Mark Bridge writes:
A brainstorming day run by T-Mobile UK with a dozen farmers, M&C Saatchi Mobile, the National Farmers Union and EBLEX (the organisation for the English beef and sheep industry) has resulted in some fascinating mobile-focussed solutions. The aim was to raise awareness of the benefits that smartphone technology can bring farmers and other small business owners.
Although some of the ideas were - a cynic might suggest - designed to be headline-grabbing, there was also some genuine innovation. Mobile apps proposed by the group included…
Real-life Angry Birds: a scarecrow controlled by a smartphone, complete with night-vision cameras in the scarecrow’s eyes to helping monitor for livestock rustlers.
Heat-seeking sheep: an infrared camera that identifies each animal by their heat signal and send an alert to the farmer’s phone if the number of heat signals decreases.
GPS field measurements: the smartphone’s GPS function can be used to measure fields, with an app then calculating the approximate harvest size and anticipated yield price. Information could also be uploaded to the Rural Payments Agency.
QR codes on cows: instead of tagging cattle with a ‘chip’, farmers could brand their cows with unique QR codes. Each cow would have its own mobile webpage that included the animal’s age, inoculation history and breed.
Disease diagnosis: a smartphone’s camera could be used to identify crop diseases. After the farmer had taken and uploaded a photo, experts could provide live advice via a video link.
Location-based health and safety: an employee would be warned if they attempt to use equipment without having received training. The app would track the location of dangerous equipment and links to the individual employee’s health and safety records. In an emergency, the app can shut down the equipment and call the emergency services.
The flying sheepdog: a farmer could use a remote-controlled flying drone to supplement a sheepdog. A video feed from the drone to a smartphone would allow farmers to control sheep that were out of sight.
Martin Stiven, Vice President of Business at T-Mobile, said “With farmers being one of our most important customers, we were keen to find out how mobile technology could really supercharge their business. People frequently talk about small business owners being wedded to their smartphones but overlook that farmers are micro businesses in their own right, often adopting mobile technology well ahead of the field. According to research in America, 94% of farmers now own a smartphone . It’s a trend we’re starting to see amongst British farmers as they look at how mobile technology can cost effectively increase productivity and boost efficiencies. If mobile developers are as excited as we are by these apps, we predict they’ll be available to download by the end of 2012.”
The best apps from the day will now be pitched to agriculture technology businesses.