Project: AGTECH PILOT

Agricultural has become increasingly reliant on technology for water and energy conservation, reduction of chemical inputs, and increased productivity. Most of this technology requires Internet access, yet many rural areas do not have access to broadband–technology-neutral, high-speed Internet access from both wired and wireless infrastructure. Without access to broadband, farmers and ranchers are unable to adopt new technologies necessary to stay economically viable.

What is the goal?

The goal is to document the need for broadband access in rural areas for agriculture. This documentation can then be used to support the investments necessary to increase access in those areas.

Why is this important?

Agriculture in the greater Sacramento region is valued at more than $4.4 billion and is a major driver of the farm to fork economy. The food and agriculture sector provides over 37,000 jobs. Yet farmers and ranchers remain at a disadvantage without proper access to 21st century technology infrastructure and the region’s agricultural lands continue to face constant pressure of development.

How does this improve people’s lives?

The food and agricultural industry is an unparalleled economic cluster for the Sacramento region, offering immense growth opportunities and sustainable economic vitality. Supporting our farmers and ranchers is crucial to growing this sector. New, broadband-enabled technologies can also help farmers and ranchers conserve water and energy, reduce chemical inputs, and increase productivity. Increasing broadband access in our rural communities helps to cross the digital divide, creating more equitable opportunities for farmers, farmworkers, and others.

What is Valley Vision’s role?

Valley Vision is working to support keeping ag land in agriculture. The project has three components: research, a grower’s survey, and a field study. The research conducted by Valley Vision summarizes findings on existing research, studies in progress, and research gaps. Our proximity to UC Davis, the premiere agricultural research university in the nation, gives us access to the most up-to-date information.

In partnership with the Yolo County Agriculture Commissioner’s office, Valley Vision administered a survey to growers in early 2017. The results show that 70% of growers have some coverage, while 30% have none. Among those who have coverage, no one reported 100% coverage. Additionally, growers are being innovative in their solutions, creating mobile hotspots and “rigging up” coverage that is ultimately unsustainable. Other survey findings are included in the final report.

The field study tested the efficacy of three cutting edge precision agriculture technologies. Valley Vision is partnered with AgStart – a nonprofit agtech incubator – and three Yolo County farmers to test new technologies with three different types of crops: almonds, grapes, and tomatoes. Key findings included:

  • a multi-year study is needed
  • as technology is increasingly being incorporated into farming, California farmers need to have access to it in order to stay competitive
  • farming with technology is a different way of farming — farmer education is needed on how to maximize the benefits of technology.

 

What is our desired impact?

To support our rural communities by increasing access to broadband.

When?

Valley Vision began working on this project in 2015. A final report is being reviewed and will be available in early spring 2018.

Our partners …

The California Emerging Technology Fund (CETF) is supporting pilot projects in Yolo and Fresno counties, two leading agricultural counties which have high levels of underserved and unserved rural agricultural areas. Valley Vision is also collaborating with California State University, Chico; Internet Society (ISOC); U.S. Department of Agriculture; and UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

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