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Thirty years of farming underpins a 'pocket prompt'

By Farmhelp

Thirty years of farming underpins a 'pocket prompt'

09/06/2012 The Eureka moment triggering Baletwine's Farmhelp app was when an inexperienced farmhand forgot how to measure out a pasture break, the cows went hungry and lost production cost the farmer big money.

The farmer was a friend of Richard Brown, and he thought "if only the farmhand had an easy way of reminding him of something he had learnt, but forgotten".

The Baletwine Farmhelp app is Brown's answer. It combines his thirty years of practical farming information with technology, delivering step by step prompts for 67 daily farming situations and 15 calculators by smartphone.

Brown explains that his friend told his trained but inexperienced farm worker to "give the cows one and a half hectares of grass". The farmhand couldn't remember exactly how to set the fences, and guessed rather than going back and asking. Unfortunately his guess was wrong, and only discovered when milk production dropped from the hungry cows.

"I realised that if the youngster had been able to get a quick and simple reminder out there in the paddock, he would not have made that mistake. Marrying the practical information to a smartphone was the next step, to create a 'pocket prompt'.

"With most packs priced under $10, the Farmhelp app would have paid for itself immediately. ," says Brown.

The rapid rise of smartphones and their appeal to youngsters made the decision about how best to deliver the system simple. Once the app is downloaded, it is not dependent on cellphone coverage – a major plus for rural users and especially remote farms.

"It can be used anywhere, anytime. It's like having a pocketful of farming advice, and the information is all solid and practical, based on thirty years of farming experience," says Brown.

The Farmhelp app currently has 9 different farming packs that collectively cover 67 common farming tasks. People can 'try before they buy' by downloading 14 free tasks from Google Play. Brown is confident prospective users will see Farmhelp's true value and go on to buy packs suitable for their own situation.

Originally a sheep and beef farmer in the Rangitikei, Brown says he "learned by doing it" after leaving school and went on to convert the property to dairying in the 1980s. Staying with agriculture, he has worked for spray and spreader equipment manufacturer C-Dax for 20 years. In area and market development management roles, he exported to the UK, Australia and South Africa.

"The growth in corporate farming, and lifestyle blocks, means overall the level of experience on farms is dropping. Many young farm workers have done some training but they are generally inexperienced.

"Often farmers get impatient and are not actually that good at communicating how to do tasks around the farm. Many lifestyle block owners with the best intentions don't know the practical things like swinging a new gate or quickly recognising animal situations. Farmhelp gives them that 'pocket prompt' so they can either do it, or call in more experienced help". Either way, valuable time and money is saved.

Brown acknowledges having the app on a farmhand's smartphone does not guarantee he or she will use it. But he argues if the farmer ensures his employees have the app and know they are expected to use it when questions arise, not doing so can form part of an employee training programme or disciplinary process.

Farmhelp was developed in New Zealand, but Brown sees it having "application out in the wide world of agriculture", and it will be marketed internationally from the outset.

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Farmhelp - Your Fingertip Farming LibraryFarmhelp is a great resource for information on farming and livestock tasks, using methods that have been tried and tested over 40 years - right on your Android mobile phone and at your fingertips. Whether you're an experienced farmer or starting out with a s…

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