An Urgent Call for Rural Broadband on California Ag Lands

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Author: Bob Gore

OK, I’m asking for your help here, for a worthy and mutually beneficial effort. First, here’s a free tip and something that’s not widely known.

The “brainiacs “at Lawrence Livermore National Lab in Berkeley have invented the first viable nitrogen sensor for soil, according to a friend of mine at the USDA. For those of you who don’t snap to this, it’s potentially huge.

Farmers worldwide, prompted by California regulators as always, must throttle back on the nitrogen fertilizer because of serious groundwater pollution. Get it? The N sensor is the first ag tech step in controlling applied nitrogen. It can be connected to water management and to compliance.

Now, about your help. …

Ag tech developers, like all cutting-edge professionals, have an obligation to a relevant higher good. In this case, using ag tech enterprises to bring economic development (i.e., jobs) to people in disadvantaged rural communities.

This entails an obvious benefit to developers, as it means sale of services and products.

Or, as an environmental leader friend once said, “Do well doing good.”

We convened the pro bono California AgTech Roundtable last week to focus on one essential step, without which neither you nor disadvantaged rural folks will progress: broadband.

For all the gee-whiz and genuine benefits of ag tech, it doesn’t work without broadband, and large chunks of rural California are without broadband. The Roundtable (see members below) wants your help, NOW.

You need to turn your keyboards to a productive mission, briefly. Urge the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to require the telecoms to build out rural California. With the burgeoning sensor market (one to four of them on every tree and vine), it’s a paying proposition some fail to appreciate.

CPUC President Michael Picker and new Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves are receptive targets. Michael is a former colleague from the Schwarzenegger governor’s office, and Martha is a long-time professional acquaintance. Both will help.

Or email Assemblymember Anna Caballero, chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee, to put rural broadband capacity-building on the agenda of the new and as-yet-unannounced Assembly Select Committee on Rural Economic Development. (You read it here first!)

Experts that you are, I’ll bet you can find their emails within five clicks, max.

Hints: MP6@cpuc.ca.govmga@cpuc.ca.gov and https://lcmspubcontact.lc.ca.gov/PublicLCMS/ContactPopup.php?district=AD30.

I am not simply writing you. This week, I will address the California Emerging Technology Fund to push them to accelerate their prolonged program for broadband in rural California.

But wait, there’s more! Stay tuned to this blog for more ag tech insights and tips from the AgTech Roundtable. Who’s that? The leading ag organizations, academic researchers and state regulators (a.k.a. market-makers).

AgTech readers will be reading thoughts from these and other genre leaders: David Bunn, Director, Department of Conservation; Don Cameron, Terra Nova Ranch and Board of Food and Ag Member; Clint Cowden, Director, Farm of the Future at West Hills College Coalinga; Dennis Donohue, Director, Western Growers Ag Innovation Center; Patrick Dosier, Owner, TransValley Ag Tech and agronomist; Brian Leahy, Director, Department of Pesticide Regulation (and pioneering organic farmer); Mark Linder, SVP, AgraLogics; Darrin Polhemus, Deputy Director, State Water Resources Control Board and ag engineer; Robert Tse, USDA economic development officer for California; Gabe Youtsey, Chief Innovation Officer, University of California Division of Ag and Natural Resources … to name a few of your new BFFs.