LAFAYETTE, Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch recently participated in a panel discussion discussing the need for broadband connectivity in the rural part of the state, emphasizing how expansion is an important step in fueling the future of the agricultural sector.
The purpose of the event was to demonstrate how innovation is changing the outcome we’ve seen in agriculture, and such innovations can only happen if we have a broadband connection, said Crouch.
It was kind of dual purpose. Understand that we have cutting-edge technology that is transforming the way farming is going and the results we get, but it’s not possible if we don’t have a broadband connection.
Within the state, there are several companies innovating in the field of agriculture, seeking to incorporate technology into the field.
One such company, Solinftec, an agricultural technology company based in West Lafayette, talked about their latest invention, the Solix Sprayer, a state-of-the-art autonomous robotic agricultural sprayer.
Unlike the traditional agricultural method, which would see farmers spraying their entire field of crops with pesticides in hopes of killing any invasive insects, the Solix Sprayer can remotely and autonomously scan a farmers crop to identify which specific portions of their field need to be treated with pesticides.
Solinftec said farmers who used the Solix sprayer on their bodies saw a nearly 80 percent reduction in pesticide use.
For many of the farmers who were participating in the roundtable, this news came as a surprise and led to buzz about how to incorporate this new technology into their practices.
But there was one major obstacle Solinftec ran into when trying to commercialize this invention for large-scale implementation in Indiana agriculture, and that was the lack of broadband connection in most counties in the state. focused on agriculture.
For the Solix sprayer to work properly, a strong internet connection is required to be present throughout the farmer’s field.
Looking for solutions to weak internet in rural areas
But within Montgomery County, where the event was held, farmers shared how the internet was so weak in the area they could barely handle streaming Netflix or even connecting to a Zoom call.
While farmers were intrigued by the new technology, with no real commitment from the state to expand high-speed Internet to the area, it seemed more like an interesting display piece rather than a future tool they could exploit.
That’s where Crouch reassured locals that the state was looking to expand broadband to every part of Indiana.
To date, the state has awarded $268 million in broadband grants, much of which has come here to Montgomery County, Crouch said.
The $268 million we invested will connect Montgomery and, when fully implemented, will connect 75,000 Hoosier households and businesses.
But the $868 million they would get from the federal infrastructure bill should go a long way in connecting every Hoosier to the last mile. And that will allow that kind of technology to really transform agriculture.
Crouch talked about how Indiana is able to revolutionize the agricultural industry by incorporating these new technological advances into the field.
But that would only be possible if Indiana made sure the state was in a technological position to take advantage of those new innovations.
The discussion was held at WCI Family Farms in Linden Ind., and hosted by the Wabash Heartland Innovation Network, a non-profit organization aimed at developing 10 counties in north central Indiana that have been underinvested when it comes to digitization needs of modern industry.
The 10 counties WHIN focuses on are Pulaski, White, Cass, Benton, Carroll, Tippecanoe, Warren, Fountain, Montgomery and Clinton County.
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