Farmers are an inventive group. Over the years, for example, armed with little more than a hacksaw and a welder, they’ve adapted worn out cars into inexpensive yet practical farm implements.
I tried to find an example of a smaller consumer product that made such a leap into the world of agriculture, but I can’t come up with anything better than the electronic tablet, specifically Apple’s iPad. You could argue that very few growers could get by without a personal computer or a mobile phone, and that’s certainly true. But the iPad and some of its 200,000 apps are already being incorporated into farm equipment.
Late last year, Intelligent Agricultural Solutions (IAS), a joint venture founded by Barry Batcheller of Appareo Systems and Howard Dahl of Amity Technology in Fargo, N.D., introduced the Wireless Blockage Monitor for air seeding implements. The system uses acoustic sensors to listen as seeds and fertilizer flow through the system. The information is fed to a graphical representation of the system that’s displayed via an app for the iPad.
When IAS revealed the new monitor, a press release said its “Use of the iPad gives the customer a flexible platform useful both in and out of the tractor … for other applications like checking commodity prices, weather and keeping in touch with family and friends. As IAS and other companies continue to develop software applications for the iPad, farmers will have a truly versatile, multi-use platform for a fraction of the price of current ag-specific displays.”
These are heady days for Apple and its tablet. On March 3, Apple announced that someone downloaded its 25 billionth app, which means everyone on earth could have 3.5 apps on their iPad. And not everyone has an iPad, yet.
Reporting in The New York Times earlier this month, around the release of Apple’s third generation iPad, Nick Wingfield writes, “The iPad, which seemed like a nice side business for Apple when it was introduced in 2010, has become a franchise for the company, accounting for $9.15 billion in revenue in the holiday quarter, or about 20% of Apple’s total revenue. The roughly 15 million iPads Apple sold in that period was more than twice the number it sold a year earlier.”
There’s already debate about when the tablet will surpass the PC in sales. Last year, PCs outsold tablets six to one. In 2010, PCs were outselling tablets 20 to one. One analyst says that shift could happen in 2017, while others say it will be earlier.
Electronic tablets have been prominent at farm conferences and trade shows this year, being used by dealers to check e-mail during long PowerPoint presentations or by manufacturers to show videos of products in action.
If your dealership doesn’t already own a tablet, find a way to incorporate one into your business. As your customers become more comfortable with how apps can help them manage data on their farm, they’re going to be coming to you with questions about how to incorporate it into their equipment, too.