Strengthening and expanding rural Internet access is a key objective of the federal government, which recently launched a rural broadband fund to support development and connectivity.
But sometimes, farmers need to take matters into their own hands, said Jesse Hirsh, who has added to his experience in the tech sector by becoming a small-scale grower in the Ottawa Valley.
“It’s essential not to wait for companies to set you up, but to figure out how you and your neighbours can set you up,” Hirsh said during a Farm Credit Canada webinar on December 15, hours after a fibre connection had been laid to his property to overcome connectivity challenges. Even then, Hirsh cut out during his explanation of how to overcome the challenges.
“This is a problem a lot of farmers face, partly because the Internet has always favoured cities rather than rural communities,” he said. “So even though you hear a lot about the future being in the cloud being in technology, you have to have the on-ramp to the information super-highway in the first place, and unfortunately I’m here to tell you that may be up to you.”
Hirsh recommended that farms with substandard Internet set up their own on-farm networks, complete with a server that can provide data storage and processing services.
“You can create, literally, your own Internet networks whether on your own property, whether on the properties you rent or whether throughout your region or throughout your neighbourhood,” he said.
Hirsh’s presentation attracted producers from across the country. BC farmers and representatives of the BC Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries were well represented.
Recently, BC launched a $3 million agritech grant program to support the development of “technology that will help farmers increase their productivity and economic opportunity.” Companies employing 10 people or more are eligible for grants of up to $500,000 covering no more than 25% of project costs.