Fibre to the Farm – Protecting Manitoba’s Key Sector

combine harvesting

The economy of the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region is driven by the agriculture, transportation, and manufacturing sectors and if we are to grow and compete in these key sectors we must make significant investments in high-speed communications infrastructure. Lower densities and distances inherent in rural areas has resulted in a lack of service and prevented the expansion of high-speed Internet networks across the region, particularly for our farming communities within the Winnipeg Metropolitan Region and across Manitoba. 

Technology in agriculture is no longer an emerging field, but a rapidly advancing and profitable business opportunity with farmers across North America ready to take on new opportunities presented by the agri-tech industry.  

Technological advancements like sensors, devices, machines, and information technology are helping farmers make the transition to precision agriculture, allowing for better decisions on how to apply water, fertilizers, and pesticides, and develop better drainage plans that support agricultural production while also working to reduce negative environmental impacts. More than ever before, the sector is being driven by data that allows farmers to analyze and correlate real time information, providing them with valuable science and probability-based information on how they can improve efficiency, enhance yields, manage risk and increase profits. 

In a December 2018 article in the Manitoba Cooperatorby Gord Gilmour highlighted the frustrations farmers trying to access new technologies feel: “…There are many tantalizing high-tech prospects right on the horizon. But until they have access to an information infrastructure that can support them, their fate will be to watch farmers in better-served regions adopt them first, and to better effect due to the well-known first-mover advantage.”

Currently across Manitoba there is very limited access to the high-speed Internet infrastructure that is necessary to support existing and emerging technologies for our growing agriculture sector. This limits the ability for our region to increase and grow our competitiveness and fully realize opportunities that are available in other jurisdictions across Canada and North America.

Leaders from the region recognize that the future of farming may be very different from what we see today and investments must be made if the agriculture sector is to continue to grow and prosper. To ensure no one is left behind, 13 Mayors and Reeves through JohnQ have joined forces and initiated Connecting to Opportunity, a project aimed at ensuring equitable and affordable access to Internet infrastructure for residents and businesses, which includes fiber to the farm.

Ensuing investments are made in our communities to support our economy, our environment, and our way of life have always been the domain of leaders at all levels of government. Connecting to Opportunity – providing access to high-speed communications infrastructure should be no different – requires an all hands on deck approach.