Santa uses auto-steer and so should you, quips Joe Robertson, marketing manager with Topcon Precision Agriculture. All kidding aside, the Christmas season is an excellent time to figure out what you want to upgrade for 2013.
"Christmas is a great time for farmers to explore new opportunities and determine which technologies might be a fit for their upcoming needs," says Matt Hesse, North American sales manager for Trimble’s agriculture division.
Here are a few technology trends that broke in 2012, along with prototype technologies in the pipeline that could be useful tools on the farm.
First, touch screens are the way of the future. That’s one reason tablets and smartphones are replacing home computers. Touch-screen technology is more intuitive and easier to use.
Many precision ag companies offer in-cab touch-screen units. Farmers who own a tablet might want to invest in a windshield mount so their device has a secure place in the cab.
Keep an eye on Nokia and Samsung this holiday season. Both companies have hinted at releasing a smartphone with a flexible screen.
Looking for a stocking stuffer? Try a simple SD (secure digital) card, says Chris Fennig, managing director of MyFarms—especially if you aren’t already using one to capture the data from your yield monitor.
"Farmers who already own yield monitors can capture the value of their yield data by spending $30 on a SD card," he says. "Farming families, like my own, share data with accountants and insurance agents, and now it’s time to partner with agronomists and seed companies in the same way."
Finally, Siri on the iPhone 4S has led the charge in voice command technology. This year, other companies joined in. Can voice command features in the tractor cab be far behind? Precision ag companies aren’t showing their cards yet, but it’s in development.
Whatever is on your wish list, we wish you a high-tech holiday.
Six Tablet Shopping Tips
The tablet computer is a worthy implement on the farm. Before you make a purchase, consider these tips from Consumer Reports magazine:
1 Go big. The 10" models aren’t inherently better than the 7", but be sure you are comfortable with the smaller screen if you want to go "mini."
2 Shape matters. Some models have a square-shaped screen, while others are more rectangular, which can affect viewing performance.
3 Check out the operating system. Most apps require Android 3.0 or higher, so if the tablet runs Android 2.3, make sure you can upgrade.
4 Get the right app market. You want to access the proper Google Play market rather than third-party markets that feature less overall variety and more potential malicious "rogue" apps.
5 Android or iPad? Android devices are cheaper on average and can run Flash-based programs. But you get what you pay for with iPad, including sleek design, top-notch performance and long battery life.
6 Wi-Fi or broadband? Only people who need Internet access everywhere need broadband service. Wi-Fi should be adequate for everyone else.
For more information on the latest tech tools and apps that have a place on the farm, visit
You can e-mail Ben Potter at firstname.lastname@example.org.