Ag and Broadband Intersect through OCED's Regional Broadband Consortium
OCED administers the San Joaquin Valley Regional Broadband Consortium, an initiative of the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley. As part of this initiative, the SJVRBC strives to improve broadband infrastructure, increase digital literacy and deploy AgTech across the region.
SJVRBC, via OCED, was awarded a California Emerging Technology Foundation grant in 2017 to develop and implement a pilot project to help farmers improve efficiency and reduce water usage while increasing crop yield. The project, called “21st Century Broadband: On-Farm Wireless Sensor Network AgTech Pilot Project”, wrapped up in November 2017 and findings were presented at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, CA on February 14, 2018.
“With a 2016 farm gate value of $7 billion, Fresno County ranks among the nation’s leading agriculture producers,” said Eduardo Gonzalez, SJVRBC program director, who presented the pilot project's findings at the World Ag Expo. “But its competitive edge hinges on the ability to manage finite water resources, especially when the region is faced with the devastating effects of drought and other barriers. This is why our pilot project is so valuable.”
The project utilized a comparative approach in the use and outcomes of wireless sensor networks in automated irrigation systems. SJVRBC and its collaborative partners -- Valley Vision, West Hills Community College District's Farm of the Future, Vast Networks, Wiseconn, and Fresno State’s Water, Energy and Technology (WET) Center -- provided equipment, technical assistance and training to three rural farmers in Fresno County.
The AgTech pilot project helped develop a comprehensive approach in utilizing broadband wireless sensor networks and AgTech applications to install, test and analyze water flow meters and on-farm wireless sensor networks. Data presented included comparative efficiencies, effectiveness, production results-crop yields and equipment cost and water savings. The ultimate outcome was to determine whether broadband played a role in agriculture production and water savings.