Tuesday, 30 October 2012

ND, MN Farmers Develop Farming App

Two farmers have developed a mobile phone application to help with farm management.

Jacob Fannik grew up on a 2,000-acre farm in Max, planting small grains such as oats and barley. When his friend, Ryan Raguse of Wheaton, Minn., approached him with the idea for Virtual Farm Manager, he knew from experience it would be useful for producers.

“The spark behind this came from growing up on a farm,” Fannik said. “A farmer has to get in and out of the tractor, get into the house, make a bunch of calls, be so many places at once and still be behind the wheel of the tractor.”

Farmers can download the app to their phone and then register on the company’s website, www.virtualfarmmanager.com.

The app uses the phone’s GPS to track and map as equipment goes up and down the fields planting or spreading fertilizer. Everything on the phone is synced with their web account.

With the app, farmers also can store past yield records and compare them. They can keep notes. If there are multiple workers in the field, they can all view it on their cell phone at the same time.

“Rather than running around with notebooks all the time, the farmer can just send it back to the computer,” Raguse said.

“I have cattle to deal with and I’m farming from about March to October,” Fannik said. “I definitely understand what it’s like to be out there at 6:30 in the morning until 1 o’clock.”

Raguse said there are many variations of this management technology but he doesn’t know of any that allow farmers to access it on a cell phone.

The app will be coming out for Android phones on April 15. An iPhone version will follow shortly after. The cost for the first month is $1; after that, it is $65 a month.

“Farmers can do a lot of what the high tech, high dollar products do on a smart phone,” Fannik said.

Raguse said other systems such as Connected Farm require spending several thousand dollars on hardware and software on top of a monthly subscription cost. Other management software is available for computers he said, but it doesn’t offer the mobility of a phone.

Fannik said farmers might face some reception problems with this product. Also the technology may not be as good as what the other products offer, but he said they think what they have is sufficient. As their company grows, Raguse and Fannik hope to be able to provide more and better services.

“We’re here to help farmers first and foremost,” Fannik said. “Without farmers out there, you’re not getting food on the table, not getting milk in your glass.”

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