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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Using the right apps can improve your communication and increase efficiency on your farm.

Dennis Buckmaster, agricultural and biological engineering professor at Purdue University, shared tips during the “Digging into the Data Pipeline” webinar series.

There are several free apps that can make your job easier.

1. Trello: “Trello is a back office whiteboard of sorts,” Buckmaster explained. “It’s taking the place of the notebook that you might have once kept on the dashboard of the combine or pickup truck — but it’s always in the wrong place.

“So, here’s a way to always have these things with you and a way to share them with trusted people.”

The app is organized differently than other cloud storage systems, like Dropbox, which are based on a file, folder layout. With Trello, it starts out with “organization.” The organization might be yourself, or you and your co-workers, for example. Under organization, there are boards. You can share different boards with different people in the organization. Within the boards are lists. These can include things to do, equipment, facilities and other lists. On each list are cards — which could include text, photos, files, spreadsheets, documents, hyperlinks and more.

“This is a virtual whiteboard that everybody has access to all the time,” Buckmaster said.

2. GoogleSheets: GoogleSheets can be used for notes, tallies and simple math. It can be used in a browser, or in apps on devices.

“This huge matrix of cells is just waiting for you to put information into that you might share or keep to yourself — tax numbers, formulas, hyperlinks, comments and notes,” Buckmaster said. “Sharing is very important. It’s important that you share wisely. You can share it so that nobody can see it, you can share it to a controlled group by email address, or you can make it so that anyone could read or edit it.”

3. CONTxT: “The next tool is an app specifically developed for agriculture,” Buckmaster said. “It is what we a call a progressive web app. It actually runs in a browser, but has the feel of an app installed on your device.

“CONTxT in an app that was developed to help you record the information that you’re going to wish you had later, when you’re looking at yield maps or scouting reports. It helps you remember the things you ought to be taking note of.

“The advantage is, instead of being in the dashboard notebook that gets lost or is in the wrong place, it is going to store data in your GoogleSheet.”

4. MyMaps: “We probably all have some experience with GPS type map software on assorted platforms,” Buckmaster said. “But this one is customizable

“So, on maps, you can put points, polygraphs and notes and multiple layers of those. You can control the privilege level of sharing of those maps. You might share it relatively freely, or it might be something you only want one or two people to actually know where certain things are.”

5. Other smartphone features, including Slack: Texting, email, cameras and screenshots are all important smartphone features used on farms.

“There are lots of other communication pathways you may use with your smartphone,” Buckmaster said. “You can text and group text, or send emails. “There’s an app that’s been out for seven or eight years now called Slack. Lots of teams are starting to use Slack because it essentially becomes the archive of communication.”

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