Real-time communication invaluable on-farm resource

The time when managing a farm business meant staying in the office is long gone, with tractor cabs replacing office chairs and desks

Man talking with microphone.

Those fancy phones that keep your kids walking into trees and signposts? They could be helping you diagnose your ailing combine, or identify what critter is eating your crop.

“It’s really about what works for you,” said Peter Gredig, of Kettle Creek Communications and AgNition Inc. “It’s about communicating as best as you can.”

And while there may be a temptation to dismiss the technology used by your kids and grandkids to send selfies and photos of things they’re about to eat to the World Wide Web, Gredig urged producers at the recent CropConnect Conference in Winnipeg to step back and think outside the box.

The most valuable aspect of today’s smartphones and tablets? The ability to communicate in real time with audio and video.

“We think that’s not for us… but you talk to young mechanics and say, can I FaceTime you next time I have a problem in the field? And they’ll say, yes,” Gredig said. “And you’ll feel silly the first time you do it, but five minutes in you’re going to think, what, I was going to drive there? I was going to call, have them come out? I don’t think so.”

Rather than try and explain what a strange noise sounds like, or drive one farm over to see if a new employee has a seed drill properly set, Gredig said the right technology can save time, money and frustration.

But perhaps the biggest advantage provided by today’s digital devices is the ability to access copious amounts of information, without being tied to the hard copy of days past, the app developer said.

“Where I see the power is that we’ve been spending 20, 30 years gathering research, we have fact sheets, we have manuals, we have books, best management practices — where are they? They’re back in the room with the chair and the box, they need to be where we need them — in the field,” Gredig said.

From the Country Guide website: Farming the cloud

Crop scouting in particular can benefit from having information, and better yet, detailed images, available at the swipe of a finger, he added.

And the number of tools and apps available for crop scouting is growing.

“There is going to be a huge groundswell in the amount of apps that are going to be available to you, they are coming fast and furious now,” he said.

Even keeping track of day-to-day information should be streamlined by effective technology use.

“The world where I write in a notebook what I did today, then I go home and six to eight weeks later, or maybe never, I put it into my software, should not be. This should be over and we are getting there,” Gredig said. “The biggest future benefit I see to this is ending the chore of data entry, this should free us.”

While steering clear of recommending particular brands, Gredig said he finds the combination of a smartphone and tablet most effective, adding it allows access to portable communication as well as a larger screen for reading and viewing content like videos or charts.

But it doesn’t come cheap, expect to pay roughly $600 per device, he said.

“But if you can tell me of other investments in agriculture that we can make for around $1,000 that have an impact as these two tools, they don’t exist in my opinion,” said the developer.

He advised doing some homework before making a purchase. Any device you buy should be compatible with the programs and apps you want to use, and fit requirements like adequate battery life.

“There was a time 15 years ago when I would have told you that you were a CEO, farm manager, so be in the office… today I say get out of it,” Gredig said. “We have to get out of that mindset.”

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About the author


Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.



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