Smart phones, iPads and social networking are considered by many to be a popular craze limited to a younger generation, but a team of Texas AgriLife extension economists believe the information technology explosion has already reached farm and field and say now is the time producers should embrace it to better manage crops throughout the year and eventually move them from field to market at maximum profit.
“If you would have told me a couple of years ago that I would be using an iPad in the field the way most farmers use other tools, I would have thought you were crazy,” says Dr. Jackie Smith, an economist at Texas AgriLife Extension in Lubbock. “But the truth is many producers are already using their smart phones and special applications in the field and it is making life and farm management easier than ever before.”
Smith and fellow extension economist Jay Yates have been working on developing new applications –called apps in modern tech lingo—for use on smart phones and iPads, and say the new devices are proving to be an asset to producers who need to stay on top of every aspect of growing and marketing their crops, from determining crop insurance risks and developing marketing plans to optimizing irrigation water allocations and more.
“There are already a number of apps available that producers have been using, some related to tracking the weather and soil conditions for example, and we have been working for some time on developing an app we call the profitability project that helps producers keep up with ongoing production costs. This gives them command of their breakeven and profit objectives,” Smith adds.
He says not long ago it was the “under-thirty group” using iPhones and iPads for both professional and social purposes, but that trend is now catching on with older producers who are looking for a faster, better way to get the information they need to manage and market their crops.
“Farmers can now enter data regularly to help them keep up with how they are doing in the crop year, like how much they have spent on seed or fertilizer. As harvest rolls around, they know with the push of a button how much they have in a particular crop and what they will need to get to break even or make a profit,” Smith said.
Perhaps best of all is an app that helps the producer track market prices to help move crops at the optimum time.
Smith and Yates teamed up to research and develop information technology for agriculture through a grant received from the Southern Risk Management Center in
Arkansas and a second grant application has been submitted to further their research. The funds are being provided by the USDA.
“It’s amazing the number of existing apps you can find out there that will help you on the farm and that number is constantly growing,” Smith says. “Already most seed and fertilizer companies have apps where you can push a button and review their offerings, read about the details or the best way and time to apply a specific product.”
While he admits apps specific to agricultural are relatively new, he says his team is hard at work developing new apps specific to the industry, and says the day is coming soon when you can order supplies from the field on or the go, check market prices, keep up with weather developments, review your production costs and market your crop all at the convenience of using just one tool.
While younger producers are quick to embrace the technology, Smith says producers of all ages seem willing to learn.
“If you can teach them to make more money, they are more willing to learn new things,” he says.
Smith and Yates have scheduled a number of one-day workshops in January to help producers learn about smart phone and iPad use on the farm. Workshops are scheduled as follows:
Each workshop will be restricted to 30 participants. Husband-and-wife participation will only require one registration fee. Registration is $50 to be paid at the door by check.
For more details on each workshop, go to http://SouthPlainsprofit.tamu.edu and click on iPhone/iPad Workshops. To reserve a spot in any of the workshops call the Lubbock center at 806-746-6101.