Head to the Clouds with Ag Leader’s AgFiniti

The big trend in the data world these days is the “cloud”. The cloud is a way to store your data in a safe, secure place and have access to it anywhere you may be. Ag Leader recently headed to the “clouds” with their new AgFiniti precision technology and to learn more, I spoke with Kaleb Lindquist during the 2014 Iowa Power Farming Show.

Ag Leader Kaleb LindquistLindquist explained that AgFiniti is a cloud-based solution, or platform, Ag Leader developed to make the growers, dealers and the agribusiness community’s life easier. “It’s designed to interconnect everybody,” said Lindquist, “whether that be the grower to the dealer, the grower to the agribusiness or vice versa.”

So seriously, what is the cloud? Lindquist explained that it is a metaphorical term for a remote server somewhere. Data is uploaded to the cloud, in other words to a remote, secure server so your data is not housed on your physical desktop. The data is safe, secure and backed up regularly (so if your hard drive in your desktop or laptop computer crashes you still have all the data you stored in AgFiniti).

Here is how it works. Using a wiresless hot spot, a grower can take a file from his or her display (both Integra and Versa) while he’s out in the field, upload it to AgFiniti and bam, it’s there. Then the grower can call his agronomist, tell him or her he’s uploaded a file and the agronomist (with the grower’s permission) can instantaneously pull down the file, review it and then give the grower some recommendations. Is there any more instantaneous way to share data other than having the agronomist with you on the farm? Nope.

I’m waxing lyrical because I’m having fun in AgFiniti’s cloud. You will too once you learn more about this precision ag technology.

Listen to my full interview with Kaleb Lindquist: Head to the Clouds with Ag Leader's AgFiniti

Click here to view the 2014 Iowa Power Farming Show photo album.

The Next Generation Wireless Farm Networking is Here

Ayrstone ProductivityAyrstone Productivity has brought it’s customers faster, longer, easier outdoor WiFi coverage. The next generation AyrMesh Hub2n will include 802.11n connectivity, expanded network security and outdoor range extension of up to 7.5 miles.

This new technology puts farmers into the next phase of productivity improvement via wireless signals and hands-free data capture. With long-range wireless networks farmers can quickly and easily use monitoring and industrial control equipment to streamline operations. All devices are connected to a home router, making them accessible via any Internet-connected device, and without cell phone data expenses.

Visit Ayrstone’s website for more information or if interested in purchasing. Get 20% off the new Hub2n through October 15 when you enter code 913HUB2N.

Farm Foundation Tackles Rural Internet Connectivity

farmfoundationlogo3Walk down the street in most major American cities today, it’s pretty easy to get a high-speed wireless Internet hook-up. But move away from the city lights and into rural America, and it’s a different story. Too many farms lack real access to the web … ironic considering how much more reliant agribusiness has become on the Internet. Our friends at Farm Foundation are tackling just this issue in their next forum, Wednesday, Sept. 11th from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. EDT at the National Press Club, in Washington, D.C. and through a live webcast:

Moderating the panel will be Iowa farmer Ann Jorgensen, a former member of the Board of the Farm Credit Administration, now working on rural economic development issues. Presenting perspectives on broadband issues will be:

Sharon Strover, the Philip G. Warner Regents Professor in Communication in the Radio-TV-Film Department at the University of Texas…

Jessica Zufolo, Deputy Administrator of USDA’s Rural Utilities Service…

Mark Lewellen, Manager of Spectrum Advocacy, Deere and Company…

John Windhausen, Executive Director of the Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition…

As I mentioned earlier, if you can’t be in DC to take part, you can still participate in this free forum by way of a live webcast. More information and registration are available on the Farm Foundation website.

2013 USDA-NASS Farm Computer Report

USDA Farm Computer Usage and OwnershipThe latest USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service report, “Farm Computer Usage and Ownership Report” (pdf) is now available. As you would expect, there’s more computer ownership and usage and more high speed internet access with less dialup. You can find the full report here with breakout statistics by state. Here’s a summary of the data.

