Broadband helps agriculture more efficient – helps the environment

Agri Pulse reports…

These are the telltale signs of climate change challenges, but they can be met head-on with the kind of data that advanced broadband can deliver – when it’s available.

Today’s high-tech farming depends on data – from remote sensors, from tractors, irrigation equipment, nutrient application machinery, and harvesters that communicate. Sensors and tracking devices around a modern farm can pump out readings from soil moisture to fertilizer needs to climate conditions inside a chicken house.

The possibilities for productivity improvement, budget efficiencies, environmental benefits and the ability to respond to continually changing growing conditions are endless, but as one technologically-sophisticated farmer, Trey Hill of Harbor View Farmers, told one of us recently, “we generate a lot of data, we just don’t have the means to transport it.”

Turns out some folks are running their farms on off cell phones…

Trey operates his ten-thousand-acre farm – an operation often described as not only technologically sophisticated but environmentally so – on a cell network. He reaps huge benefits from his technology, turning on irrigation from his cell phone thus saving water and applying fertilizer only where he needs it, saving money and ending over use that is neither financially nor environmentally sustainable. But at what cost? Trey and other farmers are subject to giant cell phone bills and they are unable to access their technologies on fields that are remote and without cell coverage.

Another friend of ours in rural Maryland spends as much as $1,000 per month to run his agricultural operations off of a mobile cellular network.

They need better…

The lack of broadband in rural America isn’t a mystery. As best as the government can tell, less than 60% of rural America has access to broadband at 100 Mbps download speed; a typical speed – not even exceptionally fast – in other parts of the nation.

Moreover, not all internet access is advanced broadband. The USDA reported in 2019 that 22% of farmers used DSL technology, which is old and slow compared to what most Americans can access. Twenty-six percent of farms used satellite, which has broad coverage but tends to be more expensive and not as technically advanced. And three percent (more than 40,000 farms) still use dial-up, which was the go-to internet technology of the early 1990s.

So, it’s not just any old broadband that agriculture needs – it’s high-performance broadband.

This entry was posted in economic development, Rural by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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