Brattle economists have authored a report demonstrating the potential of wireless technology to not only help U.S. farmers more efficiently manage water use, but to also add substantial value to the agricultural industry. Among the report’s key findings is that wireless technology as a primary method of internet access has grown by more than 950 percent across U.S. farms between 2005 and 2013.

Prepared for the CTIA Wireless Foundation, the Brattle report highlights the benefits associated with the adoption and use of wireless technology in U.S. agricultural production, including: i) providing real-time access to weather and market conditions to help mitigate risks from natural disasters, weather patterns, and commodities price fluctuation; and ii) preventing farmers from both over- and under-watering crops through use of soil moisture monitors, which allow farmers access to information on the actual soil moisture needs of their fields. With this information, the authors point out that farmers are able to make more efficient irrigation decisions, enabling them to conserve water, increase productivity and profit, and improve water quality.

While wireless use by farmers has increased notably, the report finds that there is still significant room for greater adoption in the agriculture industry. The use of moisture sensing devices was the fastest growing irrigation decision-making method between 2003 and 2013, but a large share of farms still have yet to adopt these technologies. The authors conclude that in the coming years, more farmers will need to employ wireless solutions to conserve water and boost crop production in order to maintain this critical component of the U.S. economy.

The report, “The Farmer and the Data: How Wireless Technology is Transforming Water Use in Agriculture,” is authored by Brattle Principal David Sunding, Associate Martha Rogers, and Principal Coleman Bazelon. It is available for download below. Additional information can also be found on the CTIA website.

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The Farmer and the Data: How Wireless Technology is Transforming Water Use in Agriculture