A Gap Analysis of Broadband Connectivity and Precision Agriculture Adoption in Southwestern Ontario, Canada
In Southwestern Ontario (Canada), the availability of broadband, or high-speed internet, likely influences the adoption of precision agriculture (PA) technologies and functions of these technologies which enable real-time data sharing between the field and the digital cloud, and back again to the farm-level user. This paper examines the reasons why PA technologies are, or are not adopted, and adoption in relation to varying levels of broadband access. Broadband access is defined here with variables such as availability at download/upload speeds and types of connection. We report the results of an online survey which collected information from field crop producers in Southwest Ontario as of November 2016 on their use of PA technologies. The survey data were cross-referenced to information on broadband within the region. Findings indicate that adoption of PA technologies among crop farmers in SW Ontario varies according to machine, product and service. Internet access (defined by the national standard of the time at five megabits per second (Mbps) download and one Mbps upload) was available on 37% of the farm premises surveyed. Over two-thirds of farmers surveyed lack sufficient symmetrical connectivity anticipated by integrated and cloud-based applications in precision agriculture. Only seven percent of respondents have access to fibre. Those users with access to high-speed internet are all adopters of at least one PA technology identified in this study. Age, farm size and income are relevant factors influencing PA adoption. It does not follow, however, that access to broadband (≥5 Mbps) is required for the adoption of (at least one) PA technology. There is an apparent gap between internet access and use of data generated by PA. Use of wireless-enabled data transfer from PA applications, was found to be low, due to two considerations: a) bandwidth and b) data security. There is an expectation, according to the opinion data collected in the e-survey that the internet is an important factor in future PA adoption and increasingly so for agricultural business.