Having a farm office in your tractor cab just got more practical. A new smartphone application, Virtual Farm Manager (VFM), lets you access information on your home computer while you’re working in the field. It also lets you input new information on the go.

Want to know how much progress your brother made in spraying a field 20 miles away? Just check your smartphone. The VFM app uses the GPS in your brother’s phone to track and map his rig as it goes up and down the field.

This ag app is the brainchild of Ryan Raguse, who grew up on a farm in western Minnesota and now operates his own phone-app development company. Working with college friend and North Dakota farmer Jacob Fannik, he developed the idea for VFM. “Smartphones have so many capabilities, and this app makes use of them so farmers can access and manipulate their field and farm information wherever they are,” says Raguse.

No more tattered notebooks

During planting, rather than jotting down hybrid number, population and field specifics in the typical little beat-up notebook, a grower can simply sign on to the VFM program via his smartphone and enter the data on it. From there, it’s sent to secure storage for his office computer.

“You can view all your field records or edit them, from anywhere your phone works,” says Raguse. “All the information is stored on a secure site, which also provides convenient and constant backup, in case your office computer ever crashes.”

Once an account is created on the VFM website, any number of users can receive a simple sign-on ID, he explains. “All they have to do is download the app to their phone, and the app is free.”

Cost for a VFM account is $1 for the first month and $65/month after that. The app was introduced for Android phones in April and for iPhones in July.

Fast access to field histories

For Kindred, N.D., farmer Dan Braaten, the VFM app is a great organizer. “It’s convenient to be able to view and add information about field histories this way. I used to make notes on paper in the field, then forget them in my pockets and have them go through the wash. Now everything is in one place, and it’s safe.”

The app also offers convenience for monitoring field operations at one of the 52 field locations Braaten farms with his brother. “We farm in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota, and the farthest fields are more than 400 miles apart,” he says. “This app lets me check on how our employees are doing, in a variety of locations.”

Braaten says he’s never been very computer savvy, but has adapted to using his smartphone and this app. “We’ve only been using it a few months but it’s already a great time-saver. It should be really helpful this fall, when we’re recording harvest data.”

Future features that Raguse hopes to add include marketing and accounting software, and grain bin-monitoring capabilities. “The customizing possibilities are nearly endless,” he says.

At this time, the app is only available for use on Android phones. For more information visit www.virtualfarmmanager.com.