Glacier FarmMedia COVID-19 & the Farm

Precision ag tech’s link to broadband under study

(John Deere photo)

Crop growers in southwestern Ontario are being asked how their access to high-speed internet, or lack thereof, has helped or hindered their adoption of precision ag tools.

Researchers at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), as part of the Regional and Rural Broadband (R2B2) project, are studying how “current and future connectivity” influences farmers’ adoption of precision agriculture (PA).

Farm operators growing field crops in southwestern Ontario and the Niagara region and either using, or not yet using, PA technologies are invited to take part in an R2B2 e-survey online.

The study group’s findings so far show the factors that influence farmers’ decisions on PA applications include initial cost, return on investment, training and technical skills, as well as the “diversity of their operations.”

However, the group added, “there are indications that information technology (IT) infrastructure capacity, particularly access to broadband internet, has a significant influence on PA uptake.”

The amount of data collected, stored and processed through PA instruments, and the software required to connect multiple platforms, takes “significant computing power and upload/download speeds,” the group said.

“Broadband,” for the study’s purposes, is defined as high-speed internet with download speeds over five Mbps.

“A lack of capacity in this regard can override any advantages for a producer considering adopting PA,” such as training or affordability, the group said.

For this study, “the objective is to analyze the extent to which access to high-speed internet, or lack thereof, serves as an enabler/barrier to the adoption of various PA applications.”

Funding for this study comes from the Innovation and Growth Policy Division of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

The AAFC division is, more generally, looking at the “current state” of the use of PA in Canada, its impact on the ag sector and the factors that either “facilitate and impede adoption” of such applications.

The division’s ongoing research and analysis “may also be used to inform development of future policy and program options,” the OAC study group said.

The summary results of the study are expected to be available by January on the R2B2 website. — Network

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