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How IoT Can Save Agriculture in America and Around the World

Photo: Courtesy of Joao Marcelo Marques

One of IoT’s greatest applications could be improving the efficiency of the farms that allow us to feed and clothe our world. We talked to Julie M. Bushell, president of Paige Wireless, about the connected technologies rural Americans are already using, and the ones that could further improve agriculture.

Julie M. Bushell

President of Paige Wireless

Given the rapid growth of connected devices, what are some obstacles your industry is facing?

The largest obstacle we face in rural areas is inadequate access to sufficient infrastructure needed to deploy network connectivity. When it comes to agriculture, it’s tough finding solutions to adequately meet the demands of an agricultural environment.

Many companies that are not familiar with rural America and the extreme environments of agriculture often assume their solution will be successful outside the lab; that’s simply not the case. The industry as a whole has a strong grasp on the use cases for agriculture and how the IoT can improve efficiencies and sustainability, but we have to do better at testing in real-life environments. The solution must be reliable and proven before it is brought to market.

How is wireless technology modernizing agriculture?

I would argue agriculture is among the most modern industries on the planet. Autonomous tractors, analytics, big data, and AI are not new terms to farmers; they’ve utilized it all for quite some time.

We’re starting to see a new revolution brought on by the IoT. We’re talking about “Fitbits” for cows and even for corn stalks. These devices and the data they provide enhance the years of knowledge and intuition producers possess, driving efficiencies, sustainability, traceability, and transparency, and modernizing the food chain as we know it.

In terms of daily operations, how do these technologies benefit quality of life for farmers?

In an industry dictated by uncontrollable factors, like weather and commodity prices, technology allows farmers to optimize what they can control. 

The technologies being adopted on farms today act as extra sets of eyes and ears; a sixth sense. With these technologies, farmers can make real-time decisions that could mean the difference between an abundant yield or lost crop; they could mean identifying sick livestock and taking critical preventative measures. Most importantly, it means having data at their fingertips, allowing them to make informed decisions, control outcomes as much as Mother Nature will allow, and remain profitable so we all have the food, fuel, and fiber we’ve come to expect.

What positive impacts do “connected farms” have on sustainability efforts?

Connected farms have a major positive impact on sustainability. Devices such as soil moisture probes provide insights deep into the soil, enabling optimization of water resources. Soil health devices take the guesswork out of which nutrients need to be applied, decreasing fertilizer usage and input costs. We’re able to remotely monitor water and electricity usage across the farm, identifying spikes and taking action to mitigate issues and reduce usage when appropriate.

Connected farms utilize data to better manage natural resources, minimize waste, and ultimately decrease the carbon footprint.

What are the primary concerns from clients who are new to this technology?

Like all new tech, the primary concerns center around reliability, scalability, and ease of adoption. The solution needs to be effective and efficient. It needs to be highly tested and proven in the environment in which it will be deployed. When farmers adopt a new technology, they have months’ or even years’ worth of hard work riding on its benefit, so it’s up to us to make sure it delivers.

What is Paige Wireless dedicated to in terms of supporting IoT in 2020?

Paige Wireless is dedicated to bringing connectivity to the areas that need it most; on the farm and in rural communities. We are passionate about enabling the adoption of technologies that can improve livelihoods and have a positive economic impact on the communities charged with feeding and clothing the world.

We are committed to highlighting a rural America that leverages the IoT to be sustainable, efficient, and innovative. The data coming from the farm and rural areas should be leveraged to create greater consumer confidence and understanding: how food was raised, how much water was used, and how well it was cared for. We believe we can bridge the digital divide. We believe a better understanding of the innovations used in rural America will close the rural/urban divide, and we’re dedicated to making that happen through the IoT.

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