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National 4-H Council takes agriculture education to mobile

Youth development organization National 4-H Council teamed with risk management team CME Group to build an educational mobile application for agriculture despite the hands-on and physical aspects that are crucial in farming.

The idea of farming is modernized through the app and translated into a mobile application to give adolescents insight into what it takes to maintain a farm. Advanced business and technical skills do not resonate with adolescents when they think of a farm, but in fact teaching agriculture literacy and risk management, especially via mobile, could spark interest of the field in young viewers.

?It?s important for young consumers to understand that food doesn?t just show up at the dinner table,? said Chris Grams, director of corporate communications at CME Group, Chicago. ?There is a farmer or rancher who produced that food and there is a lot of risk that has to be managed between their farm and the consumer?s plate. 

?Our Risk Ranch app is a very important education tool because it taps into the pervasive nature of smartphones and provides kids with hours of entertainment and risk management education long after fair season ends. It?s a platform that will enable us to extend the reach of the physical game, which was played by more than 50,000 young people during the 2013 fair season.?

Virtual farming?
Risk Ranch is a gaming app for kids that allows users to maintain their own virtual farm and provides hurdles along the way, causing users to choose the best decisions to build a successful establishment.

A game is played to earn coins while raising a steer over the course of four seasons, mimicking a similar timeline that a farmer would follow. Once the steer is full grown, the user takes the steer to a market to be sold. 

Throughout the animal?s upbringing, the user will incur risks and use the coins to purchase futures in order to protect the investment in the animal that has been made.

Possible risks that users may come across can affect the well-being of the steer. Such are sickness, price variances of volatile energy, unexpected changes in weather and food safety concerns. For example, the user could hit a risk peg that indicates an increase of price of energy, therefore causing an increase in transportation costs, which could interfere with the overall profit made from the steer. 

Another example is severe drought, which causes an increase in food prices.

The idea to execute an app came from an exceptional response to the physical version of the game that was available to attendees at the nationwide Commodity Carnival, which allows young fairgoers to learn about the risks and costs associated with producing and bringing animals to market. 

In 2013, more than 50,000 youth took part in the experience, and Risk Ranch now gives those interested the ability to learn more via their phone anywhere at anytime. 

The event takes place at 120 state and local fairs.

The app is available for free download on iOS and Android devices as well as on desktop for at-home users. 

4-H and CME Group executives encourage users to share their thoughts of the app on social channels using hashtag #RiskRanch.

Slow moving, but surely
Executives within the agriculture industry and various exhibit directors have been slow to adopt mobile initiatives, but given the prevalence of mobile in today?s society, virtually any product or event can be revamped with mobile incorporations.
In 2009, the Georgia National Fair turned to mobile to build awareness among local residents and heighten their awareness of the event and its attractions.

The campaign received a 52 percent double opt-in. Ping Mobile and Cox Media worked together to create the campaign, which included Mobile optimized television spots meant to generate hype around the affair (see story). 

Also in 2009 for about six months, natural poultry producer Springer Mountain Farms included promotional codes on product packaging, along with instructions for using the codes with a mobile phone to respond to offers.

Springer Mountain Farms tapped promotions transaction settlement provider Inmar and mobile marketing company Augme Mobile to deliver promotions to consumers' mobile phones. Consumers could send the codes via text message or scan a 2D bar code to receive instant rewards on their mobile phones (see story).

While text capabilities are still a primary use within marketing strategies, there are far more options via mobile that agriculture enthusiasts could utilize to better reach smartphone users.

Even though agriculture business deals mostly with physicality, initiatives to keep this knowledge known must involve mobile in order to most effectively connect with consumers.

?CME Group?s roots are in agriculture and our Risk Ranch app is a really unique way for us to reach the next generation of farmers and ranchers to teach them about the concept of risk in a fun way,? Mr. Grams said. ?The app is designed to help young people look at agriculture as a business, whether they aspire to be a farmer in the future or just have an interest in where their food comes from. 

?Through our partnership with the National 4-H Council, we?re connecting directly with our nation?s future food producers, but our Risk Ranch app allows us to connect with even broader array of young people through their smartphones, tablets or a computers.?

Final Take?
Caitlyn Bohannon, editorial assistant for Mobile Marketer, New York