By Brandy Harrison
STRATHROY — Andrew Campbell is no longer anxiously scanning the horizon for dark clouds — the Strathroy dairy farmer’s gaze is glued to no less than three weather apps on his smartphone.
“That way I can pick whichever forecast I like best,” jokes Campbell, who runs Bellson Farms with his wife, Jess, and his parents, Wayne and Phyllis, about 35 kilometres west of London.
The avid smartphone user has his phone out several times a day to make or reference notes or farm records and check in on what other farmers are up to via social media. Campbell is the brains behind Fresh Air Media, an ag communications company that helps farm organizations get the most out of social media and mobile technology.
In addition to his weather apps, Campbell gets regular use out of Twitter, flashlight (an app that actually allows your phone’s screen to turn into a flashlight), calculator, email, and messaging. He’s tried others: apps for mobile banking, the Yellow Pages, and music streaming with Spotify. Ag-specific apps he’s used include Mobile DHI, where farmers can access their herd’s electronic production records from CanWest DHI, and MyShed, an equipment app that allows farmers to email part lists to their dealers and access part diagrams.
But the apps that really get a workout on Campbell’s smartphone are all about bringing the office to the field. Here are four he relies on.
What it is: A reader that compiles the RSS feeds of different websites, blogs, and YouTube channels in one place. Campbell collects farm and general news, but also Dairy Farmers of Ontario pickup and test results for his farm.
Get it: feedly.com/apps.html
What it is: A note-taking app for writing notes or checklists that is searchable and sharable, and allows content to be grouped with other files, photos, and articles. With online syncing of data as a backup in case his phone is lost or damaged, Campbell keeps track of basic inventories and field notes.
Cost: Free for the basic version but $28.99 for plus and $57.99 for premium memberships
Get it: evernote.com/pricing
What it is: An annual subscription service that provides access to Microsoft programs such as Word, Excel, and Outlook for multiple people on five computers, five tablets, and five smartphones. Campbell can access Excel spreadsheets with detailed field information and cost of production on-the-go.
Cost: $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year for the home version or $159 per year for the small business version
Get it: www.microsoftstore.com/store/msca/en_CA/cat/Office-365/
Dropbox or Google Drive
What they are: Online storage and file sharing that ensures anytime access and file backup in case a device is lost.
Campbell shares a folder with specialists, such as his nutritionist, to ensure they’re on the same page with sample and research data.
Get them: www.dropbox.com/mobile and www.google.com/drive/download