing up on the farm. On warm summer afternoons, my brothers, cousins, and I would roam the back pastures looking for trees to climb and spots in the creek where we could build dams. No smartphones for parents to call and remind us when to get home and do chores; no stream water quality app to scare us about the toxins in the water we played in; and the only “angry birds” were the red-winged black birds that attacked us whenever we came anywhere near their nests.
When we started taking on farm jobs, we didn’t have a GPS system to guide our tractors around the fields. We either learned driving skills or we tore out a few rows of young soybean plants while we cultivated. During breaks while baling hay, we didn’t have text messaging to keep us occupied, so we listened to embellished yarns or semi-rude jokes the farmer might come up with when he handed us ice water and homemade cookies. And during evening baseball games, we didn’t even have tweets to read, so we had no idea what our friends were eating at the drive-in or buying at the record shop. We actually had to concentrate on playing the game and interacting with our friends who were there with us in person.
The digital revolution is changing agriculture for the better, but I have a feeling somewhere there is a farmer who walks out of his house unarmed, with no smartphone in hand. He pets his ten-year old collie as he walks to the feedlot to check on the cattle. After getting a few buckets of grain for the new calves, he looks over the farm while standing in the shade of the oak tree that has anchored the place for 130 years. A summer breeze ripples through the tasseling corn, a red-tailed hawk hovers over the back grove looking for mice, and the newly baled hay stacked in the nearby shed still has that intoxicating alfalfa-clover aroma. I doubt if there is an app for that. (by dan gogerty; photo from sharethis.com)