DSL was the most common method of accessing the Internet, with 35 percent of the farms in the United States using it, compared to 38 percent in 2011. Wireless was the second most common method of Internet access at 24 percent in 2013, up from 20 percent in 2011. Dialup access dropped from 12 percent in 2011 to 5 percent in 2013. Cable and satellite access were each reported as the primary Internet access method on 13 and 17 percent of farms in the United States, respectively.

A total of 67 percent of the farms in the United States now have Internet access, compared with 62 percent in 2011. Seventy percent of farms have access to a computer in 2013, up 5 percentage points from 2011. The proportion of United States farms owning or leasing a computer in 2013, at 68 percent, was also up 5 percentage points from 2011. Farms using computers for their farm business increased to 40 percent in 2013 compared to 37 percent in 2011.

In 2013, 84 percent of the farms in the United States with sales and government payments of $250,000 or more have access to a computer, 83 percent own or lease a computer, 72 percent are using a computer for their farm business, and 82 percent have Internet access. Of the farms with sales and government payments between $100,000 and $249,999, the figures are: 73 percent have access to a computer, 71 percent own or lease a computer, 56 percent are using a computer for their farm business, and 69 percent have Internet access. The farms with sales and government payments between $10,000 and $99,999, 68 percent reported having computer access, 66 percent own or lease a computer, 45 percent use a computer for their farm business, and 65 percent have Internet access.

For crop farms, 71 percent have computer access and 45 percent use a computer for their farm business in 2013, both up 4 percentage points from 2011. Internet access for crop farms has increased to 68 percent in 2013, compared with 64 percent in 2011. In 2013, a total of 70 percent of livestock farms have computer access and 66 percent have Internet access.

MyAgCentral: Getting All Info in One Place

infoag-13-steve-cubbageRecently, we told you about a new cloud-based precision data service called MyAgCentral.com. During the recent 2013 InfoAg Conference, Chuck was able to catch up with Steve Cubbage, the President of Prime Meridian, a company behind MyAgCentral.com and find out a little more.

“It’s a subscription-based service for growers, retailers and service providers that brings technology together,” Steve said. “There’s a lot of technology out there ,and it’s growing every day, and really to manage that, we felt there was a need to have one site for growers to go to to manage their modern farm.”

Some examples Steve cited was pulling together center pivots control and grain monitoring. He said so many different precision data services serve certain areas, so instead of having the farmer try to keep track of a dozen different websites where the information is stored and analyzed, they can go to one place, MyAgCentral.com and access everything.

MyAgCentral consolidates that into a single web-based interface, and on top of that, it is also a repository that the grower controls for his own precision ag data that they can go to and disseminate out to their retailers or precision ag team.”

Steve said good collaboration between companies is helping make it easier. Right now, MyAgCentral.com is browser based, but there are ways to use apps to move data from a cloud account to the website through a mobile device. In addition, he points out that his site provides farmers with a place to store all that information as an extra backup, like a safe deposit box, as well as making it easier to share original data.

You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Steve here: Interview with Steve Cubbage, Prime Meridian and MyAgCentral.com

2013 InfoAg Conference Photo Album

Connecting Farmers, Advisors and Precision Data

mycentralagFarmers looking to better leverage field data and expertise from their local advisor partners now have access to a new tool. Newly launched MyAgCentral is designed to bridge the gap between farmers and their trusted local advisors, allowing both to more easily exchange data and develop plans using a single online dashboard. The dashboard lets the farmer pull data from different sources so they can see their whole operation using one login and one tool.

The cloud-based system allows both the farmer and advisors to securely access and share field data, reports, recommendations, plans, maps, etc from any location using any web-enabled device. It is also the first independent system developed to specifically enhance the relationships between farmers, agri-retailers and local advisors.

