Helping Feed the World Requires Better Rural Connectivity

Cutting-edge farming technology is limited without strong rural broadband

From autonomous tractors to intelligent combines to sprayers that reduce herbicides, our cutting-edge technology thrives with a strong broadband connection.

The problem is much of rural America is still waiting for better connectivity. Without it, farmers face a difficult task of helping to feed our growing population.

As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) develops policies and initiatives to expand rural broadband access, John Deere is actively bringing agriculture into the discussion as a member of the Agriculture Broadband Coalition, a non-profit trade coalition that works to improve internet access to individuals and businesses in rural areas.

"We educate policy makers on the importance of rural broadband and 5G because all communities, not just those in urban areas, should be able to reap the benefits of this technology," Joel Dawson, Manager Production and Precision Ag Marketing, said. "We recognize that more access to connectivity only strengthens economic vitality and social benefits to us all, no matter where we live or what industry we work in."

According to reports, the FCC is aiming to deploy 5G to cover 90% of the U.S. population by 2024, and the remaining 10% will take over a decade to deploy. Building this framework is a complex process that requires a lot of time and money, Dawson said.

Deere is also a member of the FCC's Precision Agriculture Connectivity Task Force, which just completed its first report outlining policy recommendations for the FCC and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to consider, to expand connectivity for ag producers. Dawson noted that in 2020 John Deere successfully obtained 5G licenses in five counties in Iowa and Illinois as part of the FCC's auction for the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) 3.5 GHz spectrum.

"We participated in the FCC's 3.5 GHz mid-band spectrum auction to bring 5G into our manufacturing facilities to improve internal processes and leverage the best technology for a smart, connected factory," Dawson said. "5G has so many benefits, ultimately creating a ton of the opportunity for farmers to leverage advanced technology like edge computing, analytics, and autonomy. This will result in greater efficiencies and productivity, ultimately creating more opportunity in the manufacturing field."