By ELLIOTT MINOR, AP Farm Writer
Speakers at the University of Georgia's Unwired 2005 Conference
predicted Tuesday that U.S. agriculture is on the verge of a
technological revolution that will allow farmers to complete many of
their chores from laptop computers in their homes or tractors.
"Wireless technology is not the technology of the future, it is the
technology of the present," said David Bridges, assistant dean of the
University of Georgia's College of Agricultural and Environmental
Sciences. "If we don't bring technology to rural areas, they won't
The two-day conference focused on the use of wireless technology to
improve farm efficiency and how high-speed wireless connectivity can
enhance the lives of rural residents, most of whom are limited to
slow-speed dial-up internet connections.
One of the speakers, Wade Mitchell, 59, connected to his farm in
Genesco Township, Iowa, from the conference room in south Georgia and
showed how he monitors environmental conditions in his grain bins
wirelessly through the internet.
He and his son, Clay, have one of the nation's most technology
advanced family farms. Their tractors, sprayers and harvesters steer
themselves using Global Positioning Satellite signals, freeing the
Wades to work at laptop computers while the equipment travels through
From their mobile offices, they can monitor machinery, check e-mail
and commodity prices, read the latest news and even order parts.
"By the time I get to the dealer, they're on the counter," Wade said
of his parts delivery.
Besides improving farm efficiency, Wade believe wireless connectivity
will have an added benefit for the environment by helping farmers
minimize pesticide applications by spraying chemicals more precisely.
John Helm, director of field services for Vivato, a Spokane, Wash.,
company that makes high-powered wireless equipment, said wireless is
coming to farms and rural areas because "we all like the convenience
of our mobility."
His company has helped utilities and communities set up wireless
networks to improve efficiency, to promote economic development and to
enhance the quality of life.
"It's an amenity that's required," he said. "In our culture, we
realize how much more we can do when we're connected."
The conference, which has attracted about 100 wireless experts from
around the nation, covers such subjects as funding large-scale
networks, wireless sensors and controls for the home and the farm and
even how to set up wireless networks.
Craig Kvien, who directs a high-tech University of Georgia
agricultural research lab in Tifton, said farmers strapped with
significantly higher fuel bills could benefit by controlling some of
their farm work through wireless networks.
"With the cost of fuel, a little wireless internet can save a lot of
money, natural resources and people's time," he said. "Ten years ago
you would never have thought of a farmer sitting in a tractor and
doing these things."
Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.
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