Indiana Farmers' Level of Adoption and Perceptions of Mobile Applications as Agricultural Management Tools

2019-05-14T17:29:13Z (GMT) by Jaclyn Renae Leeuw

Farmers in the digital age require accurate, relevant farm-level data to make sound management decisions for their operations. Mobile applications, or apps, are emerging as a valuable management and decision-making tool for farm operators, but are still in their infancy as a technological innovation. Farmer adoption and use of mobile apps has received relatively little attention in the scholarly literature compared to more established farm management tools and communication media. The researcher examined Indiana farmers’ use and perceptions of mobile apps as tools for management and decision-making. A theoretical perspective was developed from the Diffusion of Innovation Theory and the Technology Acceptance Model to guide the investigation. Data on attitudes, behaviors, and demographic characteristics were collected through interviews with 55 Indiana farmers in late 2018 and early 2019. Quantitative interview items were analyzed through descriptive statistics while open-ended items were coded for emergent themes.

Study participants reported a median age of 41 years and an average of 26 years farming. Nearly all study participants (98.2%) considered mobile applications useful to farm operations. A smaller but significant majority (76.4%) of participants rated mobile apps as easy to use. In terms of content, the most common use of apps among study participants was for general purpose utilities such as banking and messaging, followed by weather and agriculture-related apps such as Granular and FieldNet. Ease of use and content of application were among attributes considered most important by study participants when considering adoption of new apps. About three-fourths (76.4%) of the study participants indicated intentions to adopt additional mobile applications in the future.

A series of items addressed study participants’ awareness of open source technology. About three-fourths (72%) indicated not previously having heard of the terminology. When asked to share their thoughts on the term open source, a large majority (84%) of participants provided vague or seemingly unrelated responses ranging from cloud-related, to the capability of apps to exchange information, to software being open to all users.

As part of the analysis, the researcher categorized study participants into one of three adopter categories – early adopters, early majority, or late majority – based on the length of time participants reported using mobile apps, attitudes toward the technology, and intention to adopt apps in the future. Cross-tabulation analysis revealed that early adopters of mobile app technology did not differ significantly at the .05 level from later adopters in terms of age, years farming, or size of operation.

Finally, an empirical test was conducted to assess utility of the Technology Acceptance Model for conceptualizing behavioral intent to adopt mobile agricultural applications. As expected from theory, correlational analysis revealed positive and moderately strong relationships (p < .05) between perceived usefulness and attitude toward mobile applications, and between perceived ease of use and attitude toward mobile applications. The relationship between attitude and behavioral intention to adopt additional mobile applications was statistically non-significant at the .05 level, contrary to theory. The importance of exploring alternative theoretical perspectives in future research is discussed.

Results from this research contribute to the growing literature on how farmers assess and use mobile applications as farm management and decision-making tools. Findings have implications for application developers, as well as those involved in education and marketing of mobile agricultural applications.