Recently, I had the privilege of attending an Agriculture Technology roundtable discussion put on by Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Andy Gipson.
I was pleased to learn that the Commissioner truly understands the integral role technology is playing in the agriculture industry – a role that will only increase in the future.
Mississippi farmers, representatives from Mississippi State University, Alcorn State University, legislators and industry stakeholders were present to engage in the discussion. Commissioner
Gipson vowed that the discussion was just the beginning with more like it to follow.
Over the past 15 months, technology’s importance was highlighted as the COVID-19 virus swept across the globe, wreaking havoc on our healthcare systems, education systems, small businesses, and our economy as a whole. In healthcare, doctors relied on telehealth to keep their patients safe. In education, teachers and students relied on remote learning via Zoom and Google Meets. Many small businesses relied on a combination of social media to sell and curb side pickup when storefronts were forced to close.
In fact, a recent report published by the Connected Commerce Council (3C) highlights the role technology is playing for small businesses, and found that digitally advanced businesses earned twice as much revenue and hired twice the number of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic than their less adept counterparts.
We, as Mississippi farmers, are expected to stay up-to-date with emerging technology just like any other industry, especially as agricultural jobs and equipment become increasingly sophisticated. Precision agriculture. Aerial images. GPS capabilities. Robots. These are a few of the things that are revolutionizing our industry. Just last year, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, unveiled prototype robots that can inspect individual plants in a field, to help farmers improve crop yields.
Of course, I would be remiss not to mention that any potential technology advancement will be hindered until we can bridge the broadband gap that is holding back many Mississippians.
Thankfully, however, our Mississippi delegation in Washington and our Mississippi state legislators and leadership have heard our voices and are working tirelessly to ensure that high-speed internet becomes more readily available.
Technology is here to stay. We must do our part to learn more about the tools offered and how to integrate them into our farms. I am thankful to Commissioner Gipson for fostering an informative discussion and look forward to future developments for agriculture technology.
Lisa Barker is a farmer in Yazoo County.