Mobile technology has freed the consumer and the businessman from the dull glow of a computer monitor, the confines of Wi-Fi, the solitude of a cubical. Small, sleek — magical — smartphones have granted users the ability to connect on their own terms, to determine their communication experience based on their specific needs. As quickly as they have come on the scene, smart technologies are fast evolving from tools for facilitation of interpersonal communication and information access toward realms of possibility of which we are now only witnessing in their infancy.
“Smartphones have become a requirement rather than a luxury in modern agribusiness,” says Scott McCormick, co-founder of Float Mobile Learning, a mobile strategy and development company for agribusiness.
While segments of the ag industry have moved more cautiously in adopting mobile’s offerings than others, with so many people regularly using smart technologies, when a mobile application is implemented, the learning curve is diminished. Consequently, business adaptations of mobile applications and other wireless business tools have been accepted as an extension of the user’s daily life.
The producer community, for example, has been quick on the uptake of mobile technology.
According to Peter Gredig, farmer and vice president of AgNition Inc., a mobile development firm specializing in agriculture, the farming community has welcomed mobile because the remote connectedness translates into an opportunity to add time savings and increased productivity during the workday.
“Ten years ago we told farmers if they wanted to be better managers, they had to spend more time in the office,” Gredig explains. “Today, however, with a tablet and a mobile phone you can be that manager, but you’re doing it without the ball and chain. Mobile is liberating.”
Gredig suggests, in agriculture, people working in an office environment tend to be late adopters.
“They don’t have the epiphany farmers get when they realize they don’t have to sit at a desk to make things happen; they can just do their work on the fly,” Gredig says. “It’s a shift to a mobile mind-set.”
According to Float Mobile Learning’s study, “mAgriculture: The Application of Mobile Computing to the Business of Farming,” 94% of farmers own a mobile phone. Additional market data from other sources across the Web suggests half of these phones are smartphones — and that number is rising. Meanwhile, tablets have become increasingly more common in the workplace.
Running parallel with this trend, the age/technology gap is no longer an issue with many users, McCormick explains: “People of all ages have embraced smartphone and tablet applications — even the people who have a tech phobia have warmed up to, say, the iPad because it’s so easy to use.”
Aside from the obvious benefits of smartphones and tablets, these devices have become more affordable, and the infrastructure, i.e., cellular networks and Internet access, has improved to better reach users in remote areas.
“The adoption of mobile has grown, and the market has driven that, but when our customers see the things they can do with simple applications it really makes them start to think about potential of the technology moving forward,” says Lori Harner, senior product marketing manager with Feed Management Systems (FMS), a software solutions company linking feed manufacturers and their suppliers and customers.
Looking to the future, here are a few agribusiness mobile technology trends to keep on your radar:
Precision agriculture sways expectations of producers with a ‘mobile mind-set’
Precision agriculture was the first to condition the producer community to utilize applications on mobile devices.
“From a mobile standpoint, the introductory phase of first mobile applications for specific agriculture functions began three years ago, but now they are coming out fast and furious,” says Chuck Zimmerman, ZimmComm New Media president and AgChat Foundation board member, noting the recent rollouts of mobile applications by Pioneer Hi-Bred, Monsanto and John Deere.