From Field to Phone

4/6/2013 7:00 AM
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant New York Correspondent

Right Apps Can Save Farmers Time, Money

Though their work often relies upon the ancient cycles of sowing and reaping or feeding and raising animals, farmers represent a prime group of smartphone app users.

Jim Gillmore, founder of Farmer Apps, thinks this is just because farmers, like anyone else, want an easier, more efficient way to do things.

As a corn merchandiser with Pennsylvania Grain Processing in Clearfield, Pa., Gillmore wanted to quickly calculate figures such as the content of a grain bin. Of course, a calculator or pencil and paper would work, but a phone app made it a cinch. The company took off from there and now offers several useful ag apps.

“Some apps started through my own ideas and our team’s ideas, things we saw that were niches that needed to be filled,” Gillmore said. “We’ve had suggestions through Facebook, like the one for manure pit capacity estimation.”

With the help of apps, Gillmore said, farmers don’t have to waste time going back to the office to calculate the answer or, worse yet, make a snap decision and lose money by underestimating the contents of a grain bin or hesitate and lose a sale because the market changed in the meantime.

One buyer might offer 5 cents more for a load of corn than another, but if that buyer is farther away the farmer might lose money with the increased freight cost. The Freight Estimator app can help.

Apps can also help users budget wisely. Patrick Anthony, of Columbus, Neb., uses Farmer Apps’ Live to Cut Meat Estimator, which estimates the amount of meat that will come from a meat animal.

Anthony works for one of the larger meat packers in the U.S. and grew up on a cattle farm, raising and butchering cattle.

“I know what the industry standards are and I wanted to see how close the app would be and it’s very close,” he said. “I’m impressed with it. It can give me a total cost. If I’m taking cattle in to be butchered, it can tell me how much meat to expect and what the cost will be.

“Today, the way people have to live on a budget, it’s great to see what the estimated cost will be so I can make sure that’s within my budget.”

In addition to Grain Bin Contents Estimator, Manure Pit Calculator, Live to Cut Meat Estimator and Freight Estimator, Farmer Apps offers Cotton Yield Calculator and Silage-Dry Matter Comparison Calculator. They are priced up to $9.99.

“Apps have allowed (farmers) better usage of their time,” Gillmore said. “Everyone can do the math, but it’s the convenience factor. They can stay out in the field.

“It allows them to make quicker decisions. We’re in a dynamic world and sometimes we have an opportunity where you can make more money but that opportunity is only open for a limited time.”

The company is currently working on an app called Feed Barn for farms of any size. Gillmore said it will help farms track the ration and growth of stock so that farmers can avoid wasting feed and ensure the animals’ growth is on target.

“If you take a vacation, you can forward the instructions and information to a hired man,” Gillmore said.

TapLogic, based in Murray, Ky., offers FarmLogic, a web-based tool that synchronizes with its apps — FarmPAD Mobile, Soil Test Pro, Dry Grain Calculator and Tank Mix Calculator.

Josh Foster, marketing manager, said that apps are “moving the farmer from the notebook to a web-based solution. It puts it all in the palm of your hand so you can do all your recordkeeping from the field.”

Paper records can easily become mislaid or damaged. Although the same could happen to a mobile device, TapLogic’s FarmLogic backs up the information securely, making recordkeeping easy.

FarmPAD Mobile, a comprehensive app for users of the company’s web-based FarmLogic system, allows farmers to enter farm records, maintain equipment service logs, record spray records, keep track of field boundaries and take notes or pictures. If a user is out of mobile range and a Wi-Fi signal is unavailable, the information is stored locally on the handset until he is in range.

“These could be really useful for crop insurance claims, as well as day-to-day farm operation,” Foster said.

A free, 14-day trial lets farmers check it out before committing to the system, which starts at $1,999.


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