Internet Connectivity: Becoming a Data-Driven Farm

Prospective customers often ask how the data collected from our various farm labor tracking devices in the field transmits to a computer. Being an urban/suburban dweller myself, I make the poor assumption that all Americans have access to good Wi-Fi and cellular networks in the 21st century. Isn’t the internet everywhere? Actually…. no.

The following statistics are from the article, “For the First Time, Census Bureau Data Show Impact of Geography, Income on Broadband Internet Access”:

  • In the average “mostly urban” county, over 75 percent of households have a subscription to broadband internet.
  • The average county classified as “mostly rural” has a household subscription rate of approximately 67 percent.
  • The average “completely rural” county has a subscription rate of 65 percent.
  • Many tech companies see this lack of internet access and connectivity as an opportunity—including Microsoft (check out this video about FarmBeats). However, these solutions are still in-work—and too expensive—for most farmers. Until the costs go down or Wi-Fi becomes more widespread (another slow process, requiring funding), farmers cannot rely on sending “real-time” data from the field to the office. It is a great goal but is still out of reach for many in the Ag Industry based on the current state of accessible and affordable technology.

Initial testing of our FairPick harvest scale system in Othello and Mattawa, Washington was an eye-opening experience for our engineering team. We had to develop our systems to work consistently and reliably with or without connection to the internet. To take it a step further, we’ve developed contingency plans if labor data must be pulled off “manually” from the devices Nothing is worse than trying to run payroll without the piecework and hourly data you need to get the job done. We are intentional about how we design our labor tracking systems because we know who is using them and where our users are located and the constraints and challenges of the Ag environment.

So can you become a data-driven farm without a reliable network connection? Yes, you can use the FairTrak, FairPick, QuickPick, InstaCaliper, and even MobileClock without internet connectivity all day. It just takes a quick "sync" or "upload" and an adequate Wi-Fi connection to push the data up to your Portal to run your reports and do your payroll. Are you set up for real-time data collection? So are we. Install a SIM card into our rugged devices to capture and sync data from the field to the Cloud. Until we're all on a level playing field, Ag tech companies have to accommodate both the best- and worst-case scenarios.