CUPERTINO, California- Mobile applications, or “apps,” have become a staple item in the smartphone era. The latest statistics indicate that the Apple App store has surpassed 35 billion downloads and the Android market 25 billion downloads.
Mobile app popularity not only transcends borders, but also markets. Smartphone apps targeting the agricultural sector are quickly becoming mainstream, offering farmers a faster, more efficient way to run their businesses, and increase productivity and profits.
Below is a list of five global mobile apps that are making a difference in the world of agriculture:
Ireland-based company Dairymaster developed the Moo-Monitor, a device placed around a cow’s neck that uses accelerometers to determine if a cow is in heat and ready to be milked. The accompanying Moo-Monitor mobile app allows dairy producers remotely monitor one or many herds at any hour of the day. It also comes equipped with Farm Messenger and Voice Assist features, which provide alerts when cows are in heat.
Accurate heat detection can significantly raise profits by helping farmers produce the right quantities of milk. Traditional manual heat detection is time consuming and imprecise; it is estimated that the U.S. dairy industry loses more than $300 million annually due to failure or misdiagnosis of manual heat detection. .
Dairymaster’s Moo-Monitors are now installed in 22 U.S. states and are used to manage herds of between 80 and 3,000 cows. In explaining the benefit of the Moo-Monitor, Dairymaster’s CEO says, “Food supply is going to be a critical issue for the future and nations like China and Russia are deeply interested in boosting food supply. Technology has a huge role to play. Our software can help farmers calculate the right amount of feed to produce the right results.”
2. Extreme Beans
The United Soybean Board is a U.S. organization comprised of 69 volunteer farmer-directors who “oversee national soy checkoff investments to maximize profit opportunities for all U.S. soybean farmers.” The organization released the Extreme Beans app last year, offering farmers access to information from various universities about soybean management practices.
Its main utility lies in its two calculators, which help farmers determine which farming practices will yield the highest results. One calculator focuses on optimal seeding rate for maximum return, while the other offers input break-even costs. The app is available on both the iTunes and Android market.
Kenyan company M-Farm has created a unique mobile messaging service to enable better market access for disadvantaged Kenyan farmers. Kenyan farmers can send an SMS to a short code and instantly receive three distinct services: Up-to-date produce price information on 42 crops in five markets; collective crop selling; and collective input buying at discounted prices.
The app also provides a monthly analysis of crop prices, enabling farmers to make better decisions on when to plant, how to price and where to sell their produce. M-Farm agents are available to give financial advice to farmer groups and an agronomist is available to advise the groups on high value crops.
In 2011, M-Farm received a grant from Techfortrade, a charity aimed at alleviating poverty, to strengthen their market reach. The charity also mentors the M-Farm founders on business skills, and is in the process of helping them diversify services and broaden M-Farm’s reach geographically.
4. Farm Apps
The F-Track Live On-the-Go farm management app was developed by Australian farmers to allow multiple users to record and access all of their farm information live at any time, even without service. The idea was to replace the paper stock book traditionally used by every farmer. The app tracks mob livestock movements, events and treatments, as well as cropping details.
5. Virtual Farm Manager
The Virtual Farm Manager app was created by US farmers to “enhance the quality of life for the entire world by improving agricultural practices and agricultural information systems.” The app allows farmers to organize and keep notes on all field information, store yield records, sync information with web accounts for computer access, and export the data for analysis by a farmer’s insurance agent. It uses the mobile phone’s GPS to track and map equipment as it plants seeds or spreads fertilizer, while allowing for multiple workers to simultaneously view activity on a field.
The co-founder of M-Farm, as well as the directors of Farm Apps and Dairymaster, will be speaking at the upcoming Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture. They will focus on how E-Agriculture will change the way we produce food, increase yields and boost profits.
– Rifk Ebeid
Sources: Dairy Master, Silicon Republic, Corn and Soybean Digest, New Agriculturist, The Land, AGWeek, AGWeb, Virtual Farm Manager, Crop Life, Corn and Soybean Digest, United Soy Bean