Dino Giacomazzi is the fourth genera-tion to manage his family’s dairy farm near Hanford, Calif. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Paul Harvey’s speech, "So God made a Farmer," he says, "I (God) need somebody ... who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout; shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire; who can make a harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps."
Mr. Harvey is talking about the resourceful and innovative nature of the American farmer—a trait that was born out of necessity. In the 2010s, we are still in need of self-generated innovation, but not just with physical objects—in technology, as well.
Since Silicon Valley isn’t focused on solving the information problems of agriculture, we are often left to do it ourselves. And now we can create our own apps using the Google Drive suite.
Google Drive is a suite of online apps (software) that includes a word processor, presentation software and spreadsheet program.
But most importantly, Google Drive provides an interactive app called Forms. Forms allows you to collect data of any kind out in the field and deliver it to a spreadsheet for further calculation and analysis. Once the information is in the spreadsheet, you can do just about anything with it that you can do in Excel on your desktop.
For this year’s wheat planting, I created a Google Form that logged the process and automatically calculated the seed rates. Each time my driver loaded the drill, he would grab an iPad, open the form and start selecting options. I had prepopulated the field numbers, varieties and drill setting options in the form so all he had to do was pick the right one from a list.
Once he entered the number of bags and number of acres (which he gets from the GPS), he submits the form. Inside the spreadsheet, a formula calculates the pounds of seed per acre planted, based on the bags and acres.
Once the form is submitted, the driver taps on the "results" tab to see how many pounds per acre he was putting out. He could then refer to another tab with our desired rates for each field and adjust accordingly.
Each form submission gets time-stamped so we have a permanent record of when the fields were planted, the variety, the rate, how long it took, and the total seed used.
And every time a form is submitted, I get an e-mail alert. This lets me keep up with what is happening out in the field. This is one of many forms and spreadsheets that we are currently developing for our farm and dairy.
Others include: irrigation logs, spray rig calibration and log, field activity log, feed dry matter log, checklists for environmental compliance, calf treatments, calf total protein, close-up urine pH, body condition scoring, shaker box logging, heifer taping and several other processes.
Farmers and dairy producers are the most innovative people on earth, mostly because we have to be. If Paul Harvey were alive today, I’m not sure he would include "build your own app by 8 a.m." in his speech, but now you can actually do that, thanks to the free and easy Google Drive.
- January 2014