What is in this article?:
- Zach Sheely is the fourth generation of his family to farm — and he admits that can be a daunting legacy.
- California agriculture long ago melded computers and farming/ranching, but Zach Sheely is taking it to a far more intuitive level, thanks to the touch screen technology of the Apple iPhone and iPad.
- The New York Times predicts iPads and copycat tablet computers will be the fastest-adopted technology in the history of digital devices. Numbers back that up — iPad sales are projected to reach 28 million this year, and by 2012 more than 63 million.
No learning curve
The Apple platform isn’t the only tablet computer on the market, but Sheely developed the SiteToDo app for Apple because it is a “stable operating system and it is very convenient to download an app wherever you are. And there is no learning curve for anyone picking up the Apple platform.”
He understands well that farmers want to spend as little time as possible in an office on a computer — they want to be in the field and have simple, instant access to information on the go.
Tom Horsley, an Altamont, Calif., walnut grower as well as a computer programmer, connected with the Sheelys through Matt Angel of SureHarvest, an irrigation management and monitoring company.
Horsley has worked with the AgNotes program and has worked with John Deere on its computer offerings.
Horsley and Sheely met last November and began working on a demo app that would download aerial imagery straight from a provider or a farm server to an
iPhone or iPad.
They developed a simple menu for geo tasking for agriculture that could be easily updated with user-created new features without the services of a computer programmer.
SiteToDo comes with a limited vocabulary task menu, and as the user creates his own tasks on screen — fix a stake, repair a leak, tree limb down, soil sample, etc. — they are automatically added to the menu.
Geoadvantage, the aerial imagery provider for the SiteToDo project, provides aerial imagery worldwide and flies about 30,000 acres a year in California. They believe the Apple app Sheely and Horsley are developing is a way to expand their customer base in California.
Sheely says Geoadvantage, in meetings with growers and consultants, also saw the potential of the iPad technology.
“They asked one group how many had iPhones, and 15 percent did. Another 15 percent had Androids and 10 percent had BlackBerrys. The other 60 percent said they were anticipating buying an iPhone or iPad or something similar to the Apple platform within the next year.
That is a good indication, he believes, of how demand for table computer apps like SiteToDo will grow.
Ted Sheely says that although Ag 20/20 provided major advancements in precision agriculture, such as GPS-guided tractors, field aerial mapping and grid soil sampling coupled with variable rate technology, it really captured only the “low hanging fruit.”
Zach Sheely is one of the young lions in agriculture taking precisions agriculture to the next, more useful level.