Industry Quicklook: Agriculture

Industry News, Mobile Development, Research, Top 10 Industries Interested in Mobile Learning Comments (0)

With the question of who exactly is interested in mobile learning, in the back of our mind, Float got down to the bottom of things. By monitoring the companies who have been frequent visitors to our website, downloading our content, and reaching out to our personnel, we determined which vertical markets are most interested in mobile, microlearning and mobile apps for performance support.   

After studying the key metrics including industries, website visits, documents which were downloaded by the individual sectors, we produced a dataset of the Top 10 Industries interested in mobile learning.

Here are the results for our #3 Industry: Agriculture.

You may mistakenly think Agriculture is a low-tech industry. You couldn’t be more wrong. Farms of all sizes within the ag industry use a variety of electronic systems. These systems include but are not limited to, sensors, advanced irrigation systems, and large machinery like tractors and combines. These systems are all used to prepare, plant, monitor and harvest crops on a scale that would baffle our ancestors. The app revolution has also taken root in the ag industry.

Using mobile learning and mobile technology within agriculture, also known as “mAgriculture” has exploded in the last decade, and there are many reasons mAg is taking off. The first is the adoption of smartphones by farmers. A 2011 study by Successful Farming magazine shows that “farmers are adopting mobile phone technologies at a higher rate than the public.” This study showed that 94% of farmers own a mobile phone or a smartphone. That was in 2011!

Another factor that led to the increased growth in mAgriculture is how widely mobile agriculture is being used in developing countries. In countries like Africa and Asia, mobile phones might be the only communications and computing technology available and thus are used to assist them with their farming.

According to an article by CNN, the usage of mobile phones has significantly influenced the lives of farmers in Africa where agriculture is their biggest asset. Mobile phones serve as platforms to share weather information, prices within the market, and help those farmers make better decisions. These devices also enable them to send messages thousands of kilometers away to find out crop prices.

Mobile Learning + Agriculture

For over 15 years, Kenya’s Agricultural Commodities Exchange has partnered with Safaricom, a mobile operator, to launch SokoniSMS64. SokoniSMS64 is a text messaging network which can provide pricing information to farmers.

M-Farm offers a similar platform along with a marketplace where farmers can post what they’ve grown and see what their competition is pricing their goods at too.

There is an app called FarmSupport, which assists farmers by providing updated forecasts. It also collects information from other farmers regarding what they were planting, where they are planting, their yields, and what types of fertilizer is used. The app offers a crowd-sourced which promotes two-way communication between the farmers and data providers via Geo-Wiki.

There is also an app called iCow which is called “the world’s first mobile phone cow calendar.” iCow is an SMS and voice service that assists dairy farmers in tracking their cows’ gestation, tips on breeding, and nutritional information. Here’s a blurb from their website:

“iCow is a comprehensive solution for farmers designed not only to support them with livestock and crop production but also to connect farmers to the vital players in their agricultural ecosystem. These include input providers, agricultural financial service providers, veterinary experts, agricultural extension service providers, NGO’s, Govt and more!  It is designed for the most basic feature phones and is available in different languages depending on the county of deployment. In Kenya and Tanzania, it is available in English and Kiswahili, in Ethiopia in Oromiffo, Amharic, and Tigringnia.”

As you can see from the mobile apps above, there are many advantages and benefits to mAgriculture. Besides what is listed above, here are some additional enjoys Float’s Whitepaper “mAgriculture: The Application of Mobile Computing to the Business of Farming”:

  • A potential $138 billion uplift in emerging market farmers’ income due to mobile calculating and communications services.
  • The ability to transfer money, exchange, save and borrow amounts of capital via a mobile device (i.e., banking apps).
  • Mobile data providing local weather forecasts, resource management information, and crop prices of competitors.
  • Helpline services that give guidance on issues like pest control, climate change, water scarcity, and flooding.

Growers have been able to do so much by using mobile technology to optimize their harvest rates. Farmers have been able to grow their crops to ideal sizes and maximize their soil for the right growing conditions, which can cause a higher profit and maximum yield.

Mobile Learning + Float

Here is an example directly from one of our case studies on how Float has helped farmers accomplish this information:

Farming is a highly sophisticated and hard-working industry, which strives towards high yields and uniform growth within their fields. Deciding on what seeds and determining the optimal planting rate for their unique situations can be somewhat tricky. Farmers work with their seed company for help, but, in this age of new mobile technology, they knew there had to be an easier way to get the information they needed.

Float consulted with the seed company and the farmers and then built a smartphone app, which was a custom planting rate estimator. Someone could use this app in the field.

Using this app, farmers can find the optimal economic planting rate and estimated harvest population for a particular hybrid of a family of seeds. Each estimate is displayed in two formats: a chart and a graph. Growers can also edit the seed cost and grain price as they wish, save information on their favorite hybrids, email planting rates to others, and print the data for further analysis.

In the past, we’ve shown how useful mobile devices can be with Pioneer and GROWMARK at various trade shows. Float senior analyst Dr. Gary Woodill, Ed.D., and Float managing director Chad Udell produced three research reports regarding mobile agriculture and dozens of mAgriculture apps.

“Like many other businesses, agriculture is becoming an information-­intensive enterprise,” Gary and Chad write. “To understand how mobile agriculture should work, it is necessary to analyze the information needs of farmers and distributors of agricultural products.”

For more information on how mobile agriculture has changed, check out our mobile agriculture research.

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Alexis Benson

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On September 26, 2018
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