A new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange Division estimates the upfront cost of deploying a private wireless network to support precision agriculture at $50,000 per farm if deployed through one of the nation’s farm supply cooperatives. The annual recurring cost per farm would be about $6,000, according to CoBank.
“Agricultural cooperatives are in an ideal position to build and deliver carrier-grade, high-speed private wireless networks to their farmer members,” the report observes.
The cooperatives exist to serve the needs of their farmer members and have “institutionalized knowledge of farming operations,” according to the report authors, who see private wireless networks as an opportunity for the cooperatives to develop “new and diverse revenue sources that depend less on turbulent ag commodity and fuel prices.”
The CoBank report cites two key enablers of the private wireless precision agriculture opportunity. One is the availability of a large swath of CBRS spectrum, some of which is unlicensed. The other is the availability of carrier-grade equipment that can be deployed for use by a single entity.
The CoBank estimate of the per-farm cost of private wireless for precision agriculture assumes that 50 farms share network core costs of about $225,000. Considering that the average agricultural cooperative has about 1,000 members, this would mean that about 5% of the farmers in the cooperative would need to participate.
After two days traveling in rural Western MN, I can appreciate the need for investment. Cell coverage is better than is used to be out there, but it’s not consistently great. But listening to the local radio, I hear the stories and concerns about food safety and technology will definitely play a role in keeping food safe!