Your smartphone can do more on the farm than you think
Sometimes, a phone is just a phone. But often, it’s more like a digital Swiss Army knife. Many farmers use their smartphone as a camera, Internet browser, music player and more.
A plethora of farming apps helps make it easier to do any number of tasks in the field. But there are also plenty of "nonfarm" apps that are quite useful in agriculture, even though that wasn’t the intention when they were initially developed.
Ray Prock Jr. of Ray-Lin Dairy in Denair, Calif., uses several consumer-facing mobile apps to his advantage, including Evernote, Smart Tools, Bubble Level and many others. He jokes that Evernote feels like an extension of his brain at times.
"I use Evernote for everything from parts lists to meeting notes," he says. "Evernote also maintains a great blog with tips and tricks."
Evernote allows users to take notes, web clips, files and images and share them across their computer, smartphone and tablet devices. You can also create a virtual workspace environment to collaborate on projects with co-workers. Prock uses the app on his laptop and smartphone to help him collect his thoughts and remember what he needs to remember throughout the day.
"Since I can’t trust myself to do that, I trust Evernote to do it," he says.
An app for that. Smart Tools is a veritable grab bag of useful conversions and measurements. It even includes a decibel reader and a compass. The Bubble Level app, Prock says, is used surprisingly often in his daily duties.
"Numerous times, it has been helpful to have a level in hand," he says. "When we had an engineering firm measuring our lagoons for capacity as required by water quality regulations, we compared the angle finder on the app to their tools. It was spot-on."
Indiana corn and soybean farmer Brian Scott is also a fan of several nonfarm apps. He says one of his favorites is also one of the simplest: the Tiny Flashlight app.
"We poke our heads in a lot of small dark places while performing maintenance, repairs and modifications on equipment and buildings on the farm," he says. "Before I had a smartphone,
I had to make do with the light available or walk from one part of the toolshed to another to pick up the trouble light and then walk back again. With this handy app, I can pull my phone out and get a superbright light to get a better look at what I’m working with."
Scott placed the Tiny Flashlight widget on his smartphone home screen. The widget acts as an on/off button, which gives him quicker access to the light than if he had to open the app each time and select which type of light to use.
Scott adds that the camera has proved to be a worthy tool, too.
"I take pictures of wiring before I undo anything because I’m sure I’ll forget how all the wires are supposed to go back together," he says. "When it’s time to rewire, I just pull up the picture and put it back the way it was."
With a little ingenuity, you can turn your smartphone into a digital Swiss Army knife too. For the literal-minded, there’s even an Android app called Swiss Army Knife, with a flashlight, ruler, timer, stopwatch, compass, bubble level, calculator, magnifying glass and mirror.
We asked our Farm Journal Facebook friends about some of the ways they use their smartphone besides making phone calls. Here are several of their suggestions:
- Taking notes
- Voice recorder
- Setting the DVR
- Pulse rate
- "Stress reliever! Some days I just have to throw it!"