FCCs Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force makes recommendations to connect farmers
Bowling Green, Kentucky (July 25, 2023) - The world's population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, an increase of 2 billion from today. This massive population growth will put a strain on the world's food supply. Precision agriculture is widely considered to be one of the key ways to address this global issue. Precision agriculture is the science of enhancing crop yields and overall farming processes by using high technology sensor and analysis tools.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is taking steps to ensure that farmers have the connectivity they need to use precision agriculture technologies. The FCC's Precision Ag Connectivity Task Force, which launched in 2019, held its most recent meeting on July 11, 2023.
At the meeting, the Task Force heard presentations from several stakeholders, including Jessica Simmons of the Georgia State Broadband Office, Bree Maki of the Minnesota State Broadband Office, and Bidisha Bhattacharyya of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Task Force also heard updates from each of the Working Groups that have been developing recommendations related to precision agriculture connectivity.
The Working Group on Mapping and Analyzing Connectivity on Agricultural Lands has made recommendations to improve the usability and accuracy of the Broadband Deployment Map (BDC map) for precision agriculture. These include:
- Adding alternative descriptors to the BDC map to make it more usable for precision agriculture.
- Extending coverage hexagon sizes to better reflect the size of agricultural fields.
- Adding agricultural structures to the BDC map.
- Adding a verification data layer to the BDC map showing independently verified connectivity.
- Adopting a framework to define and map unserved and underserved agricultural lands.
- Coordinating broadband connectivity data from different agencies.
- Integrating precision agriculture connectivity profiles into the BDC map on a geographical basis of less than 25 acres.
The Working Group on Accelerating Broadband Deployment on Unserved Agricultural Lands has made recommendations to improve broadband connectivity for precision agriculture. These include:
- Federal agencies should agree on broadband definition standards and update them regularly.
- USDA should create funding programs to help build broadband networks in rural areas.
- Grant applications that include coverage for agricultural land should be prioritized.
- FCC should make spectrum available for precision agriculture at a low cost.
- USDA should provide funding for the buildout and operation of broadband networks in rural areas.
- FCC should continue to offer incentives to encourage the deployment of precision agriculture.
- FCC should revise broadband satellite service coverage for non-geostationary orbit satellite systems.
- FCC should require the use of interoperability standards for broadband networks.
- FCC should strengthen policies that require auction bidders to show the long-term sustainability of their proposed networks.
- Additional incentives should be provided to build broadband networks in rural areas.
- FCC and USDA should work with stakeholders to create community-based solutions.
- FCC should work with states and localities to address zoning and regulatory burdens.
- States should work with tribal authorities to help speed up the deployment of precision agriculture.
The Working Group on Examining Current and Future Connectivity Demand for Precision Agriculture has made recommendations to improve broadband connectivity in rural areas for precision agriculture. These include:
- Encouraging mobile network operators to enact a Precision Agriculture Wireless Operating Agreement.
- Intentional fiberoptic buildout to support backhaul of cellular and edge computing.
- RUS Rural Utility Services expanding tower loans and establishing grants in underserved and unserved areas.
- Incentivizing and obligating providers to make service available to all customers in their territory.
- Discouraging “spectrum warehousing” through specific milestones.
- Agriculture needs a dedicated spectrum with extremely high data payload capability.
- Exploring prioritizing and funding agricultural connectivity projects that make use of unlicensed fixed wireless, NGSO satellite infrastructure, and private cellular networks.
The Working Group also made recommendations on how the Farm Bill could be used to improve broadband connectivity for precision agriculture.
Lastly, the Working Group on Encouraging Adoption of Precision Agriculture and Availability of High-Quality Jobs on Connected Farms discussed updates to recommendations related to coordination with land-grant universities and further exploration into cybersecurity recommendations.
The Task Force also discussed the importance of AM radio in rural America, and the need to continue exploring aggregation points in networks and network resilience. The Task Force and Working Groups will continue working to finalize their recommendations in the coming months. The FCC's efforts to improve broadband connectivity for precision agriculture are vitally important to the success of U.S. agriculture and globally sustainable food supplies.
Learn more by clicking HERE
About the Author: Wes Kerr is the Connected Nation Director of Community Solutions. Wes helps ensure the implementation of Technology Action Plans developed for communities through Connected Nation’s Connected Community Engagement Program (Connected) and works closely with clients and stakeholders to provide solutions that will help them meet their technology goals.