Blog & Tools

How the Internet helps boost agriculture productivity

The Wheat Growers is a well-established agricultural cooperative that’s grown beyond its name.

The 90-year-old organization was founded in 1923 as the South Dakota Wheat Growers Association. However, these days the group goes simply by Wheat Growers, an acknowledgment that its membership extends into North Dakota as well as South Dakota.

The fact that present members produce far more corn and soybeans than wheat is another matter.

The type of crops grown in the Dakotas has changed over the years, says Bill Pool, director of communications and marketing for the Aberdeen-based organization.

“You can grow really good corn and really good soybeans here,” Pool said.

The role of technology in agriculture has changed a lot, too.

“Technology in agriculture is just phenomenal,” he said.

The Wheat Growers, for example, equips 48 sales agronomists with iPads to enhance their ability to access information.

SDN Communications of Sioux Falls plays a small but significant role in helping the Wheat Growers stay connected with its employees, members, and customers by providing the organization a Frame Relay circuit between McLaughlin, in northwestern South Dakota, and the group’s headquarters in Aberdeen.

Altogether, the Wheat Growers has 37 locations in the Dakotas, including grain elevators and agronomy service centers. The sites are heavily concentrated near a line running roughly from the Mitchell, S.D., area to Jamestown, N.D.

The Wheat Growers have approximately 600 employees, 5,500 patron-owners, and 9,600 customers. Technology helps keep information flowing among them. That’s where companies such as SDN help.

SDN operates behind scenes

Agriculture is largely based in rural areas where broadband service isn’t always available. That means that not every farmer, rancher and agri-business person full access to high-tech tools. Technology is playing an expanding and increasingly important role in agricultural production, however.

In some parts of the country, farmers can control irrigation equipment with a few clicks on a smartphone. Other products can control the amount of crop seed, herbicide or fertilizer applied to a tract of land. Satellite technology even provides steering guidance to tractors in fields and tracks trucks on their way to market.

In many cases, simply providing access to data or voice communication on a mobile device is a big help. A farmer taking grain to market might want to check the price of corn, for example, or report an equipment problem.

SDN helps carry those types of messages on a broadband superhighway that runs across the middle of South Dakota, from east to west, and connects with other lines.

Consumers benefit from SDN’s role in helping agriculture, even if they don’t buy anything directly from the company. SDN considers it important for consumers to know about the company’s role.

A series of new TV ads help explain SDN’s role in keeping the region’s high-tech infrastructure up and running. The ads focus on three key industries:

SDN there when needed

The ad about agriculture, the most recent addition to the mix, includes video showing corn being loaded into a truck and farm equipment being prepared for use It also includes an image from the other end of the production cycle: a woman in a grocery store crossing strawberries off a shopping list app on a smartphone.

A voice narrating the advertisement says:

”Unless you track the corn market in real-time, you might not see the benefit of SDN's high-speed internet. You might not need SDN's Managed Hardware expertise unless you sell satellite-guided ag technology that brings food from fields to dinner tables worldwide. And unless you like a little extra help organizing your grocery list, you're probably not affected much by how SDN connects cell towers.”

The ad closes with the same line as the other ads about key market sectors served by SDN: “Not just anybody needs SDN, but we’re there for anybody who does.”

The ads also incorporate SDN’s slogan “Enjoy the uptime,” a reflection of the highly reliable connectivity that the company provides businesses and other organizations. The slogan also reflects SDN’s dedication to quickly repairing any network problems that arise.

You can see the new ad about agriculture, as well as the company’s ads about other industries, on SDN’s YouTube channel. The most recent ad is posted below.