MyAgCentral is a three-tiered system providing an increasing number of tools for ag retailers and their grower clients.
MyAgCentral ADVISE enhances and simplifies the delivery of precision ag services from the ag retailer to the farmer, providing information in a simple online dashboard.
MyAgCentral EXCHANGE connects ag retailers, farmers and precision farming technologies, allowing the farmer and his trusted partner to create a team of advisors, all with access to the information they need to help the grower make better decisions.
MyAgCentral PRODUCE provides enhanced monitoring and control of a farm operation, including irrigation, grain monitoring, telematics and GPS hardware. Growers have access to a virtual farm view with real time monitoring of equipment and fields as well as local markets, weather and news.

Replace Google Reader – Subscribe to AgWired

Google ReaderGoogle Reader goes bye bye today. So what do you do now? I shouldn’t assume you use Google Reader or even know what a news feed reader is I guess so let’s step back a moment.

Services like Google Reader allow you to subscribe to RSS feeds. That would be a distribution mechanism for all kinds of information. It’s used by blogs, podcasts and much more. You can find the AgWired RSS Feed here. That link is to a small text file containing the information your feed reader needs to subscribe to AgWired. That means you can pull AgWired posts into your feed reader which might be on your phone or tablet or computer. You can subscribe to lots of feeds and the reader you use aggregates them into one place for you. And you subscribe anonymously! That’s nice for you. But for me it makes it more difficult to provide our sponsors with demographic data on you. Oh well. I’ll happily live with that. I want you to subscribe and enjoy AgWired without worry.

So back to the demise of Google Reader. What do you replace it with? My recommendation is NetNewsWire for Macs. I’ve been using it for years. It syncs across all my devices, including iPhone and iPad. I subscribe to about 100 feeds right now and check them almost every day. But if you’re still PC then I would point you to Feed Demon or Feedly.

So if you’ve been using Google Reader then import those feeds into your new feed reader asap. Google Reader is gone end of day.

dishNET Learning From Rural America

Brian McIntyre at AFBFDISH Network wants everyone in rural America to have internet access. That’s why they launched dishNET last fall. Now they’re going a little further by bundling DISH tv & entertainment with dishNET. They’re also reaching out to rural Americans and various organizations to find ways to capitalize on the economic and educational opportunities that internet access provides.

I found them doing that at the American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting in Nashville. DISH Network was conducting a rural access survey to gather information about where and how people are using the internet. I am hoping to find out the results of that survey when it is complete. This is part of a Rural Access Listening Sessions program they’ve started to create a dialogue with rural influencers.

To learn more about what is going on with DISH and dishNET I visited with Brian McIntyre, vice president of broadband at DISH. Brian says that a key message he’s hearing from rural America is the desire to stay relevant. There’s a word we heard multiple times during the AFBF annual meeting. He says that dishNET brings service to rural America on par with that found in urban markets. Plans start as low as $39.99 and include download speeds of up to 10 mbps download. You’ll also get one bill for your tv/entertainment and internet services. Brian also talks about some of the technology upgrades DISH has undertaken in recent years to make their services better.

You can listen to my interview with Brian here: Interview with Brian McIntyre

2013 American Farm Bureau Convention Photo Album

E-marketplace Connecting Farmers

A new website recently launched, www.Sproutrade.com, is a U.S.-based niche e-marketplace to connect farmers, growers and agriculture companies in a similar way as they might through broad e-commerce platforms, such as Amazon. Essentially, it is a way for farmers, growers and agriculture companies to market their products directly to consumers and other companies, via an online platform.

One of the primary advantages is that the site helps farmers, growers and agriculture companies create an online presence without the need for the creation of an individual website or e-commerce platform. Sproutrade.com takes care of all these details, and even provides each company with their own individual page within Sproutrade.

Click here for more.


Precision Ag is Cloud Mobile

Cloud management of data for precision ag applications and more is just a natural part of the continuing technology revolution and it is now here thanks to AgIntegrated which is launching their Onsite service very soon.

