Tablet tools make growers 'appy'

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Technology, tablets and tips to use them were on the menu for South Australian growers at a workshop hosted by Partners in Grain

Image of people at the Partners in Grain Technology, Tablets and Tips workshop

(From left) Leighton Pearce of Growing Solutions with Mid North SA growers who participated in the Partners in Grain ‘Technology, tablets and tips’ workshop at Clare: Wendy Finch, Balaklava; Lynnie Wehrmann, Jamestown; Fiona and James Sullivan, Hallett; and Nat Sommerville, Rachel Trengove and Dane Sommerville, all of Spalding.

PHOTO: Rebecca Jennings

I joined a group of South Australian growers in Clare in February – all armed with our iPads and Samsung tablets – to learn how to manage farm businesses on the go.

The workshop was developed as part of the GRDC project ‘Managing the Grain Growing Business’, which is being delivered by Partners in Grain (PinG). The Clare workshop was delivered as part of an Australian Government National Landcare Programme.

Presenter Leighton Pearce runs Growing Solutions, a SA-based technology business aimed at equipping agricultural and natural resource managers with information tools for decision-making.

Mr Pearce takes a fleet of unmanned aerial vehicles to field days across SA to talk growers through the practical and legal aspects of using this technology on-farm. He has also developed a comprehensive list of farming apps for Apple and Android smartphones and tablets, which were a focus of the PinG workshop.

Mr Pearce showed participants how to use these data collection and communication tools.

Here are six of the top tips I took home

1 There are so many value-add gadgets.

If you need more space on an Android smartphone, a micro SD card will provide extra memory. Charging technology on the road is easier with a multi-port USB charger – this is also a handy tool when travelling overseas as it only requires one power point adaptor to charge multiple devices. Strapped for time? Adding a solid state hard drive to a PC (which has a spinning hard drive) will enable instant start-up, like an Apple Mac. A wi-fi-enabled external hard drive allows everyone in the family to access movies and music at home while wi-fi printers and bluetooth cables can replace untidy cords in the office.

2 Video and voice-recording apps are useful data collection tools.

Apps such as Philips Dictation recorder, Dragon Dictation and PhotoVoice (to name just a few) provide voice recording, voice-to-text and voice-over-images for on-the-go data collection. These tools could be used to record weeds and pests, explain a machinery issue to a mechanic, or instruct an employee how to do a job – just text or email the audio file.

3 Data management saves time and money.

The Telstra 24x7 app is a useful tool to monitor data usage. Data can be shared between users on the same plan – ideal if some members of a farming business (or family) are data-hungry. There are some easy tricks to reduce data usage, such as turning off ‘push notifications’ and some ‘location services’ on mobile devices. Security conscious? Use iTunes Store or GooglePlay Store pre-paid vouchers (available from post offices and supermarket chains) instead of a credit card to make app store purchases.

4 Do not settle for poor connectivity.

If you have poor mobile phone reception at home, a Cel-Fi system can lift phone connectivity from one bar to around three bars of service. The wireless device uses a unit placed near a window to communicate with the nearest mobile base station, amplify the signal and pass it to the coverage unit, which disperses the signal through the building to multiple mobile devices.

5 There is an app for nearly everything.

There are so many apps (and the list is growing) and most growers will have their favourites for crop management, monitoring the weather and recording farm data. However, here are a few tools that can make the ‘small jobs’ a lot easier.
  • Lumos: track the sun to optimise the angle of solar panels.
  • iGradient: measure coulter and tyne angles with your device.
  • Spirit Level: turn your phone or tablet into a spirit level.
  • CFS and St Johns Ambulance: emergency information.
  • Business Card Reader: a good one for conferences and industry events, this app scans business cards and transfers details into the device address book.
  • Convert Units Free: convert area, angles, currency, data, energy, force and mass.
  • MYOB: scan receipts for BAS and tax purposes – your bookkeeper will love you.
  • Toilet Finder and Translator apps: if you are planning an overseas trip, download these apps before you fly.

6 Device-finding apps are not just for the absent-minded.

The Find My iPhone app can be used to pinpoint a missing Apple device on a map (assuming the app is activated on the iPhone/iPad). It can also play an occupational health and safety role in a farm business to locate people as well as their devices. Another location tool is Find My Keys – a bluetooth-enabled key ring gadget that can be located up to 40 metres away using a smartphone or tablet.

If you have a basic understanding of your smartphone or tablet and its functions but want to learn how to use these devices for business and efficiency, contact your state PinG coordinator for ‘Technology, tablets and tips’ workshop details.

More information:

Leighton Pearce, Growing Solutions,

Partners in Grain;

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