Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) heard from multiple leaders about the intersection of tech and rural America in a hearing Thursday at the Southeast Technical Institute campus in Sioux Falls.
One of those individuals was Michael Adelaine, vice president for technology and security at South Dakota State University.
Other speakers included Brendan Carr, a commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission, José-Marie Griffiths, president of Dakota State University, Deanna Larson, president of Avera eCARE, Mark Shlanta, CEO of SDN Communications, and Craig Snyder, CEO of Vikor Teleconstruction.
Adelaine’s testimony follows:
Good afternoon, Chairman Thune and Sen. Fischer. Thank you for the invitation to testify today. It is my privilege to present on a topic that is so impactful for South Dakota and surrounding rural states. As vice president for technology and security, I am charged with supporting the land-grant mission of South Dakota State University that requires us to engage not only with students but all who live in South Dakota.
I would like to address specifically the intersection of broadband connectivity and precision agriculture. Precision agriculture is based on collecting data in real time and adjusting farm or ranch operations to correspond to the new information. Sensors can provide data on multiple aspects of the agricultural enterprise whether it be temperature, soil moisture or nutrient availability for plant growth. Sensors could also provide data on animal health, feed conversion and/or performance.
When we speak of improving connectivity, we need to talk about the 'last mile' ending at the farm or ranch. Many times, connectivity is described by what is available in the nearest local community. Once you are outside that area, broadband availability can drop off significantly. For precision agriculture to have the impact that agricultural scientists believe it can, data—and I mean big data—will need to flow freely from the field to the farm office, up to the cloud and back to the operation in near real time.
We can now analyze plant images to detect some plant diseases up to two days before the human eye can spot the problem. Being able to quickly move thousands of high-resolution images, acquired close to the plants in the field, currently is major barrier to widespread adoption.
South Dakota farmers planted approximately 13.5 million acres of corn, soybeans, winter wheat, spring wheat, and sunflowers in 2019. One day of hyperspectral imagery of every South Dakota crop acre with a coarse resolution of one pixel representing one square centimeter would yield a huge amount of data.
To put the challenge into perspective, if the imagery was acquired when the sun was at the optimum angle between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., it would take 1,500 high-speed fiber optic connections like the 100-gigabit connection SDSU has to move the images to computers for processing now.
Another way to look at it is, if agricultural researchers wanted to collect all the data possible from a single plant that would be 18.4 gigabytes per plant or 432 terabytes of data on the average field. The library of congress holds about 15 terabytes of data, so our average corn field holds over 28 times as much data to be processed in a growing season.
Because South Dakota has a highly variable production environment witnessed by the phrase 'Just wait a minute the weather will change' producers have become early adopters of technology to deal with variability? We strongly believe they will embrace new technologies and it can make a difference if we have the bandwidth.
A consultant company projected that precision agriculture is expected to increase gross state production by an additional $615 million to $1.5 billion from crop production alone in the next 10 years.'
I would like to say that SDSU is deeply committed to supporting precision agriculture. With its first in the nation precision agriculture program and investment by donors, we will be building an innovative technological facility with a commitment of over $46 million.
Sen. Thune, thank you for this opportunity on behalf of not only South Dakota State University, but also the people of South Dakota we serve. Our passion in the area of precision agriculture is evident and we are prepared to lead not only the nation, but the world in this growing industry.
Thank you for your consideration of this need and your efforts to transform rural America.