Farm Ireland

Saturday 17 March 2018

The Smart way of doing paperwork from the paddock

Concerns on cost and sturdiness still persist but farmers see advantages of keeping up with their business while on the go

Smartphones can cost anything from €50 for the Blackberry Curve to €280 for the iPhone 4
Smartphones can cost anything from €50 for the Blackberry Curve to €280 for the iPhone 4
Darragh McCullough

Darragh McCullough

Smartphones are plastered everywhere these days. The ads on TV show all the cool kids checking out their Facebook pages and ordering pizzas, but does this latest generation of telephones have any relevance for the farmer?

The answer appears to be a resounding 'yes' from those farmers who have already switched. Not only are farmers finding themselves doing more and more business via email, they also find themselves expected to monitor price movements, grass growth, milk solids and weather changes to name but a few. Many are now finding that the only way to do this, without being stuck in front of a computer all day, is to embrace a smartphone.

The four main concerns that most farmers have regarding the switch relate to the price of the phone, the cost of the bills, the sturdiness and their suitability for strong-but-not-so-nimble farming fingers.


In the past few months, the prices of even the 'must-have' iPhone have gone way down to the point they are selling for roughly the same price as any mobile phone was costing three or four years ago. The price you pay depends on how much you spend on your phone bill each month but for most farmers who tend to spend €45-50 a month, a smartphone such as the Blackberry Curve can be got for as little as €50.

Some of the more fashionable models, such as the iPhone4, will cost as much as €280 at a monthly spend of €45 with Vodafone. But, as ever, there are a range of prices and phones between these two extremes. Bear in mind that add-ons, such as insurance, can add an extra €120 a year, while protective covers, which are becoming standard for most outdoor users, can cost an extra €25.


Most farmers that I've talked to have noticed no difference in their phone bills since they switched to smartphones. The big difference in fact is that the user is actually getting the benefit using the data they have often been paying for already.

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However, there is one potential banana skin that most people don't seem to realise until it's too late. Once in the habit of using the internet over your phone, many people find themselves "just having a peek" at the headlines or Facebook while they are away on holiday. This use of data while roaming is lethal in terms of driving up your bill.


The one fear that many farmers rightly have regarding delicate new technology is its ability to withstand the rigours of the farmyard. Many have learnt from bitter experience and several failed handsets that mobile phones can be particularly prone to the wet, dirt, dust, bangs and scratches that prevail in a working farm environment.

It may come as a surprise, therefore, to learn that most farmers who have smartphones report very little trouble with them. Whether this is a result of experience and careful handling or the use of the many protective covers that come for every phone these days is open to debate, but there are very few stories of smartphones collapsing without good reason. However, most do take the precaution of taking out insurance for their phones, which usually adds an extra ¿10 a month.


The nature of the job means that farming hands tend not to be the most delicate in the world. Does this affect the user-friendliness of these phones that, in the case of the Blackberry and Nokia E5, cram up to 40 buttons onto the face?

Again, it may be due to increasing familiarity with the technology over time but farmers that have switched find that they adapt quickly to either the touch-screen or keyboard set-up of that which characterises the Blackberry.

Indo Farming