6 Mobile Trends to Watch in Precision Agriculture

By Matt Hopkins

One consistent trend from Meister Media’s research into our audience’s internet use of late has been the increasing adoption of mobile technology for work purposes. Perhaps no segment of ag benefits more from the ubiquitous power of mobile technology than precision agriculture. Complete mobility to be able to monitor, store and share information at anytime, anywhere in the world via a smartphone or tablet has taken precision agriculture to another level.

In fact, the mobile device was ranked the No. 1 technology to watch in the Fall 2013 PrecisionAg Special Report (PASR) produced by Meister Media.

The adoption of mobile technology in precision agriculture will only continue climb in coming years. The next generation of farmers has grown up with this technology and feels completely comfortable using it. Their familiarity with iPhones and iPads should make it seamless for them to integrate mobile technology into their farming strategy, and their use will be fueled in large part by the evolution of products that help farmers do more on the go.

But how are today’s growers and retailers using mobile technology in precision agriculture? We set out to answer this question in our 2013 Precision Ag Mobile Internet Usage Survey. Nearly 200 respondents were comprised mostly of growers (35%), retail agronomists/consultants (25%) and manufacturers (17%), and about 90% said they were ‘very involved’ to ‘always involved’ with their organization’s precision ag activities. Based on their responses, here are six mobile use trends to watch for precision ag in 2014 and beyond:

1. iOS dominates mobile devices. As of October 2013, Apple has sold more than 170 million iPads since its release in April 2010, according to AppleInsider.com. So not surprisingly, iPads (63%) were the most commonly used mobile device among precision ag practitioners followed closely by the iPhone (54%) and Android smartphone (36%). Other mobile devices being used in precision ag to a lesser degree are the Android tablet (10%), Windows tablet (8%) and Windows smartphone (6%). The strength of Apple is reinforced by the fact that approximately 80% of the mobile traffic to PrecisionAg.com has occurred on an iPad or iPhone.

2. Internet quality and availability improving. It wasn’t too long ago that Internet service in rural areas was a crapshoot. One farmer or retailer may have had good access while their neighbor may have been out of luck. But with vast improvements in connectivity — particularly with wireless broadband and cloud computing — Internet quality and availability is better than ever. Consider 83% of respondents rated the availability of high-speed Internet access in their area as ‘good’ to ‘very good,’ while 76% rated the quality of high-speed Internet as ‘good’ to ‘very good’.

3. Mobile slowly phasing out desktop computing. Are mobile devices making desktop computers obsolete? Perhaps in some industries, but not quite yet in precision agriculture. In fact, slightly more than half of respondents (52%) said they use their mobile device(s) ‘about the same as’ or ‘more than’ their laptop/desktop computer for precision ag work. Meanwhile, 48% use their smartphones and tablets less than their personal computers for precision ag-related jobs.

4. Mobile devices increase mobility. Without question, the ability to work anywhere is one of the biggest advantages of mobile technology. When asked in what locations they using their mobile devices for precision ag-related work, most respondents said ‘in the field’ (83%) and ‘in the cab’ (62%). Interestingly, respondents use them slightly more ‘at home’ (51%) than they are ‘in the office’ (49%).

5. Data collection No. 1 task performed. As the industry continues to emphasize the need to provide better data to growers to help them make better farming decisions, mobile technology will help immensely in this regard. So when asked how they use their mobile device(s) for precision ag purposes, it was not surprising that data collection was the most common answer to this open-ended question. Also mentioned several times by respondents was mapping, scouting and soil sampling/testing.

6. Mobile app is a key component. One of the main tools that enable a wide variety of precision ag work to be conducted on a mobile device is the app. And precision ag specialists are using lots of them. Connected Farm (Trimble) was the most used precision ag-related mobile app (31%), according to respondents. It was followed by John Deere’s JD Link (28%), Precision Planting’s FieldView (24%) and John Deere’s Mobile Farm Manager (16%). In addition, the overall attitude toward these apps is positive. More than 70% said they ‘agree’ to ‘strongly agree’ that most precision ag apps improve the quality of work they do.

If you would like an Executive Summary of the “2013 Precision Ag Mobile Internet Usage Survey,” please contact Bob West, Meister Media’s Director of Interactive Sales, at 440-602-9129 or bwest@meistermedia.com