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Farmers finding mobile phone apps make many tasks easier


farm-droughtThat’s the word from C.J. Isbell, a third-generation farmer and co-owner of Keenbell Farm in western Hanover County. After resisting anything but a simple cell phone for years, he’s now an enthusiastic user of mobile farming applications on his iPhone.

“I can measure field sizes using an app, so if I need to change what I’m planting or where I’m grazing, I can see how much acreage I’m working with,” Isbell said. “I can check price reports for cattle and commodities or locate the closest elevators for buying grain. I can look real time for livestock auctions and view them. I can use apps to locate equipment and both bid on them in an auction setting or find the location where people are selling them.”

Isbell’s family farm used to be a large grain operation. It’s now a beef, pork and poultry farm. He wants to expand his crop production to provide feed for the livestock, and mobile apps have helped.

“Everything I use is on my iPhone, it’s compatible with my iPad, and I can use it on my computer as well,” he said. “A lot of people like myself were hesitant to try mobile apps, but we’re starting to see the benefits of using them for marketing grain and ease of record keeping. It basically replaces the clipboard-and-pencil record keeping of the old days. I can have my whole cattle inventory on my phone and keep records for veterinary care; I can look at all those records on the fly.”

A soil survey app created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources and Conservation Service has just been updated. It’s available at http://casoilresource.lawr.ucdavis.edu/soilweb and allows farmers to see detailed soil types based on GPS location and USDA records. Isbell said he hasn’t used that particular program, but he’s always checking the app store for new ones.

“The sky really is the limit, and now farmers are coming up with ideas and contacting companies that design applications and proposing them,” he said.

“The designers really make the layout and function of these apps user-friendly. They’re pretty responsive to feedback too, improving them all the time. I very rarely have to use a computer now. I can do almost all of my record keeping on my phone and export it to my computer.”



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