No two ways about it, technology is exciting, but when you're in the business of helping customers do better with tech it's also scary. I've been lucky to talk to two groups in the last two weeks - the American Society of Agricultural Consultants and the folks at Farmers National during their annual meeting. And as I told them, my job as a technology editor is like that of a small-town preacher - I'm here to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.
Yes that's a glib comment, but I think there are some takeaway messages here worth remembering. Change is hard for everyone and it's not always age-related. Even today's Millennial children can have trouble with change (perhaps that's why so many still live with their parents?). Yet the pace of change has never been faster.
For example, in 2009, magazine publishers were running pretty well, sure subscriber numbers were changing, but few people were reading online. That's due in part to the fact that while a laptop is a super tool, it's not that much fun to read on. Then comes April 2010 and the iPad. That shook up a lot of people, and magazine sales tanked. Venerable names are no longer found on the newsstand - including Newsweek.
Tablet computing has changed our view of accessible information. The iPhone and its later iterations along with competitive phones that use similar "smart" approaches made a difference, but the tablet computer became the larger screen on which we could read, work and manage our businesses.
Today a cellular-linked tablet can give you access to your networked farm information. Tracking yield and data from across your operation in a busy harvest season is easier than ever with the right service. You can access raw data files from your yield monitor and send them to your agronomist well before December. And farmers with many machines at work are finding fleet-management tools offered have benefits as well.
In essence, the technology available today puts useful, valuable and personal information at your fingertips faster than ever. And those farmers that invest first are working the kinks out of the system.
Earlier this year, before I joined the Farm Industry News team I was talking to a group and noted that 2014 is the year when wireless data access to your information comes to fruition in a big way. Folks at Trimble have been talking about its Connected Farm technology for three years and have made great strides. Others have entered the market as well and bring along their own innovations. For 2014 many major players will be in the market with more information access than ever.
Interestingly, all of them work pretty well on the ol' tablet computer. So as Christmas gets closer perhaps you'll want to consider asking for a new tablet computer (and yes I've ordered my new iPad Air). The platform you choose - whether it's Apple- or Google Android-based won't matter much since the folks at tech companies like Ag Leader and Trimble are already designing their systems to work on those platforms.
As 2014 arrives with its potentially lower crop prices and your need to manage even closer to the penny, the farm with a working knowledge of all its information - from application costs to input prices - is going to have an easier time maintaining a profitable operation. The tools are there.