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minding your business Farmers get smarter with technology

Study shows sharp increase in use of personal communication devices and social media.

By Andrew Campbell

as fast the gadget itself.However, there is still a need to followit all, so that mobile developers knowwhere the demand is and farmers and communication professionals are all aware ofwhere the conversations are taking place. The latest study on smartphones and


socialmedia use in agriculture is coming out ofOntario andwas commissioned by theOntarioMinistry of Agriculture, Food andRural Affairs, with the help of Ipsos. The results are nothing short of remarkablewhen it comes to the rapid adoption of new technologies on the farmand are likely to be similar in other parts of Canada as well. Here are a fewkey points: • 69 percent reported having a

smartphone (BlackBerry still themost popular, followed by iPhone and then Android based devices). •Half of those report their

smartphone is nowessential to how they do business. • E-mail,messaging and the Internet

are the threemost popular applications. • The top agriculture applications

relate toweather,market prices and finance, like stockmarket information ormobile banking. • 84 percent have used a socialmedia

site in the past year. • Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are

the threemost popular sites. • Sharing information, networking

and sales are the threemost common reasonswhy industry stakeholders use socialmedia for business. (The complete report is available at:

http://onvegetables.files. pdf) Looking back to data fromFarm

Toll Free: 888-77T-BIRD (888-778-2473) Fax: 604-433-6231 email:

6969 Shirley Avenue, Burnaby, BC, Canada, V5J 4R4 14 British Columbia Berry Grower • Winter 2012-13

hen it comes to new technology, studies and surveys go out of date almost

Credit Canada that is a year old,when only 29 percent of producers reported having a smartphone, and you can see this technology is quickly becoming a favourite. Add in the fact that a year ago FCC reported that only half of producers were using a socialmedia site a year ago, it too has become a popularway to mine out ideas, information and contacts. Looking a little deeper into the

numbers is Janice LaBoeuf, a vegetable specialistwith OMAFRA, and the teamlead on this survey. She says theywanted to have a look at howagriculture usage ofmobile technology and socialmediawas different from the general public. What shewas surprisedwith

was just howmany industry stakeholderswere connectedwith the smartphone. “A very high percentage of

respondents have smartphones,” she says. “Iwas (also) surprised at how many smartphone users consider their smartphone essential to their agriculturalwork. I imagine that even a year ago, that numberwould have been lower, but there aremore andmore toolsmade for agriculture or that fit to agriculture all the time.” Heading intoManitoba,we find

Wendy Elias-Lopez at the province’s CanolaGrowers’ Association. As the lead for the@CanolaGrowers Twitter account, Elias-Lopez says there ismore interest in socialmedia as producers look to connect in real time. When developing socialmedia plans,

she says, a lot ofwhat they are now trying to do ismeasure the engagement.

“There are lots of free tools for

measurement out there andwe start off at the top by tracking impressions.Our priority is to expand the reach of our messages and turn those into impressionsmore personal one-on-one engagementswith both our growers and consumers.”

She also notes

thatwith the adoption of auto- steer technology in the province,many farmers are now finding themselves trying to connect while theywait to get to the end of a row. “Awhile back, I asked if anyone

was “seeding and tweeting” on twitter and I received a good amount of responses alongwith photos. It started a conversation about the benefits of auto- steer amongst some of our followers on twitter.” This information fromOMAFRA

shows that socialmedia andmobile technology is quickly becoming part of the everyday fabric on the farm. These numbers are showing nowsigns of slowing up, and before longwe could be looking at near full penetration of smartphone technology in farmer hands, opening up the door formore socialmedia engagement fromthe cab of the tractor. Howproducers engage and use their

phones is still up for debate, but highly effective applications are soon to be in high demand. —FarmManagement Canada

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