To learn more about Onsite and AgIntegrated I spoke with Mike Santostefano, Director of Marketing and Business Development.

Mike says that during the last decade the AgIntegrated team has been developing “a variety of Precision Ag, logistical, and information management software services to the agricultural industry.” We hear a lot about logistics and agribusiness has the same kinds of needs in this area as other industries. He says that with all the disconnected systems out there they noticed that the adoption of precision ag had halted. To address this the company has created Onsite, “a cloud-based, mobile and desktop app that assists with file management and communications to and from the field by socially connecting people.” It is not meant to replace current precision software but to complement it. He says Onsite helps “precision consumers” build a network to connect different people to get information where and when it is needed. Onsite is color agnostic too, meaning it will integrate with any system out there regardless of manufacturer. Mike provides an example of how they’ve worked with Raven’s Slingshot. Onsite requires a customer login account and utilizes a little device called a Relay. Onsite will let you organize and move files, create a network, chat, do position reporting and a lot more.

Listen to this week’s ZimmCast here: Onsite fueled by AgIntegrated

Thanks to our ZimmCast sponsors, GROWMARK, locally owned, globally strong and Monsanto, Roundup Ready Plus, for their support.

The ZimmCast is the official weekly podcast of AgWired. Subscribe so you can listen when and where you want. Just go to our Subscribe page.

Ag in the Cloud

You are hearing a lot about working in the cloud these days. Why not the agribusiness industry? Onsite, fueled by AgIntegrated, has an answer to the question.

Onsite provides the connections you need to handle 21st century farming. As a consumer of an increasing amount of agricultural information and technologies, you experience the headaches involved in managing separate systems. Onsite combines cloud, desktop, and mobile technologies with the Onsite Relay, a wireless data transfer device, to provide a low barrier to entry, professional toolset to connect your world.

In today’s connected world, linking people through mobile technologies and software is essential to maintain or increase productivity. Onsite accomplishes this for agriculture by bridging the communication gap between agricultural software and the network of individuals that drive agriculture on a daily basis.

By directly connecting into many of the most well respected precision ag software, equipment telematics, and agronomic resource systems in our industry today, Onsite helps you to organize and communicate the valuable information you manage throughout the season.

Few Ag Names on Dot Domain List

There’s no dots for agriculture, corn, or cows on the list of nearly 2000 new generic top-level domain (or gTLD) name applications announced yesterday by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

There’s .beer but not .beef, there’s .porn but not .pork, there’s .soy but not .soybean. There is .farm on the list, by one of several companies that paid $185,000 per name to apply for multiple generic domains, and Farmers Insurance has applied for .farmers. DuPont and New Holland both applied to have dot domains, but Pioneer was requested by a Japanese company and there is no .JohnDeere on the list. No .BASF or .Monsanto or .Syngenta, either.

The application window for the gTLDs opened in January and closed on May 30. The full list of nearly 2,000 applications, including duplicates for popular names like .app and .blog, was revealed yesterday starting a 60-day public comment period to allow anyone to object to the domain being awarded. Introducing the list on Wednesday, ICANN chief Rod Beckstrom said, “The internet is about to change forever.” Well, maybe by sometime next year. All the applications need to be reviewed, and multiple applications for the same name need to go through an arbitration process. The winners will get the chance to pay $25,000 a year to keep the domain extension and do whatever they want with it.

See the entire application list here.

President Exec Order To Speed Up Broadband Dev

Today President Obama will sign a new executive order to make broadband construction cheaper and easier according to the White House. This would mean more people in more places can join the AgWired community!

The Executive Order (EO) will require the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Interior, Transportation, and Veterans Affairs as well as the US Postal Service to offer carriers a single approach to leasing Federal assets for broadband deployment. The EO also requires that available Federal assets and the requirements for leasing be provided on departmental websites, and it will require public tracking of regional broadband deployment projects via the Federal Infrastructure Projects Dashboard (permits.performance.gov). In addition, the Executive Order will direct departments to help carriers time their broadband deployment activities to periods when streets are already under construction—an approach that can reduce network deployment costs along Federal roadways by up to 90 percent.

