I recently heard about an app that helps parents organize and control their kids’ smartphones. They have the ability to monitor a 16-year-old’s movements and even shut off all power on the phone. Seems to me it blends a helping of guardian angel with a strong dose of Big Brother.
Maybe farmers already have a “master app” also. They’ll need it. This tech site describes just seventeen
of the hundreds of apps agriculture folks can now access. Of course, downloading them might involve a payment, and it no doubt means surrendering information. But precision ag is here to stay as long as satellites fly and the grid stays gritty.
I was impressed when I read the description of the Pocket Rain Gauge app—you get hourly moisture updates about all your fields. I thought back to my childhood farm days and the precipitation app we had in the 60s—it was called “Dad.” His main rain gauge was nailed to the side of the pump house, and he kept a pencil stub with it so he could write rainfall amounts on the white boards. The side of the tiny building eventually looked like a type of Midwest hieroglyphic art.
Dad also attached gauges to fence posts, and he religiously listened to farm reports on local AM radio. But the science was inexact. If the rain was spotty, we might find out where the heaviest fell when a tractor got stuck in the south 40 cornfield or if the cut hay at Uncle Pat’s place was too tough to bale.
Farmer chitchat at the local feed store added to the data cloud. “Judging from the sound on the tin roof of my machine shed, we musta had near half an inch.” Others suspected that the weather gods sometimes interfered. “Heard they got two inches up by Hubbard. They’ve been gettin’ it just right all summer while my corn—just six miles south—looks dry enough to roll it up and smoke it.”
A weed app featured in the tech article also caught my attention. It apparently can identify weeds and provide needed information. Once again, our Dad App did that for us back in analog days. “Boys, the soybeans are loaded with cockleburs, buttonweeds, and thistles. If you start early, the heat won’t be too bad. Remember–pull ’em out by the roots.”
A couple of other new ag apps have more of an eye-in-the-sky feel to them. They can coordinate movement on the farm and beyond by showing where each tractor and worker might be. Good to know where the grain wagon is on its way to the town elevator, and helpful to locate the hay rack if someone has a flat tire hauling in a load.
But this feature takes me back to the Orwellian parental control app I mentioned before. Back in our teen days, it would have been acceptable for our Dad App to know where we were on the tractor, but after farming hours we were just fine being off the grid. No need for a digital nanny when we were scoopin’ the loop, cruisin’ the back roads, or catchin’ the late show at the drive-in theater.
The Dad App had all the answers back then. Who knows–as this article says
, maybe a type of agrarian Amazon Echo will pull it all together for farmers nowadays. “Alexa, what’s the future of farming?” “I am.”
by dan gogerty (background of top pic from DoItYourself.com; Echo pic from agprofessional.com)