Cell service: a basic utility

Cellular signals have become an anchor for many of the precision agriculture tools that have been or are being developed for the industry.

Trouble is, farming is small when it comes to telecommunications. Farming is relatively small for IT in general. Everything for ag costs more because developers and suppliers have to earn enough to make it worth their time and investment when so few units are sold.

When telephone was rolled out for farms, like electrification, it was done by governments looking to improve ag production, rural health and — and maybe the tax base.

One need only look at the lack of yard lights shining in the rural night compared to even a decade or two ago to get a basic understanding of how few farms there are.

Despite the numbers, their needs for technology have grown, as the tools to help them to remain competitive in a global commodity market are more and more based on sophisticated technologies.

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Governments and the public want producers to become more efficient, making the best possible use of fertilizer, pesticides and fuel — lowering their carbon footprints — while improving soil health and keeping prices for their food products low. Further, farmers are expected to ensure they are mitigating their income risks to weather, international market swings and currency fluctuations. In short, growing more with less.

Cellular technology is key to providing machine guidance in the field, a digital data flow between farm offices, managers, agronomic support providers and equipment, making agriculture more precise. It also is playing an increasing part in providing high-speed internet to farms.

Information has long been recognized as the key to farm improvement and increased food production from a fixed land base.

Despite governments’ attempts to abandon extension agrology it still exists and the need for it has never been greater as the technologies of today often leap ahead, challenging producers to keep up.

Like rural phone and electricity of 60 to 70 years ago, the need for cellular connection is not something farmers can do for themselves, although a few co-ops did.

Cellular availability is not just a convenient tool of social media or a handy communications tool. It is the basic utility of today. Improving its accessibility needs to be recognized as a step for the public good and be supported as such.

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