Old Macdonald has a farm… and on that farm, he has a smartphone.
And, he’s not alone. This year’s Nielsen Rural Survey shows that 53 percent of all farmers own a smartphone, compared to only 16 percent in 2012’s survey. As expected, internet and device usage is most prevalent amongst younger farmers with Dairy farmers being the most connected, but sheep and beef farmers are catching up as on-farm technology drives connectivity and data usage. Seventy nine percent of young farmers are using smartphones, and one of the on-farm technologies taking the sector by storm is the software as a service application, agri360.
Agrimap, the company behind the simple yet exceptionally powerful app, has developed a cloud-based farm management software, focused on record keeping and communication. While it can be accessed from any device or PC, it’s primarily used on a smartphone. agri360 uses a detailed satellite farm map with every paddock detailed, the user taps on a field and records any information against it, be it fertiliser application, stock mobs, irrigation, soil testing, animal health, seeding or cropping. In fact any job that happens on the farm, at any time, from anywhere, on any device.
Released onto the market in November, the development and testing has been done with the help of a group of Southland farmers.
Matt Macdonald is one of these farmers and while professing to being “old school” when it comes to technology, agri360 has simplified life on his 956 hectare Te Anau farm. “It’s just so bloody simple.
“I used to have three or four notebooks floating around, a blackboard in the woolshed and when I needed information, I would run around looking for it.”
Macdonald now uses agri3560, on his phone every single day. “When I drench I pull out my phone make a note, photograph the batch number from the chemical and attach it to the record. The same applies with fertiliser, dipping and every other task I do.”
Finding information is then so simple. When audited, or sending stock to the works, a quick search in agri360 and he can print off every report required. “I’ve got every bit of information I will ever need about my farm with me all the time, so if the bank manager needs something or the fertiliser consultant calls – it’s all at my fingertips no matter where I am.”
Being map based brings the component of absolute reality, says Agrimap CEO Andy Lowe.
“Farmers feel comfortable with this – it’s recognisable because it’s their farm and it all makes sense. And, any other person who has a working interest in the farm can log on and retrieve or add to the information in real time, from anywhere, on any device.
“In a rapidly increasing regulatory environment, the introduction of stricter compliance and record keeping means farmers, by necessity, will be looking for simple, effective ways to manage data collection,” Lowe says.
A sophisticated permissions function means multiple users can access the application with only the relevant information being available to them, be it the farm workers, advisers, consultants, contractors or overseas shareholders and farm owners.
The cloud-based platform balances people and process, meaning it treats management as a whole, not a segment. The ‘ordinary’ way farmers use management software is to address one very particular problem. While this one thing is done very well with the help of technology, it neglects the bigger picture.
“We have developed a simple outcome for users that goes far beyond this – it’s a complete tool designed to increase sustainability, efficiency and profit.”
Lowe recognises there is plenty of farming software on the market, but nothing with the simplicity of agri360. “The input of the group of Southland farmers has been invaluable. We have continued to upgrade and change the app based on their real-use feedback. They told us they wanted simplicity, access from anywhere, for it to involve the whole team, and to cover all aspects of the farming business – so that is what we have delivered.”
The software also has a very sophisticated search function similar in its abilities to that of Google. It holds the farm’s health and safety policies and the information it gathers can be used to satisfy the needs of many regulatory bodies and required record keeping.
The task request feature enables jobs to be automatically sent to the appropriate person and it will soon have the ability to record work hours for individuals. This is one of numerous upgrades already under development.
agri360 does not tell the farmer how to keep records – it allows them to do it in a way that suits – again a unique aspect of the software that was entirely driven by the requests of farmers, says Lowe.