You can find a fact sheet on this here (pdf).

Rural Broadband Opportunities

You could look at this map and see lots of black areas that show there is no local broadband coverage and think negatively. Or you could see these areas as opportunities like the FCC does. This is an interactive map released last week showing areas with “potential” for broadband support via a program as described in their release. I agree with this statement contained in it, “Broadband has gone from being a luxury to a necessity for full participation in our economy and society for all Americans.”

The FCC today announced steps to close our nation’s gaps in mobile service as part of the agency’s groundbreaking reforms under the Connect America Fund, which the Commission adopted last year to put America on the path to universal broadband and advanced mobile coverage by the end of the decade. The Commission recently released a public notice (PN) announcing a reverse auction to award $300 million in one-time Mobility Fund Phase I support starting the implementation process. It also has developed and released a new interactive map to illustrate areas potentially eligible for support.

FCC Chairman Genachowski said, “As our new map demonstrates, millions of Americans still live, work, and travel in areas where advanced mobile networks have not been built out. Through the FCC’s Connect America Fund, we’re helping complete our nation’s wired and wireless infrastructure, which will lead to job creation, economic growth, and innovation in the 21st century.”

Gov’t. Agencies Say LightSquared System Can’t Work With GPS

Things are looking bleak for the proposed LightSquared LTE network according to a story in PC World.

A key federal agency involved in testing the proposed LightSquared LTE network has concluded that there is no practical way to solve interference between that network and GPS, possibly dealing a crippling blow to the startup carrier’s hopes for a terrestrial mobile network.

That agency is the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation and Timing Executive Committee (PNT ExComm). Now that’s a mouthful. The agencies that make up this one have unanimously concluded that none of the LightSquared proposals would overcome interference with GPS.

Here’s an excerpt from the letter to the FCC:

Earlier this week we published results of our ZimmPoll that showed a majority think the LightSquared proposal would be good for ag/rural America. However, most of those positive responses all came at nearly the same time.

Lightsquared Solution To GPS Concerns Not Well Received By Industry

Yesterday Lightsquared announced a “solution” to concerns over interference with GPS systems from it’s proposed wireless broadband network.

LightSquared™, a wholesale carrier building a nationwide wireless broadband network that will create consumer choice and industry innovation, has signed an agreement with Javad GNSS Inc. to develop a system that will eliminate related interference issues for high-precision GPS devices.

The Javad GNSS system can be adapted to work with high-precision GPS devices including those already in the agriculture, surveying, construction and defense industries. (full release)

I’m not sure how forcing farmers and all kinds of people, especially those defending our country, to purchase new equipment that will have to be installed to keep their current GPS systems working is a real solution to what appears to be a very real problem. I’m all for more and better choices for broadband, especially in rural areas but not at the expense of GPS systems that perform very critical functions. This action seems to be an admission by Lightsquared that the concerns are real. Otherwise, why do this? I asked the Coalition to Save Our GPS for their response and got it right away.

“LightSquared has, as usual, oversimplified and greatly overstated the significance of the claims of a single vendor to have ‘solved’ the interference issue. There have been many vendor claims that have not proven out in rigorous tests and the demanding tests of marketplace acceptance. Moreover, this is not a one-size-fits-all situation and a few prototypes does not a solution make. The estimated 750,000 to 1 million high-precision GPS receivers now in use in the United States vary widely: there are hundreds of different high-precision devices used in performing thousands of different tasks. High-precision GPS supports a wide variety of uses, including agriculture, construction, aviation, surveying and many scientific and safety-of-life applications.

“LightSquared also ignores that fact that availability of new products, even if confirmed, does not address this very large existing base of equipment. If and when solutions are available, LightSquared must accept responsibility for paying to replace the existing base of existing equipment with new products.

