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Why Closing the Connectivity Gap Opens the Door to Ag's Future

Digital connectivity is the lynchpin of agriculture’s future. Without ubiquitous connectivity, the agriculture industry cannot fully embrace the new tools and technologies that will enable it to meet the productivity and sustainability demands of the future.

“We’ve done a number of studies and spent a lot of time with farmers to gather insights on the sustainable practices they are using,” said Nate Birt, senior advisor for Trust In Food, Farm Journal’s sustainable agriculture division. “Unless farmers are able to capture data to quantify the things they are doing, it will be very difficult for them to qualify for new programs and markets in the more digitized economy that is developing.”

Capturing and sharing data requires connectivity, both on the farm and in the field. That requires more than just a myopic approach to closing the connectivity gap.

“The GPS satellite part of connectivity is pretty good, so farmers are generally able to get the positioning information they need,” said Andy Theisen, product development manager at Kondex Corporation. “But farmers also need constant machine connectivity, yield map data, and other real-time data from things like weather and soil sensors. For a good portion of the country, the capabilities aren’t very good right now.”

AEM is determined to take an active role in shaping the future of agriculture for the betterment of all. With that in mind, the association is pleased to offer The Future of Food Production, a whitepaper detailing the key drivers poised to drive ag's evolution in the years to come. Learn more.

As presented in AEM’s whitepaper, just 25% of U.S. farms currently use connected equipment or devices to access data. Lack of adequate broadband coverage has been a big reason why. But that gap is already beginning to narrow. Tens of billions of dollars of state and federal funding have poured into rural broadband infrastructure, largely the installation of fiber optic cable. In many areas around the country, even the smallest of farms in the smallest of communities now have access to high-speed internet.

In late July of 2022, the USDA announced several new projects as part of its ReConnect Program, which furnishes loans and grants for the construction, improvement, or acquisition of facilities and equipment needed to provide broadband service in eligible rural areas. One project is in a rural area of Nevada, where a $27 million grant will help deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network for 4,884 people and 22 farms. Through another project in Arkansas, a $12 million grant will help establish a network connecting 966 people and 145 farms.

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