I like a handy mobile app as much as the next consumer, whether it’s to check the weather forecast ahead of a weekend getaway or simply to track another disappointing Milwaukee Brewers’ loss.
But I’ve tried to avoid downloading some of the more frivolous apps on the market. Everyone has their guilty pleasures, and let’s face it, auto-steer can make it mighty tempting for farmers to Candy Crush the day away in the cab.
However, when it comes to practical apps for precision farming dealers, is there somewhat of a dearth? Talking with a dealer in Iowa recently, he suggests that many precision vendors are “missing the boat” by not developing simple apps that could complement hardware in the tractor cab.
“This definitely feels like an underserved market,” he says. “I understand that companies want to make margins with the high-priced displays and cover development costs, but how about just selling a $4,000 box that can be bolted behind the seat in the tractor cab and use a tablet to run the equipment.”
Make no mistake, this dealer and others probably don’t want to sacrifice lucrative hardware sales, and manufacturers are gradually adding apps to bolster remote service efficiency. But there does seem to be opportunity and appetite for mobile apps to further improve logistics for dealers and their customers.
Our sister publication No-Till Farmer recently published a feature on the prevalence of mobile app usage. About half of farmers (45%) surveyed for the story say they use apps regularly, while another 28% use apps in a limited capacity. About 10% currently not using apps are interested in them and another 17% don’t use them at all.
With nearly 75% of respondents using apps in some capacity on their farming operation, it’s by no means a foreign technology. Farmers cited nearly 40 different apps they are using for soil testing, field mapping, weed identification or scouting.
Dealers certainly aren’t strangers to the value of mobile apps and most I’ve met view their smart phones as necessities, rather than accessories. And some are leveraging both ag- and non-ag specific apps to enhance customer visits.
One precision dealer in Ohio uses a PowerPoint app for customized, on-farm presentations and also uses a manufacturer app to do field demonstrations and simulations.
“This has the potential to be an extremely beneficial tool,” the Ohio dealer says. “It will allow us to have a remote view from almost anywhere without having to get a laptop out and wait for it to boot up to access the Internet.”
With mobile apps being used as practical tools in day-to-day operations in many businesses (though they still have their place as time-killers), we’ll see if they evolve within the precision farming industry to become mandatory downloads for dealers.