How can farmers embrace technology solutions if they do not have the connectivity they need for modern agriculture?
Photo Credit: Farm Management Canada / Loree Photography
Sangeeta Lalli, Telus Public Policy Director, began her presentation by stating that 40% of rural Canadians do not have reliable connectivity at 50/10 speeds, which means 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 10 Mbps upload – an agreed upon objective.
Lalli recently spoke to the Farm Management Conference AgEx which was held in late November 2023 in Guelph, ON. Lalli presentation was called Embracing Connectivity and Digital Policy.
In her role, Lalli works with governments and industry leaders on policy development to help enable greater supply chain efficiency, while producing safer and more sustainable food and consumer goods.
If farmers are going to embrace precision agriculture, as well as sustainability, it is important that they have access to data to be able to make sound on-farm decisions. Lalli stated that the future of farming is reliant on getting farms across Canada more connected.
In Canada, 50.4 % of farms reported using technology on the farm; 32% on soil sampling, 27% with auto steer, and 16% on variable rate input applications.
She and Telus agriculture believe that agriculture emissions could be further reduced if through precision agriculture, farmers could optimize the use of fertilizer and water usage.
According to a group called Farrpoint, two percent of Canada’s GHG emissions could be abated by the application of mobile wireless technologies.
She noted that harnessing technology and connectivity for emissions reduction offers both environmental and economic advantages. Farmers are being squeezed, and she knows actions they take to help the environment also need to make economic sense.
Lalli says precision agriculture can reduce water and optimize fertilizer use by up to 40%. She provided an example from an Ontario study that showed applying the 4Rs in corn production increased yields by ~20% and reduced GHG emissions by ~75%. (The 4Rs in agriculture are: Right Source, Right Rate, Right Time, and Right Place.)
The Telus Public Policy Director noted that she believed governments should play a role in technology adoption subsidies for agriculture, including creating incentives for farmers to adopt technology that enables emission reductions and increase productivity.
She encourages governments to define, track and leverage AgTech adoption to measure climate benefits, and she emphasized that Telus believes a national strategy for adoption is required. The strategy would identify hurdles to adoption and implement solutions to address these hurdles.
One such hurdle could be lack of familiarity with some of the ag tech offered on farms. She also advocated for digital upskilling. Lilli says it is important to encourage and support ag workforce learning and the adopting of key technologies to ensure the rapid adoption of ag tech that will be needed for Canadian farmers to continue to feed the world.
Lalli concluded her presentation by saying that the agriculture industry needs to continue innovating to make connectivity more accessible in rural communities. When asked what farmers can do to advance connectivity in their community she said, “Support and advocate for digital policies to accelerate adoption of technology in the agriculture sector.”