App links farm data, info stays close at hand

Going mobile | Farm At Hand application can share farm data between phone and tablet devices and desktop computers

“Go, look over at the east place in the bins over there. I know there’s 3,500 bushels of durum around. If not there, then at that land we rented south of town in those bins.”

“What year is the 9220? They need it at the parts counter?”

“When does that delivery contract come up?”

“That crop looks great. What was the seeding rate?”

Do these phrases sound familiar?

On many farms, this type of information is kept in shirt pocket notebooks, on office clipboards or worse yet, inside the heads of one or two farmers in the operation.

Two young Saskatoon entrepreneurs believe they have found a better way using the ubiquitous smart phones that are already on the belt or in the pocket beside the notebook.

Farm At Hand is a software application for smart phones and tablet computers.

Kim Keller’s family farms at Gronlid in northeastern Saskatchewan and friend Himanshu Singh owns a software development company.

“Kim’s family uses clipboards. Not very convenient,” said Singh.

“It started out as a simple app to create a virtual grain bin program. It would give you an instant inventory and it could be shared with others on the farm,” he said.

“One thing led to another and pretty soon we realized that the whole farm needed to tracked. So we created a virtual farm.”

Singh’s company, QuintApps, usually works on more urban oriented software and website development. However, he said the agriculture market looked like it had a lot of need and prairie farmers are known for adopting useful technology. He decided the two would spell success.

“We started development at the end of February and went full steam, aiming for an April 1 release. We didn’t make it, but we have it out now,” he said.

“We believe it will help farmers be more productive. They can enter information into the smart phone the way they used to with a notebook.”

The application sends the information to the cloud, which is a large networked computer at a high security server farm owned by internet giant Amazon.

“Data security is paramount for us,” Singh said.

“We only use the best (systems). We know farmers are very protective of their information and we designed for that from the outset. It’s password protected.”

Farmers can enter data into the system as they load grain into a bin, agree to a contract or buy or service machinery.

If multiple operators enter data, it is shared instantly between smart phones, tablets and desk top computers via the farmathand.com website.

“If there isn’t any cellular service, then the user can enter the data and it will be stored until the next time the phone connects and when it does the app will automatically update the information,” Singh said.

The first version was compatible with Apple’s IPhone and IPod Touch. An IPad application and Blackberry versions have since been released and an Android operating system version is also complete.

“Right now we are looking for feedback from users,” he said.

“It’s a free app. We think that way we are getting it into as many farmers’ hands as possible so they can tell us how to make it better in its next release.”

QuintApps is adding a Microsoft Excel compatible export feature and refining the product based on user comments.

In addition to managing physical inventories, the app also stores data about contracts, commodity deliveries, field information and machinery fleet data. It has an integrated calendar and a set of utilities such as metric conversions for agriculture.

The application is available through the ITunes online store at itunes.apple.com. For more information, visit ww.farmathand.com.

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