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Apple Farmers: How SMS and Mobile Technology Are Shaping Farming

What do texting and agriculture have to do with each other? It might sound like the lead-up to a bad joke, but the answer may just be, a whole lot! Increasingly, the power texting holds to advance farming is being recognized, and scientists and developers are crafting SMS technology that can improve productivity and business on both local and larger farms.

A surprisingly simple application of SMS represents a great boon to smaller, local farmers. To aid in sales, some farmers are using texting how it was intended in the plainest sense-- no-frills, to-the-minute communication. By presenting a direct, instant, and convenient link between farmers and the market, texting allows farmers to know exactly when is the best time to harvest and sell their goods, and buyers know when to find the goods they wish to buy. In a world where grocery store chains dominate and communication with small, local vendors and farmers can be sparse, texting may just be the solution for local farmers who fear dwindling business.

Alongside business, greenhouses are also going digital. While greenhouses whose conditions can be controlled remotely online are not new, recent technology has incorporated texting as a medium. Farmers with greenhouses can receive text message alerts when certain conditions are reached or changed in the greenhouse, and can change these conditions right on their smart phones. This move towards more modern technology at the least offers a much more convenient model, and may significantly improve the experience of small farmers with poor or limited access to the Internet for whom online greenhouse regulation may be more challenging.

Not impressed yet? BioServe Space Technologies and AgriHouse Brands Ltd. have partnered to churn out a new device using NASA technology that allows plants to text their farmers when they are in need. The Colorado-based organizations have developed sensors that detect electrical pulses and can be attached to plants without harming them, even through intense weather conditions. This data is interpreted and made available on the user's computer, in large part to prevent overwatering of crops, and when specific crops need attention, such as watering, the farmer receives a text message notification. And it doesn't end there; agriculture isn't the only side of farming getting a high-tech makeover.

Farmers of livestock, rejoice-- a great deal of development in agriculture-geared SMS technology centers on streamlining the farming of commonly kept animals. More specifically, a variety of technologies that allow cows to send texts to their farmers--or close enough--are beginning to emerge. One such development is a "texting collar" for cows: cows wear high-tech collars containing 3D sensors that detect subtle changes in a cow's movements which the collar then interprets-- Do these changes mean the cow feels unwell? Is it in labor?--and texts their farmer with updates on each cow. This development saves farmers the labor hours of closely monitoring individual cows, and functions as a 24/7 addition to a farm's work force.

Other SMS technologies designed for cows perform even more specific functions than these collars. A cut above earlier robotic milking machines that could call farmers when the machines malfunctioned, some new robotic milking machines have incorporated SMS technology; these machines can not only text farmers when something goes wrong, but text farmers with data for their dairy cows such as milk yield, either as the information becomes available or at intervals set by the farmer. Receiving these updates by text spares farmers time and effort on monitoring cows and collecting data manually.

Another interesting application of texting to farming is the use of SMS to aid in breeding livestock. Most cows are impregnated through artificial insemination, a process that is much more successful when the female cow is in heat. However, dairy cows are progressively demonstrating fewer physical signs of heat, making monitoring cows for heat a more arduous task. Enter texting: Swiss professors at a university in Bern have developed a mechanism by which they implant a chip into cows that detects signs of heat, and, yes, texts their farmers to inform them when a cow is in heat. The device not only saves farmers labor hours and resources, but may better detect subtle changes that indicate heat than a human farmhand.

Texting is only beginning to make its impact on the world of farming. While promising advances have been made, many of these devices and processes are in limited use, or are still being tested and improved. Who knows how SMS technology will change the face of agriculture as more and more developments are made in the coming years? We can't wait to find out.

About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage, Inc. a software company for communication software solutions. http://www.notepage.net

 

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