It would appear that “old dogs” can learn new tricks. According to the latest United States Department of Agriculture census, the average age of American farmers has increased from 50.3 in 1978 to 57.1 today. (In Canada, that number is 52.) The majority of U.S. farm operators are between ages 45 and 64, but farmers aged 65 and older comprise the fastest growing group of farm operators. Despite this demographic trend, new research shows that farmers are clearly innovators in their adoption of smartphone technology.
In fact, a 2011 survey by Successful Farming magazine found that 43% of farmers with a mobile phone said they own a smartphone – a higher adoption rate than the general public. About one third of all mobile phone users in the U.S. own smartphones, according to Nielsen. Farmers are using smartphones for a wide range of applications. Beyond calling, among the most popular features are texting, Internet access, and camera use, according to the Successful Farming survey. Wireless bridging, tweeting field reports, and conducting searches are other popular uses, members of the social media group, Farmers for the Future, say.
One of the most comprehensive market-tracking apps is available at no charge from Farm Business Communications, the publisher of Country Guide magazine, at www.agreader.ca. The app, initially available for BlackBerry and soon available for the iPhone, allows farmers to track all major U.S. and Canadian futures contracts with a 15-minute delay. There’s also an alert function that will send a notification to your phone when a contract reaches or falls below a certain price. Smartphone utility is even extending from marketing to crop protection. New applications are helping growers calculate tank mixes, reduce mixing errors, and eliminate plugged sprayer equipment and cross contamination errors.
A recent NAMA seminar disussed the smartphone phenomenon in agriculture. Key take-aways were that:
- Smartphones are not replacing other types of agricultural media, but are a new way for farmers to get information – and for agrimarketers to engage them;
- Ag web sites should be smartphone friendly; and
- Farmers adopt smartphone technology through a series of triggers, e.g., how often their cell phone contract lets them get a new “free” phone.
Will constant access to markets, weather and farm news via smartphones increase a farmer’s appetite for content relevant to their business? What will be the impact on traditional market channels as information sources? How is farmer access to smartphone technology affecting your business?
Let us know what you think. Join the conversation.