Got an app for that

​​January is upon us and with the start of the new year, I saw an article touting the "must-have" apps for 2017. It reminded me of the similar stories from previous years, each of which had a dozen or so of the top applications referenced, and which assured me I had to have them to be successful. Just for fun, I went back through three or four years and recognized very few of those listed still had relevance today.

That prompted me to do a search of Ag apps, because there is an app for that, too. Depending how broadly you search, what tasks you desire to accomplish, and the 13 or so categories presented from ag business to weather, I found 756 agricultural applications on this particular tool. I'm confident that is not likely an exhaustive list, probably just the ones who paid a small fee to get listed in this app of apps.

"So what?" you say! If any of us are technologically savvy at all, we all have a handful of favorites that get used on our smartphone or dashboard every day while numerous others rarely get used after they are installed. I'm as guilty as anyone, but I do plan to get to my point before you lose interest completely.

Each of these unique, often single-function apps may be interesting, but I question their value at managing data on a farm. It takes a lot of effort to transpose these un-integrated sources of information into something on which you can base a decision.

The various programs were developed to provide a simple answer to a relatively simple question, and their developers did not care that a user typically has a much more complex problem. 

This reminds me of the many relationships that exist in the country between those on the farm and the service providers/dealers who sell products. Some purchase inputs from a variety of providers, getting their seed from "Company A", crop protection products from "Company B", equipment and technology from "Company C", and so on.

They may perceive they get the best expertise because that is all that person sells, and there may be something to that. They may feel they get better prices that way too, because they get all their seed from one person and chemicals from another. I do know it can be a challenge keeping track of all the potential relationships or dependencies of the various technologies and seed traits that way.

Other individuals choose to work with a single, comprehensive provider who may have access to multiple experts in their field, but each is working toward a common goal and maximizing the value for the customer, while working to earn the trust and getting paid for it.

Think of all those seldom used apps that were once the must-haves, but now bring little value. I would ask you to consider what kind of person you have bringing you products and solutions for your farm. If they aren't an FS crop specialist, consider looking for a new partner. Have a good spring!

Sid Parks serves the FS System as GROWMARK's senior product manager, agronomy information services. He can be reached at