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Check In, Check Out

Brandon Hunnicut Field
With help from foursquare, Nebraska farmer Brandon Hunnicut logged harvest times in each field.  

Did you know that there are smartphone applications to make you a better manager? It’s true! A new social media tool called foursquare allows you to keep information about your employees, harvest crews, machinery and records at your fingertips.

Foursquare is a location-based mobile platform that makes cities easier and more interesting to explore. By "checking in" via a smartphone app or SMS, users share their location with friends. People bookmark information about venues that they want to visit, and merchants and brands use tools to obtain, engage and retain customers.

When it comes to production agriculture, foursquare virtually allows you to be where your employees and machinery are via a secure account. This is especially important for larger-acreage producers, who often spend more time managing their business and employees than working in the fields themselves.

Through GPS and SMS messaging, foursquare will keep you in the loop. With a quick text message, your crews can tell you which field they are in and what they are doing. This information is compiled in your foursquare account, which you can access at any time via your smartphone or computer, allowing you to access up-to-the-minute information regarding the status of field work.

Foursquare can be applied on the farm in several areas, including harvest, irrigation, record keeping and people management.

Among the producers who have embraced this new technology is Jeff Fowle, a California cattle rancher. Fowle has been working with the developers of foursquare to make the technology more "farm friendly."

"Hopefully, soon we will be able to check in to fields based solely on GPS location," he says.

Nebraska corn producer Brandon Hunnicut used foursquare during harvest to "check in" and "check out" of a field and log how long it took to harvest. He thinks there is a lot of potential to expand the usefulness of foursquare in production agriculture.

Harvest. Fowle uses foursquare for several purposes on his ranch, including custom hay harvesting.

"Our foremen are all set up with foursquare accounts, enabling their crews to notify them when they arrive at a field," Fowle says. For example, Joe is at Field 4 with a swather; Randy is at Field 5 with a rake.

"Because we have moisture sensors and weather sensors sending their data to our cell phones, we can determine from a remote location when it is time to start baling," Fowle says. "This means I don’t have to set foot in each field each time."

He says it’s also great from a management perspective because he can go back and see which fields took the longest and try to figure out how to save time putting up the next cutting.

During 2010’s corn harvest, Hunnicut used foursquare to simply track what was going on where. Knowing there are other ways to benefit from the technology, he’s in the process of coming up with specific applications to keep better records of how his crops progress during the growing season. This will allow him to reference the pictures after harvest to help make more effective management decisions.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - March 2011

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