Around the Farm – How a Smartphone Changed the Way I Farm

Posted: September 21, 2018

When my dad was learning to farm, he gathered information from the generations who had farmed before him. Learning from experienced farmers is crucial, but it is also a slow process. One generation learns something new and passes it to the next.

So, how does a smartphone change that? It’s simple, really – and something I bet you’re familiar with. Readily accessible information.

Access to information allows me to learn from the experience of not only my dad and grandpa, but from farmers all over the world! Adaptability and willingness to try new things are key to my success as a farmer, and access to quick information about what others have done or the latest research give me the edge I need to make my farm a success.

From learning about new conservation practices that improve soil health to getting ideas from farmers on the other side of the world, every bit of information helps me formulate a plan that has the potential to improve my farm.

My smartphone is used for weather & marketing

Rainfall events used to trigger a “crop tour,” and they still do, driving from field to field to check on the conditions of the field and its crop. Some farmers have a rain gauge at each farm to measure precipitation. Knowing this helps determine when they can return to perform a task, and know whether or not that rain was helpful or hurtful to the crop.

Today, before I wake up, my smartphone has an app that tells me how much rain fell where, if there was any hail with it, how that affected the use of the fertilizer I applied and what growth stage the crop should be at based on planting date and temperature calculations. After evaluating this information, then we still go on a “crop tour,” but with lots of knowledge of what happened and things to watch for like damage or fertilizer utilization.

These apps also allow us to walk through a field and drop a GPS pin of our location and take pictures and notes of what we saw. All of this information is stored and backed up for us to evaluate at a later date if we wish to review the outcome of the crop after harvest, learning from better data resources and information.

This same app collects data from the planter and the combine instantly as we go through the fields, recording yield, hybrid, moisture, acres, etc. Because we can review the final outcome of our crop instantly, we can make informed decisions faster for next year, perhaps taking advantage of ordering some seed or fertilizer early at a discounted rate.

As a kid, I rode through the fields in the tractor with Dad and Grandpa, listening to the radio, of course! But when it came time for the market report, I was quickly prompted to “be quiet now, the markets are on!”Any drastic change in the markets would trigger the farm to make a management decision when everyone went home for the day to return phone calls that the wives had taken messages for all day.

A smartphone allows me to see the markets instantly as they change and buy/sell a commodity via calling, texting, emailing or using apps.

A faster paced market demands the use of a smartphone for a farmer to keep up with moving trends. But you can bet the market report is still heard on the radio by all farmers, young and old. Old habits die hard.

Trent Sanderson – Livestock and Grain Farmer, Kirkland