Satellite farming may sound like an invention taken from the pages of your favorite sci-fi novel. But with the rise of Starlink, using satellites to connect farmers and their technology to the internet is quickly becoming a real-world possibility.
In fact, it’s a reality that can’t come soon enough. As of 2021, nearly 30% of Americans living in rural farming locations don’t have a reliable broadband internet connection at home.
Starlink—the Elon Musk-backed constellation of satellites that intends to offer wireless connectivity around the globe—is set to change all that. Along with other space-based internet solutions like OneWeb, Starlink will bring high-speed internet to agricultural producers and help close the digital divide.
How will this newfound connectivity change the agriculture industry for the better? Let’s take a closer look.
Reliable Internet Access
For many farmers, having access to high-speed internet will be nothing short of life-changing.
The standard for a “fast enough” internet connection is, at least according to the FCC, a 25 Mbps download speed and a 3 Mbps upload speed. Even so, around 20% of Americans in rural and agricultural areas can’t reliably reach this benchmark. Many rely on a single provider for a slow, overpriced connection, while others drive significant distances to access usable internet.
Outside of the US, internet access for agricultural producers is even spottier. In some developing countries, terrestrial internet infrastructure lags behind, leaving many farmers needing a reliable connection to suppliers and customers.
Starlink will save countless farmers time, money and energy by making a reliable at-home connection practical and affordable.
Precision farming (also known as precision agriculture) is a strategy that involves using the right farming practice in the right way at the right time and place. While the idea has existed since at least the 1980s, satellite connectivity solutions like Starlink will make precision farming the norm, especially as more and more agricultural devices connect to the Internet of Things (IoT) to function optimally.
In practice, today’s precision agriculture is a “next-gen” approach to farming that combines long-standing agricultural knowledge with cutting-edge technology like:
- GPS – With a reliable internet connection, farmers can use GPS and agriculture satellite imagery to navigate their enormous tracts of land with precision and ease. Additionally, crop duster pilots can leverage GPS technology to spray chemicals more accurately.
- Drones – For a closer look at crops and livestock, farmers can fly IoT-enabled drones over their fields, taking high-resolution photos and videos to document crop health and changing conditions. Drones can even help create maps and 3D models of farmland.
- Robots – Automated machines connected to the IoT can greatly improve life on the farm. Robotic milking could transform the dairy industry, while robotically harvesting tree fruits and ground crops can help counter agricultural labor shortages.
Starlink provides a stable internet connection that allows all these solutions to communicate with one another and the farmstead.
Another technology that Starlink will enable is remote monitoring, a solution that allows farmers to observe changing conditions all over the farm—without having to cover vast distances. While remote monitoring technically falls under the umbrella of precision agriculture, it’s so vital to modern farming that it deserves its own category.
Using durable, weatherproof sensors, cameras and other devices, farmers can monitor the status of their crops and livestock from afar. For example, a remote farm monitoring system can provide insights into soil conditions, relaying real-time information about temperature, moisture levels and salinity to agricultural producers.
Additionally, remote sensors can monitor:
- Air quality
- Water quality
- Light levels
- Livestock vital signs
By adopting remote monitoring and other internet-enabled technologies, farmers can spend less time needlessly crisscrossing their land and more time upgrading their processes and equipment. With a Starlink connection, some available innovations include artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
These advanced solutions can help farmers identify pests, diseases and weeds with minimal effort, paving the way for fewer losses and increased yields. In the long term, that means more food to feed the US and the world.
More efficient farming will also be an economic boon for the country. According to a report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), if farmers fully adopt the best digital technologies—many of which rely on an internet connection—the industry could generate an additional $47–65 billion per year. Solutions like Starlink make full digital implementation accessible for more farmers than ever before.
A byproduct of more efficient agriculture is less waste. As such, satellite connectivity can usher in a new era of sustainable farming. For instance, intelligent irrigation systems can automatically turn on and off as needed, reducing the water wasted by every farming operation in the country.
Personal Quality-of-Life Improvements
Aside from the professional improvements, Starlink will also offer personal benefits to farmers. For instance, access to broadband internet means access to telehealth. As a result, agricultural producers will no longer have to ignore health concerns or drive hours for healthcare, so they can stay healthy and continue tending to the farm.
Lastly, internet connectivity allows for more personal enjoyment. After a long day in the field, agricultural producers with a broadband satellite internet connection can unwind by:
- Streaming high-resolution TV or movies
- Video calling with friends and family
- Playing online video games
These activities may not directly affect food quality or output, but they may help improve morale on the farm.
Stay Connected Wherever You Are with IP Access
As the world population keeps growing, high-quality, efficient agriculture is more critical than ever. Satellite connectivity organizations like Starlink can help farmers make the most of their time and money through access to the best available technology.
However, while Starlink will revolutionize the agricultural industry, it’s far from a perfect solution. Satellite internet is reliable, but something as commonplace as inclement weather can affect connectivity.
That’s why we developed FUSION—a connectivity solution that combines available cellular and satellite networks for seamless internet access. With FUSION, you can stay connected in the field, even as conditions change.
Although farmers stand to benefit from improved connectivity, agriculture is just one of the many interesting use cases for satellite internet. For more connectivity information and inspiration, check out our additional resources or contact us today.