Have you gone wireless yet? We're not talking wireless Internet but wireless farm record keeping. Today's new Web-based software offers farm management tools that are mobile, convenient and always available.
"Operationally, a farm manager doesn't want to be tied to a desktop Internet connection,” says Rick Murdock, co-owner and vice president of Ag Connections, a firm specializing in software development for crop production management and compliance. "The manager wants to get in a pickup, look at crops, create work orders and enter application records remotely while checking fields.”
Web-based software systems allow for that mobility. Ag Connections and several other technology providers offer products that allow farmers to manage farm information from any online computer, anywhere in the world. Operators can update crop records from the field on a cell phone, PDA or handheld computer and quickly send the data to an office computer via a wireless connection.
Web-based software lets farmers work with satellite field imagery and mapping tools, update crop and chemical lists and change equipment inventories from their laptop or phone in the pickup. Managers can generate reports for partners or loan officers while sitting at the bank office.
Another bonus to Web-based servers is the ability to remotely back up critical farm data and records, says Tab Brockman, director of sales and marketing for FarmLogic, based in Murray, Ky.
"A farmer never has to worry about losing his data from a desktop computer crashing because it is backed up on our Web-based server,” Brockman says.
The following companies are among a growing number of technology providers offering Web-based farm software.
For several years, Ag Connections has offered a secure Web browser application that allows producers to view and control production information internally and externally. Ag Connections servers provide data backup and are the source of software updates, as well as crop protection and seed lists.
By this spring, Ag Connections expects to market its new AgC Mobile—available on any cell phone that has Web access, including the iPhone. Farmers will be able to enter farm data direct from their cell phone and wirelessly send it to a main server, where it can be accessed by other field employees or partners.
This new product is in addition to the Hand.db, which runs on or PDAs, operates offline and syncs to servers when a phone signal is available. Hand.db offers complete field history, as well as work orders and application record keeping.
The Web-based AgC Mobile and Hand.db software are each $500 per year for unlimited copies per operation, in addition to an annual license agreement.
> Contact Ag Connections at (866) 552-6332, or visit www.agconnections.com.
There is no need to live with the fear that information will disappear in a computer crash with new FarmLogic software. FarmLogic provides secure access to Web-based farm records from any computer logged onto the Web.
The software stores records as operators work in the field using its FarmPAD software, which runs on handheld computers, such as Trimble's Nomad. FarmLogic collects and documents information and field maps, then generates reports. Operators can access the reports in the office or in the pickup.
"The best thing about our product is we've made it easy to use,” says FarmLogic's Tab Brockman. "Our CEO is a lifelong farmer, not a technology major.”
The cost, including hardware and software, is $3,590. The $810 annual subscription fee covers online recordkeeping and data storage.
> Contact FarmLogic at (866) 761-8001, or visit www.farmlogic.com.
For several years now, SST Software has offered its SyncNow data sharing service as a fundamental part of its SST Summit mapping and record-keeping software. SyncNow allows two or more Summit users to seamlessly synchronize data using wireless Internet. Farm managers can set up SyncNow relationships with whomever they wish to share farm data, including service providers or other farm employees.
SyncNow allows producers to safely and securely store and regularly back up data on a secure Web server. SST Summit customers can also use the Web to download satellite imagery and soil-type maps.
SST Summit costs $600, plus an additional $100 per year for annual upgrades and access to tech support. Included is one installation of SST Stratus, a mobile mapping and record-keeping software used on a handheld computer.
> Contact SST Software at (888) 377-5334, or visit www.sstsoftware.com.
Farmers waste too many hours reading files off of data cards or searching for lost data on bad media devices, says Brian Stark, marketing manager for Farm Works Software, a division of Trimble Navigation. Farm Works Sync technology instantly transfers data from the field to the office on wireless devices, such as PDA phones.
As soon as a job is completed in the field and a wireless connection is established, data is sent to an office computer so records and precision farming maps can be updated. The office has the capability to wirelessly send work orders, including variable-rate application maps, to the field. This eliminates the need to physically deliver data cards or USB drives.
Farm Works also offers their Dispatch software, which takes the Sync system further by adding the ability to wirelessly track the location of remote applicators, scouts and soil samplers. Dispatch allows a manager to see a map of where all employees are located and quickly dispatch the appropriate person for the job.
Farm Works software packages range in price from $250 to more than $2,000, depending on the needed functionality of the software. Customers have an option to purchase the Update Service Plan for $300, which includes 12 months of updates, phone support and special pricing on training.
> Contact Farm Works at (800) 225-2848, or visit www.farmworks.com.
Top Producer, February 2010