by KAREN BRIGGS
Forget that image of the hayseed farmer who can take a wrench to a tractor but has no idea what to do with a laptop. According to a recent panel study from Farm Credit Canada, Canadian producers are just as likely to employ mobile technology as anyone else.
The study shows 29 per cent of farmers own a smartphone (BlackBerry, Android, or iPhone, with internet access), as compared to 30 per cent of the general population. And six per cent own a tablet such as the iPad, the same percentage as other Canadians. More than 90 per cent of the Canadian producers surveyed owned a computer, and 81 per cent have a mobile phone. Forty-nine per cent of producers described themselves as early to embrace new technologies.
Fifty-three per cent of Canadian producers who own a smartphone today plan to buy a tablet within two years, evidently seeing the potential for using these devices to monitor weather, interest rates, and markets, as well as placing orders and marketing their produce while on the road or in the field.
“That doesn’t surprise us,” says the Grain Farmers of Ontario’s Erin Fletcher. “We launched our free smartphone app, SellSmart (the BlackBerry version), a little more than a year ago, and it has been very successful. We have had 3,100 downloads of the app for BlackBerry, and 650 downloads for the iPhone and iPad since that version was first offered about eight months ago.”
The SellSmart app, which is available through BlackBerry’s App World or the iTunes app store, lists commodities at local prices throughout Ontario.
Fletcher sees Android as the up-and-coming mobile application for farmers. “We’ve had a lot of requests for an Android version of SellSmart, so we’re launching that version in 2012. I think a lot of farmers have recently been switching to the Android platform.”
She notes that the Grain Farmers of Ontario is also keeping apace with technology. “Our Board of directors has gone completely paperless, using tablets,” she says. “We expect that mobile platforms will be a major means of communication for us in the near future.” BF