“In any case, this is not an issue that can be solved with a LightSquared press release. As the FCC and NTIA recently recognized, more testing is necessary to evaluate interference impacts under LightSquared’s latest technical proposals. We welcome the participation of Javad in those tests.”

New USDA-NASS Farm Computer Usage/Ownership Report

It’s time to analyze some new data about farm computer use and ownership. USDA’s National Agricultural Statistic Service has released a new report, “Farm Computer Usage and Ownership, August 2011.” Here’s the opening summary. It’s interesting to see that dialup access has dropped in half since the last report in 2009. Also note how high the percentages get as you increase the income of the farm.

DSL was the most common method of accessing the Internet, with 38 percent of U.S. farms using it, up from 36 percent in 2009. Dialup access dropped from 23 percent in 2009 to 12 percent in 2011. Satellite and wireless were each reported as the primary Internet access methods on 15 and 20 percent of those U.S. farms with Internet access, respectively. Cable was reported as the primary access method on 11 percent of the farms, the same level as 2009.

A total of 62 percent of U.S. farms now have Internet access, compared with 59 percent in 2009. Sixty-five percent of farms have access to a computer in 2011, up 1 percentage point from 2009. The proportion of U.S. farms owning or leasing a computer in 2011, at 63 percent, was up 2 percentage points from 2009. Farms using computers for their farm business remained virtually stable at 37 percent in 2011 compared to 36 percent in 2009. Continue reading

Lightsquared Threat To GPS

I spent a lot of my career in the broadcasting business and never saw the Federal Communications Commission take action like they have been on the proposal from a company called Lightsquared to utilize high-powered, close-proximity transmissions from a network of ground stations that would cause substantial interference with GPS signals.. It is unheard of for them to allow a company to move ahead on a major project like this without doing full testing first. However, that’s what they’ve done. Fortunately the whole thing is on hold at the moment pending public comment. I think we’d all like more high speed internet access in rural America but not at the expense of GPS. Think about how much has been invested in GPS systems!

At the InfoAg Conference our closing session was titled, “GPS Under Seige: Lightsquared and the Threat to High-End Global Positioning.” This presentation was conducted by Kevin Kobb, Topcon (right) and Doug Schmuland, NovAtel. I spoke with them after their presentation. Kevin and Doug told me it has caused the major GPS producers and distributors to come together to understand the threat and then present that to the public and then work toward a favorable conclusion to the situation. The potential exists for this proposal to affect just about every device relying on GPS satellites. They say that now is the time to act and make your voice heard before the proposal receives a final FCC decision. You can find a lot of information on the website, Coalition To Save Our GPS.

Listen to my interview with Kevin and Doug here: Interview with Kevin Kobb and Doug Schmuland

2011 InfoAg Conference Photo Album

Get Interactive With PAQ

ZimmCast 310What’s new in the world wide web? Lots of things. In this week’s program I’m sharing a conversation with Quentin Rund, PAQ Interactive. Quentin’s company is putting on the InfoAg Conference that’s taking place right now in Springfield, IL. We sat down and chatted about websites, apps and social media.

PAQ Interactive is a technology services company specializing in Web and GIS solutions. Our web design and development work focuses on the web as a communication tool. More than static pages, we assist our clients through the design of interactive, content rich, fully customizable web sites that allow our clients to use their web technology investment for internal and external communications. In GIS services, PAQ consults with clients in creating and maintaining a business-level GIS. We provide training, custom programming, data analysis, and GIS project management solutions to create or expand on our clients initial investment in GIS.

Listen in to this week’s program: Get Interactive with PAQ

Thanks to our ZimmCast sponsor, GROWMARK, locally owned, globally strong, for their support.

The ZimmCast is the official weekly podcast of AgWired. Subscribe so you can listen when and where you want. Just go to our Subscribe page.