When you ask people around the country what pastimes they would associate with the state of Tennessee, most answers will likely include country music, bourbon and great BBQ. While those pastimes are definitely part of the local culture, what is commonly overlooked is Tennessee’s commitment to agriculture and farming.
Farmland covers roughly 44% of Tennessee’s available land, which its farmers use to produce commodities such as livestock, poultry, soybeans, corn and cotton. The state’s economy relies heavily on these homegrown goods that historically required people to operate equipment such as tractors to farm the land.
The rise and development of AI has had an immediate impact on industries all over the world, and it was only a matter of time before farmers took advantage of the recent developments in autonomous technology.
To fill this uptick in demand, AI farming startups such as Rabbit Tractors have developed autonomous farm robots that can execute multiple tasks and can be scaled up as needed. These new smart tractors are electric, lightweight and cost less to operate than traditional tractors.
If this sounds very similar to what is happening in the automotive industry with Tesla, you are starting to get the bigger picture. As farming becomes more and more automated, rural areas like Tennessee will need to make the decision to invest in IT infrastructure that is low-cost, power-efficient and can send data from the edge of the network back to the public cloud.
Not having access to this necessary infrastructure has an effect on the day to day life of farmers in the pacific northwest. Yvonne Cerrato, owner of Two Creek Farm in Willamina, Oregon, expressed her challenges,
“On our farm we have had difficulty with reliable internet, which puts us at a disadvantage keeping up with real-time changes in market trends. Sometimes we can’t watch the news or fill orders during stormy weather because of our poor satellite internet connection.”
These are obstacles that many farmers all over the country must overcome, making the quest to bring faster internet to rural areas that much more important. If there is one group who understands what this means for the region it’s the Governor’s office. This past week Governor Bill Lee made the landmark decision to award $61 million to the Tennessee Emergency Broadband Fund grants to improve access to broadband internet across the state.
The importance of this commitment to improving the state’s IT infrastructure cannot be understated. So when you look at that farmer’s field and think that a farm is as far away from high tech as you can get, think again. Innovation is happening there right now in rural places like Tennessee. We’ll likely learn more about autonomous vehicles from farms than from Silicon Valley.