Around the world, governments and broadband providers struggle with how to cost-effectively deliver Internet connectivity to rural regions, given the typical lack of real return on investment. But connected farms and use of IoT by federal and local agencies may be a partial route to affordable connectivity far from the madding crowd.
By 2020, the "total addressable market for telecom operators in agriculture" will be $12.9 billion from vertical integration, partnership, marketing and value-added services, according to a recent white paper from Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd.
"Farmers depend upon broadband and other wireless networks to stay updated and participate in specific industry directed knowledge-sharing initiatives," the paper said.
That does not include additional income from surrounding areas or non-farming revenue from complementary opportunities such as the federal government (in the US, for example, the Department of Fish and Wildlife), local government (such as regional parks and recreation departments) or businesses (including manufacturing, retail, logistics firms like local truckers and SMBs).
Although a number of solutions rely on non-broadband Internet of Things (IoT) networks, the pending arrival of 5G, demand for data analytics, cloud-based applications and video are only some drivers for wired broadband capabilities.
After all, broadband access benefits farms, which often are quick to adopt new technologies such as GPS, automation and analytics. That was the case for Sunterra Farms, which invested in fiber-to-the-home network from ISP Axia Fibre Net about ten years ago, said Ray Price in a published report.
"The high-speed broadband was a game changer," Price said, noting that the Canadian farm uses the network for data collection from farming equipment and nearly instant analysis. "Axia has allowed us to link with customers around the world and data analysis to improve productivity in livestock and grain land. The technology means access to future markets for pricing and hedging, data sharing for meetings, access to SkypeÖ the list goes on."
Providing farmers with ultra-broadband enables them to run their operations more productively and efficiently -- and encourage more young people to enter the vital vertical, said Alan Jagoe, president of the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA) on EuroActiv.com in March.
"If we donít run it as a business, if we donít make a profit, we wonít be farming. Technology is going to make this more appealing to a whole new generation of farmers that never even considered farming before, or considered us but didnít think that it was, you know, a sexy career choice,Ē the Irish farmer said.
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.