Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Expanding broadband to ag communities would boost economies, John Deere exec tells committee

Cory Reed
Expanding broadband to rural areas is crucial for boosting the economy of agricultural communities, John Deere senior vice president of intelligent solutions Cory Reed told senators on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee last week, reports Agri-Pulse. Reed told the committee, “Large swaths of agricultural land in the United States—where people do not reside, but where they work and contribute to the rural and national economy—are wholly lacking broadband coverage."

In rural America, 53 percent of people "don’t have access to Internet with at least 25 megabits per second (Mbps) download/3 Mbps upload speeds—the slowest speeds the Federal Communications Commission say qualify as broadband—when only 9 percent of urbanites go without," reports Agri-Pulse.

Reed said the "most important technologies to modern, precision agriculture are wireless data transfer systems and GPS-enabled machinery—both of which need reliable broadband access to function," reports Agri-Pulse. He told committee members, "The rapid adoption of information technologies and services across the agricultural economy today is no less significant than was the introduction of mechanization to farming almost 100 years ago."

"Wireless Internet access allows farmers access to data communications both on and off the tractor, Reed said," reports Agri-Pulse. "For instance on the tractor, farmers can receive real-time information on field conditions, weather and other environmental factors and manage fleets and collect data needed for regulatory compliance. Off the tractor, data collected on the field can be sent to another machine, a database housed on the farm, to John Deere or other companies and be aggregated and analyzed alongside millions of other data points collected across the country."

"By using a Global Positioning System (GPS) that allows for sub-inch level accuracy in the planting of seed and the application of fertilizer and pesticides, farmers can reduce their fuel, labor and water costs," reports Agri-Pulse. "Accenture, a company that provides a precision ag service, estimates the benefits of using these systems together could add up to $55 to $110 per acre in increased profit and 15 percent greater overall improved crop productivity. "

"On a macro-scale, these technologies allow farmers to tackle the 'growing challenges' of environmental sustainability and conservation compliance, said Reed, by reducing the amount of nutrient and sediment runoff from their land that could otherwise impair waterways," reports Agri-Pulse. "They also help farmers increase yields in an era where a dramatic increase in the world’s population—estimated to exceed 9 billion people by 2050 from just over 7 billion now—is approaching, and 'the supply of skilled labor for agriculture is not enough to meet (that) demand.' But in order to get the most of modern farm machinery, farmers need faster Internet access—and that takes more infrastructure." Agri-Pulse is subscription-only but offers a four-week free trial.

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