Renowned science fiction writer William Gibson observed several years ago that “the future has already happened – it is just not evenly distributed.”
This quote seems especially fitting given that North American farmers have just used mobile devices on the job although these methods have been used for nearly 10 years in developing countries in Asia and Africa.
As part of a series of mobile agriculture (mAgriculture) reports released by Float Mobile Learning, authors Gary Woodill and Chad Udell look at the future uses of mobile technologies in commercial harvesting, decision support systems and problem prevention. This future, they suggest, will be driven by three variables in the global environment over the coming decade: globalization, climate change and the explosion of mobile technology availability.
Gary and Chad state that the use of mobile phones and tablet computers is revolutionary “because it changes the job from one of relative isolation and individual decision-making to bring, a ‘knowledge worker.’”
This knowledge is distilled in several ways, depending on which affordance of the mobile device the industry professional is using. Commercial harvesters in fishing and farming can use mobile technology to integrate all content available to them. “This will allow farmers to get information on markets, pricing, news and weather on a single device,” they write. “Other services, such as vendor information, reviews, editorials, polling, and a relevant app library can also be made available to increase the utility of the mobile phone while simplifying its use.”
The environment in which mobile devices are used will shape their design. For example, the fishing industry is already producing water- and scratch-resistant smartphones, navigation tools, safety information and fishing advice, as well as “the ability to combine weather and tide data with market conditions to plan their fishing excursions.”
Mobile technology is perfect for forestry operations as its affordances include location, mapping, diagnostics, images and communication abilities. For example, Gary and Chad note that routing lumber trucks using mobile phones can result in better safety and less traffic interruptions.
All three areas will enjoy precision agriculture as each aspect of farming and harvesting is different. Several studies and initiatives are discussed in the research. They include, for example, how using smartphones could maximize production and cost-effectiveness in livestock agriculture, such as the feasibility of a remote pig farm operation.
Gary and Chad discuss the decisions support system (DSS) that allows farmers and harvesters to decide or resolve problems when given a better understanding of those issues. Mobile technology can help facilitate a comprehensive DSS for farmers, fishers and foresters.
Finally, the report looks at the mobile solutions available for battling epidemic diseases and invasive species.
For more on the future of mobile technologies in farming, fishing and forestry, check out our latest mobile agriculture research.
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