It’s now more important than ever for farmers to have high-speed Internet

cpc farmer 26.jpg

Farming and agriculture is one of the oldest industries in human history, and in the age of the Internet of Things, it’s important for farmers to embrace new technology...if they can.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released a new study recently, reporting that there are 570 million smallholder farmers around the world (own less than two acres of land). All these smallholder farmers manage around 40% of the world’s agriculture. As climate change weakens yields and technology advances, it’s more important than ever for smallholder farmers to be connected to reliable, affordable, high-speed Internet. 

The global population is expected to hit 8.5 billion by 2030. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. Climate change alone can decrease yields by 10% to 17% for every degree of temperature rise. In order to better forecast risks and to make the most of the small amount of land they have, farmers need smart devices. 

Access to smart technology helps farmers analyze their crops and soil, better predict weather systems, and even decrease pesticide use. It’s clear that Internet data is required for farming to be able to handle the growing need for food. 

When reading through the FAO report, I got the impression that one of the primary challenges is to get farmers to embrace smart technology and use the Internet to improve their yields and health of their crops. 

I would take it one step back and say that the greatest challenge is actually connecting smallholder farmers to the Internet. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) recently decreased the wholesale broadband rates, which in theory should lead to lower prices for consumers. Unfortunately, Bell responded by saying they were cutting back on their rural Internet expansion program to cover the costs. And I should also note that Canada’s standard of 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload is basically the new dial-up because rural communities will struggle to hit this target by 2030, while wealthy urban areas already have 1 Gbps connections that are scalable to 10 Gbps in the near future. 

So, in a time when farmers need the Internet to feed the world, the Big Three (Bell, Telus, and Rogers and other Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers or ILECs) are cutting back on rural services and the feds are setting rural communities up for failure. 

I said it in my previous blog post, and I’ll say it again - it’s time for Navdeep Bains, Minister of ISED, and Bernadette Jordan, Minister of Rural Economic Development, and Ian Scott, Chair of the CRTC, to take a stand. More effort and funds must go towards connecting our farmers to high-speed Internet or else we’ll all bear the brunt of broadband policies fueled by greed.

Campbell Patterson