The use of smartphones in agriculture is gaining ground. This is the finding of a recent survey conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).
The study found that 69 per cent of those surveyed reported having a smartphone, with BlackBerry being the most popular type. This is a significant increase in usage when compared to data released by Farm Credit Canada (FCC) last November, which found that only 29 per cent of Canadian farmers reported having a smartphone. However, the FCC study asked farmers who did not currently own a smartphone whether or not they would purchase one within the next year, and 50 per cent of respondents said that they would.
Half of the respondents in the OMAFRA study reported that their smartphone is essential to how they do business, with accessing e-mail, messaging and the Internet the most popular applications.
The use of social media is also becoming more popular. The OMAFRA survey cited Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as the three most popular sites used, and sharing information, networking and sales as the three most common reasons those in the agricultural industry use social media for their businesses.
Let’s focus on sharing information. If the survey was to be repeated in the coming years, this area is where I would like to see continued growth, particularly when it comes to sharing information with those who are not involved in agriculture.
The OMAFRA survey showed that Twitter was the most popular social media app, with 47 per cent of smartphone users indicating they used it for agriculture-related purposes. This has been evident in the past six months; for example, those currently using Twitter will no doubt have noticed an increase in the sharing of planting, harvesting and commodity market information from producers and industry partners across the country.
But the biggest benefit producers can reap from Twitter, in my opinion, is the ability to monitor the types of negative messages that the agricultural industry is increasingly having to deal with.
A great example of the power of Twitter came in mid-August, when a study released in the Journal of Atherosclerosis by University of Western Ontario neurologist Dr. J. David Spence made big headlines by likening eating eggs to being as bad for a person as smoking cigarettes. This made for great fodder for newspapers and media outlets in North America, who ran away with the study without really delving into the fact that on a scientific basis, the study made a link that had no statistical merit.
The scrutiny and backlash was fast and furious – bloggers and tweeters were quick to pounce on how the study was performed, pointing out its weaknesses. I heard the report on CBC while driving in to work that morning, and by the time I booted up my computer and went on Twitter the faults of the study were being shared among followers, and what could have been a major setback for the egg industry essentially became a non-story by the end of the day.
For those using Twitter on your smartphones, or just thinking about it, remember to share information not only with each other, but also with those who don’t understand what you do – it’s an opportunity to educate, engage, and most importantly, monitor what could be detrimental to your business and industry.