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.
Identifying soil sampling sites
SiteToDo also makes it simple to identify soil sampling sites within a field.
“When I identify a soil sampling site, everyone in management here on the farm can see exactly where that is happening in the field on their iPad or iPhone. The cool thing is that you can share what you put into these devices with everyone.”
Sheely is also working to add instant irrigation system blueprints to the app, along with instantaneous irrigation well monitoring.
“We have these $1 million dollar holes in the ground, and we want real-time monitoring of well flows, pressure and pump performance. If a pump is heating up, for example, you need to know it immediately so you can take care of it.”
The app can also track moving targets with GPS. “You can see where everyone is on the farm. If you want someone to meet you at a particular spot, each can see on the screen where the other is located and then go directly to the meeting spot.”
And everything a SiteToDo user can do on the farm, he can and also do remotely off the farm — it’s as simple as using a telephone.
An iPad2 starts at $500, has 10 hours of battery life, and can be plugged into a vehicle’s lighter socket to keep the battery fully charged. The highest capacity unit sells for about $800; with accessories like a case and keyboard, the total can run $1,000. A comparably capable laptop can cost $2,000 or more. With a rubberized case, the iPad is durable and sealed well to keep out dust and water.
Making job easier
“We aren’t taking the place of the farmer’s brain,” Sheely says. “We just want to make it easier for him to do his job.
“Dad knows what’s going on — he started farming when he was 16 and has been working this farm since the 1970s, before buying it in the 1980s. Maybe this technology will allow him to more easily tweak what’s going on. It will definitely allow me and others on our farm management team to learn what he knows faster.”
“I’m not a computer programmer, but I’ve acquired a good understanding of how things work from watching Dad farm and from my work with NASA on Ag 20/20. Hopefully, this app will help farmers more easily document what’s going on in their operations.”
Sheely also believes technology will attract more young people into farming. “They feel comfortable with tablet computer technology.”
SiteToDo will be marketed on a per month subscription basis, with fees based on the size of the operation and the number of iPhones and/or iPads connected to individual servers.
Sheely’s enthusiasm for his contribution to agriculture is obvious, as is his love of agriculture.