Digital technology drives smart farms
Digital services and internet connectivity are often more associated with delivering economic benefit to urban environments rather than rural areas.
But in New Zealand and other countries around the world with economies where agriculture plays a big part, it is important to narrow the gap between the level of digital services found in cities and towns and our farming regions.
This week, Communications Minister Simon Bridges and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy, announced $1.6m worth of funding for two workstreams to promote the uptake of digital technology across Canterbury, and identify any problems with coverage.
‘‘Canterbury has identified connectivity as vital to economic growth,’’ said Simon Bridges. ‘‘A key focus is around reducing the digital divide between town and country, particularly given rural Canterbury generates much of the prosperity of the region.
‘‘We want to encourage businesses, particularly those in rural areas, to get on board with faster broadband by sharing success stories of how it’s making a difference. For example, for farmers, improved connectivity helps them gather data to farm smarter – using technology for environmental monitoring, such as effluent and water control, and for online shopping.’’
He said the workstream aimed to have 95 per cent of farms accessing broadband by June 2019.
Technology can help with all sorts of things, including the smart use of irrigation and freshwater management, which improve land productivity.
Our farmers should seize the opportunity to get ahead. Digital technology is helping their counterparts in some of the most impoverished countries in the world, so there’s no excuse for a relatively rich country like ours to fall behind, providing there is sufficient investment and affordability is addressed.
For the past five years, smartphones have enabled farmers in Tanzania for example, access up-to-date weather information through a mobile app called Tigo Kilimo. Meanwhile, the Connected Farmer mobile programme in East Africa sends current market prices to farmers’ phones, so they can manage payments and sell produce at the best possible prices. Think of the opportunities even greater connectivity and services could deliver to New Zealand.
Digital technology can help irrigation systems operate more efficiently.