How to monitor inputs and keep field records in the digital era
Do you want to manage your farm from your smartphone? You’re in luck—farm management is the largest category of mobile agricultural apps.
Many companies offer similar apps and web-based services, so be sure to investigate a few of them before deciding on one. The best ones allow users to draw field boundaries, pin notes within those boundaries, and create and send detailed reports.
Some of the most popular services are AgIntegrated, iCropTrak, OnFarm, FarmLogs, Farmeron, FarmRite, Farm works and MapShots AgStudio. They all have different pricing structures and subscription models. Figure out what you need most and then find what works best.
Farm data, stored and accessed in the cloud, can help accelerate the decision-making process. This is critical as the average farm size continues to grow, says Jim Sheppard, Harvey’s Agricultural Solutions president.
"Crop scouting has become a key part of our agronomy business as farmers get bigger and don’t have the time to visit every field and scout conditions," he says. "But the need for information about crop conditions has never been greater."
Sheppard depends on AgraScout to keep tabs on his customers’ fields. He can identify pest problems, make recommendations and e-mail reports without ever leaving the field.
Take Control. Farmers can also tap into in-season imagery, which can be layered over field maps, says Rick Behrens, Winfield Solutions R7 sales specialist. R7, a web-based data analysis tool, provides biomass images, which can help pinpoint potential problems, such as weedy spots. The imagery in R7 adds scalability to help identify management areas.
But savvy farmers don’t have to wait for the next cropping season before they can reap benefits from the cloud, says Jesse Vollmar, CEO of FarmLogs. Their customers can calculate input costs on each field and break down production costs into individual components. They can also move yield and commodity price sliders to see how those changes affect their profitability.
Monitoring inputs and keeping records are menial tasks, Vollmar says. His team is working with Purdue University to launch an open-source project called ISOBlue, which will make cloud-based data collection a more hassle-free process.
Instead of data being stored in multiple vendor-controlled silos, ISOBlue will in effect "free" data for farmers using Bluetooth technology to grab the data before it is converted into "overly proprietary" formats.
"The goal is to connect your smartphone to your tractor to automate record keeping," Vollmar says. "The data simply shows up in real time as field work is being done."
A Secure Cloud
In July, a survey found that 76% of Americans have concerns about storing data in the cloud.
Jesse Vollmar, FarmLogs CEO, says any reputable company that depends on the cloud should be working to create a secure experience. End users can help, too—it’s all in the password. To help limit cloud foibles, he suggests:
- Don’t use the same password for different services.
- Select a two-factor authentication login, if offered.
- Choose a long password that strings together unrelated words and symbols.
- September 2013