Necessity Or Luxury: Why Farmers Need Broadband

Farmers generate billions of dollars for the U.S. year after year, growing the food that families and businesses alike depend on for daily life. Broadband internet could make that number even larger.

The American Farm Bureau Federation predicts farmers will generate $18 billion to $23 billion annually with the help of broadband internet. However, most of rural America lacks access to broadband. Farmers without broadband rely on poor internet connections to track thousands of data points that ultimately affect their success.

New broadband internet tools can help farmers become more effective

Detailed weather maps, soil-mapping, GPS-dependent tractors, analyzing data points for trends, and the use of artificial intelligence to detect abnormalities such as human breaches are just a few examples of broadband-dependent technologies that would affect a harvest. For farmers involved with livestock, the use of drones to monitor animals is another incredibly helpful use of broadband internet-dependent technology.

Broadband helps farmers market themselves to potential clients. Having access to high speed internet empowers farmers to communicate to businesses the types of crops they are growing. This facilitates a symbiotic relationship between the two sectors which would help eliminate many supply chain obstacles that have plagued the food industry for the past few years.

Many farmers have limited internet access

Despite this enormous potential, a 2019 study by the United Soybean Board said nearly two thirds of farmers lacked the internet access they needed to run their business. For those who have access to basic internet, many are limited by the low bandwidth their network provides forcing them to wait until others are asleep to use it. However, not every farmer has access. The Ag Economy Barometer reported 12 percent of those they surveyed did not have internet access at all. This statistic is especially unique to consider as it focused on farmers earning over $500,000 in revenue annually.

New farmers benefit greatly from broadband-reliant tools

Farming is an aging industry with the median age of farmers being 57.5 years. The need for new farmers is more prevalent than ever as society depends on farmers. However, the obstacles one must face to become a farmer, and maintain a farm, are numerous. Anyone unfamiliar to the industry can also assume expenses are substantial and particularly volatile. Becoming a farmer is daunting as the job naturally has many moving pieces to account for (for livestock, quite literally). With artificial intelligence-based software, the learning curve is reduced while the financial return from farming greatly increases.

Farmers tilling the ground after a harvest
Farmers tilling the ground after a harvest

Artificial Intelligence yield mapping saves time and money

Understanding the elements necessary for a good crop yield is difficult. Using machine learning, drones, and in-ground sensors, AI can easily identify healthy and unhealthy crops. The AI corroborates the data and sends tips to the farmer on how to improve the field’s health. Although farmers have traditionally assessed this on their own, AI can analyze a massive set of data that humans cannot in a comparatively short amount of time. As for livestock, AI can monitor eating patterns, vital signs, and daily activity to accurately notify farmers of the health of their animals. For new farmers, this helps them factually know rather than guessing an animal’s health or relying on a veterinarian’s guidance.

Yield-mapping is another incredibly useful resource for new farmers as they better understand their cultivated land. By corroborating 3D mapping, data from sensors and drone-based data of soil color, farmers can know yield percentages before crops have even begun growing. This helps farmers decide which part of their land is most lucrative versus what needs to be restored. By knowing how much a farmer can expect to produce, they can accurately set a price point in advance. This greatly reduces the associated financial risk new farmers would otherwise face. It also helps the community and customers as the relevant data allows all parties to confidently negotiate for the best price possible.

Artificial Intelligence detects pests and fills labor gaps

From rodents to insects, farmers struggle with battling against wildlife to save crops from being consumed prematurely. With infrared technology, potential pest infestations can be detected before they even occur, giving farmers enough time to take preventative measures. This especially empowers new farmers as they may not know the warning signs for pests.

In addition to AI, robotic farmhands are available to farmers to fill the gap in the labor market. Tractors, “agribots,” and other robotics can be used to minimize the need for people while still harvesting a lucrative amount of land. Bots deploy fertilizer, water crops, and harvest the land while also acting as security sentries for the landowner. This allows one individual to cover acres of land simultaneously.

AI also can make crop irrigation more efficient. AI can analyze the potential yield of a crop against the irrigation system’s frequency to actively improve a field’s health. This system works in tandem with soil sensors to properly adjust water dispersion levels per unit of field to spot fix rather than adjusting irrigation across the entire property. It can also look for and notify the farmer of any potential leaks.

However, almost none of these tools can effectively be used without broadband internet.

Drone deploying fertilizer in fields with the help of broadband services
Drone deploying fertilizer in fields

National OnDemand specializes in constructing rural broadband infrastructure

Across the country, National has built the network infrastructure necessary to connect to broadband internet, particularly in rural areas occupied by farmers. By partnering with electric co-ops and other internet service providers, National OnDemand has successfully completed multiple projects that brought fiber internet to farmers. The digital divide between urban and rural areas is closing at a rapid pace due to these construction efforts.

One example of National’s work can be found in the heart of South Carolina. Located in St. Matthews, a town of just over 2,000, the local electric cooperative partnered with National OnDemand to construct fiber internet to area homes. For some, their closest neighbor was miles away. Described as an agricultural community, residents of St. Matthews struggled significantly from not only lack of internet, but the sheer distance to a connection point.

Less than two years after the project launched, slow internet became a product of the past. Now available across the five surrounding counties, the St. Matthews community has the service they need to succeed in a digital world, despite being hours away from a major city. This project empowered dozens of farmers in the area to pursue more efficient ways of harvesting and selling their crops.

National OnDemand aerial lineman works on pole in rural America to help install broadband in rural communities.
National OnDemand aerial lineman works on pole in rural America

National OnDemand can help you with any network infrastructure buildout

If your company needs help with a project, National OnDemand supplies full-turnkey solutions to all your network needs. We have gained a reputation for quality work completed on time, all while connecting thousands to critical internet services.

Our Construction and Last Mile Divisions have already helped numerous communities across the U.S. We have handled both the buildout and home installation of fiber in a timely manner at the highest quality possible. Let us help you with your project to connect your community to the internet services they need. From farmers to teachers, entrepreneurs and emergency services, everyone deserves broadband internet in today’s digital world.

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