Float April 2012 newsletter illustration by Matt Forcum

Excerpt: Why mAgriculture is Growing

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Only two percent of Americans farm, according to the U.S. agriculture secretary, but their efforts impact the entire country. In discussing the proposed farm bill at a symposium at nearby Bradley University in November, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack stressed the importance on agriculture in America, stating that food costs less out of our paychecks than in other areas of the world and that we are a self-sustaining country. “We have the capacity to produce everything in the United States to feed ourselves,” he said. “There are virtually no other countries in the world today that can do that.”

To help the two percent do this, we’re exploring new ways in which farmers and agriculture companies alike can be successful. So far, we’ve shown how effective mobile devices can be used at trade shows with Pioneer and GROWMARK. However, we’re discovering how mobile devices can help growers in their field. Literally. Float senior analyst Dr. Gary Woodill, Ed.D., and Float managing director Chad Udell have been researching mobile agriculture and dozens of mAgriculture apps. We’ve provided an excerpt of their research findings here that demonstrates why mAgriculture will continue to rise.

Excerpt: Why mAgriculture is Growing

The idea of using mobile computing in agriculture (also known as mAgriculture) is very new in North America, while mAgriculture in the developing world has been known and written about for almost a decade. A 2009 report by the firm Nicholson Kovac, “Agriculture New-Media Study,” talks about the use of email and websites without using the word mobile (Johnson, 2009). A 2010 survey of the use of information and communications technologies (ICT) in agriculture in the United States doesn’t even mention mobile technologies. Instead, this study by Kelly Burke at the University of Hawaii lists the Internet, websites, and “social technologies” as examples of ICT in agriculture (Burke, 2010). Although we found a 2009 article in AgriMarketing magazine on mobile phones for sending text messages to farmers (Slump, 2009), in preparing this report, we were struck by the fact that most scholarly articles we found on the subject of mAgriculture were published in 2011 and 2012, indicating the relative newness of this field.

There are several reasons why use of mobile technologies among American farmers has only taken off in the last year and a half. For one, a turning point in the use of mobile technologies has been the introduction of tablet computers, such as the iPad in 2010. The publicity surrounding the iPad and its competitors has generated awareness and interest in mobile computing in all sectors of the economy. The use of tablets in agriculture, as opposed to smartphones, is just now starting to take off.

Another factor that has led to the more rapid growth of mAgriculture in developing countries is the fact that in these countries, mobile phones may be the only computing and communications technology that is available. In contrast to American agricultural publications, African and Asian newsletters and magazines have lots of stories about the use of mobile phones in agriculture all through the 2000s. This indicates that farmers in developed countries in North America, Australia, and Europe have lots to learn from the mobile computing experiences of farmers in developing countries. Ironically, some of the educational materials available in developing countries are funded by American organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the University of Illinois’s Scientific Animations Without Borders (SAWBO) project. SAWBO produces educational videos for farmers in 80 languages that can be played back on ordinary cell phones (VOA, 2011).


Burke, Kelly (2010). The impact of Internet and ICT use among SME agribusiness growers and producers. Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, 23(2), 173-194.

Johnson, Sheree (2009). Ag producers’ use of social media. AgriMarketing, 47(9), Nov./Dec., 56.

Slump, Chet (2009). Attached at the hip (going mobile). AgriMarketing, 47(1), Jan./Feb., 40.

Voice of America (VOA) (2011). Teaching rural farmers with cell phone videos. VOA Learning English website. http://www.voanews.com/learningenglish/home/agriculture/Teaching-Rural-Farmers-With-Cell-Phone-Videos-123775114.html

Float Mobile Learning Symposium 2012 Coming to Chicago

We’re announcing exclusively for the first time via this newsletter to you that the Float Mobile Learning Symposium 2012 will be taking place in Chicago as a part of Techweek on Monday, June 25. We’ll be located in the brand-new 1871, a co-working space for entrepreneurs that is located on the 12th floor the Merchandise Mart just four floors away from all the Techweek festivities.

The Float Mobile Learning Symposium 2012 will feature industry-leading speakers discussing mobile business, strategy, design and development, including Shay Howe from Groupon and Steven Hoober, whose book “Designing Mobile Interfaces” was recently published by O’Reilly.

Stay tuned for more speaker announcements and registration information this week.

Free Webinar: Things People Don’t Get About Mobile Learning

Our next free webinar in the Mobile Learning Conversations series features special guest Clark Quinn this Wednesday, April 11, at 12 p.m. Central. Clark will be discussing the things that people don’t understand about mLearning, such as the power of interactivity, that mLearning is not eLearning or courseware on a phone, and the value of low-hanging fruit. “The list goes on,” he said.

Clark most recently authored The Mobile Academy: mLearning for Higher Education will discuss these topics and more along with Float senior analyst Gary Woodill and Float mobile strategist and evangelist Jeff Tillett during this hour-long session.

Register now for Things People Don’t Get About Mobile Learning>>

Reading Made Social: ReadSocial for iOS Released

Last month, we released the iOS library for ReadSocial, allowing any iOS app to instantly become a social reading application. The ReadSocial API weaves a backchannel through HTML documents, PDF files and EPUB formats in order for readers to leave comments in their digital publications using the social media accounts they already use, such as Facebook or Twitter. This open-source iOS library presents a tremendous opportunity for e-book publishers.

“Providing content that people want to read is no longer enough,” said Float managing director Chad Udell. “Now that content needs to be delivered in a way that is easy for the consumer to digest and share.”

Learning Solutions Conference: The Art of Vision and Thought Leader Conversations

Jeff Tillett recently spoke at the eLearning Guild’s LSCon in Orlando, Florida. However, the most powerful part of the event for him was the keynote address. “I’m not sure I’ve ever been inspired so much by one keynote speaker. Erik Wahl spoke and – better yet – demonstrated of the art of vision.” Read Jeff’s full take on LSCon>>

Additionally, Jeff sat down with a handful of thought leaders, including Reuben Tozman, Aaron Silvers, Neil Lasher, David Metcalf, and Tim Martin. We’re releasing one video every day this week on Float’s YouTube page.

RabbleBrowser 2.5 Ready For Release

Version 2.5 of RabbleBrowser, our collaborative Web browser for the iPad, is set to be released soon. In fact, we’re awaiting approval from the powers that be at the Apple App Store. Among RabbleBrowser’s new features include the ability for users to vote and to chat privately with each other. Session leaders are also given much more control over their session to prevent users from disconnecting, among other features.

“This latest version of RabbleBrowser was designed with feedback from our users in mind,” said Chad Udell, managing director of Float Mobile Learning. “Users enjoy the app’s functionality and utility in a wide variety of settings, and these new features increase the level of social interaction as users engage with the content.”

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One Response to Excerpt: Why mAgriculture is Growing

  1. […] has some inspiring examples of how simple solutions are making a huge difference. A blog ‘Why mAgriculture is Growing‘ points out that while there have been stories about mobile phones in agriculture in Africa […]

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