When I telephoned Abbott Myers to confirm a time for an interview, I asked, “Do you want me to meet you at your office?”
To which he gave a hearty laugh. “My pickup is my office,” he said.
As he explained when we met for a tour of the 6,700-acre grains farm he and his son, Ransom, operate at Dundee, Miss., “I’ll put 30,000 miles on my pickup in a year, and most of that is driving around the farm. With that much acreage to look after, we’re constantly on the go.”
Like most farmers today, the Myerses have incorporated mobile technology into their everyday operations. Smart phones, laptops, and GPS allow them to stay in touch, to have needed information at their fingertips, and to attain more accuracy in farming operations.
“I love my iPhone,” Abbott says. “It’s an extremely versatile device — there’s so much I can do with it. All our farm maps are on it; if I need to contact a pilot to spray, or need supplies, I can send a map and GPS coordinates. I can take photos of trouble spots in the field and e-mail them to a specialist. It contains a list of all our equipment and serial numbers, which dealers usually need if we’re ordering parts.”
There are a number of agricultural apps available for the iPhone, he says, including one he uses for calibrating sprayers, and he also gets automatic market updates.
“Ransom carries a laptop in his pickup that has all of the information about chemicals, varieties, etc.,” Abbott says. “With the information we have stored in these devices, or that we can obtain via the Internet, we can take care of business or problems wherever we are on the farm. These technologies are useful tools that have provided another way to increase efficiency.”
All their key equipment is equipped with GPS and auto-steer, combines also have yield monitors, and sprayers have swath control.
“These technologies have added so much more accuracy to our field operations,” Abbott says. “We’re able to cover ground much more quickly. With our heavy soils, the planting window is narrow, and when it comes we need to roll. With GPS and auto-steer, we can work at night if we need to. It also eliminates overlaps in spraying or other operations, which helps to further reduce costs.”
Even so, says Ransom, “As good as these systems are, they still need improvement. They need to do a better job of acquiring information, so the operator doesn’t have to spend time inputting data while he’s in the field. A unit should automatically know which field is which and all its relevant information. And different brands need to be able to communicate with each other.”
Like most every farmer, Abbott says, “We love technology. But, we don’t buy technology for technology’s sake —it has to pay for itself.”