I’ve seen several surveys this year that are looking at the impact of broadband for farmers. This is relatively new and highlights the degree to which broadband has moved near the top of the list of many farmers’ concerns. This blog looks at a survey conducted by the United Soybean Board. This is an organization of soybean farmers that concentrates on research and soybean market development (as opposed to policy and lobbying).
The survey was conducted across a wide cross-section of 2,000 farmers and ranchers from across the country. This survey included farmers of field and row crops like soybeans and corn, livestock, and specialty crops like fruits and vegetables.
Here were some of the key findings of the survey:
- Almost 60% of farmers said they don’t have had adequate broadband to run their business.
- 60% of farmers said the primary problem with their broadband is slow speed.Other issues identified include the cost and reliability of broadband connections.
- 78% of farmers said they have only one option for choosing an ISP.
- The survey showed that 59% of farmers want to incorporate the use of more data in their business and another 28% are considering it.
- The survey looked at two aspects of broadband – in the office and in the fields. Only 32% of farmers found broadband in their office to be reliable. Over 77% don’t think they have a good broadband solution in their fields. Only 26% say that cellular coverage is reliable in their fields.
- 67% of farmers want the ability to transfer data wirelessly from their fields.
- 90% of farmers are using a cellphone for Internet access in their fields. A few farmers surveyed constructed their own wireless networks to reach their fields.
- Most farmers now use 2 or 3 different wireless devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones, desktops, and smart farm machinery).
- 33% of farmers say lack of broadband has affected their equipment purchases – they are not yet buying smart machinery.
Farmers in the survey could also tell their story about how they use or would like to use broadband. Some of the technologies reported include:
- Precision agriculture where field data provides the ability of farm equipment to apply different amounts of nutrients and insecticide only where it’s needed.
- Soil monitoring to better understand the condition of the soil – with a goal to improve the soil year after year.
- Precision irrigation that provides water only where it’s needed.
- Drones to quickly survey the fields to gather data.
The executive summary of the survey expresses the results well:
American farmers feel the impact of poor connectivity, including limitations on improving farm economic and environmental sustainability and reinvesting in their businesses. They want to do the best things to preserve and improve their farms and natural resources, but lack of clear data to make decisions hampers their continuous improvement. And farmers’ needs for internet access are projected to grow. They value they bring to the U.S. economy could multiply significantly with fast, reliable internet.