Crow Surveys Role of Small Business in Ag-Tech and Impact of New Technologies on Small Farms
Washington, January 9, 2020
Washington, D.C.— Today, the House Small Business Subcommittee on Innovation and Workforce Development, chaired by Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO), held a hearing examining how small businesses are driving growth in the agricultural technology (ag-tech) industry and how these technological developments are benefiting America’s small farms.
“Farming and agriculture are at the heart of strong economies around the country,” said Chairman Crow. “Agriculture technology, or ag-tech, provides an opportunity to help farmers increase yields and profitability while reducing waste and environmental impact. The increased use of ag-tech has the potential to address challenges our country and the world will face over the next century.”
In recent years, the ag-tech industry, in part driven by small business, has created a variety of new technologies that have led to greater efficiency in farming. New developments like advanced machinery, robotics, sensors, information technology, and aerial imagery have made small farms more profitable and efficient. For small farms, ag-tech can even the playing field with their larger competitors by allowing them to produce more while lowering their costs. The hearing also delved into ag-tech’s potential to give America’s small farms a role in addressing national and global problems like climate change, rapidly rising food demand, and the rebuilding of rural communities.
In 2018, global investment in technology across the food and agricultural supply chain reached $16.9 billion. These investments have the potential to empower small businesses, drive growth in rural economies, and support local initiatives like broadband and infrastructure. But small agricultural businesses face a variety of potential pitfalls, including a deficiency of qualified workers, lack of funding sources for technological research, and unreliable rural broadband.
During the hearing, members discussed these challenges with small farmers and representatives from ag-tech firms and ways that Congress can work to address these problems.
“Prior to the “Internet of Things” (IoT) revolution, sensors were not generally connected to the internet, and as a result, data was gathered manually, normally by the grower, when time permitted,” said Kevin M. France, President and CEO SWIIM System, Ltd. In Denver, CO. “Now, sensors are being connected to the internet, and data is being made available in near-real-time. Growers need better access to this game-changing technology in order to sustain our agricultural economy in the face of ever-increasing water shortages.”
“Agriculture has the highest fraction of small business employment of any single sector in the U.S. economy, while at the same time, agriculture has the most opportunity at hand in closing longstanding technology gaps,” said Dr. David Potere, Head of GeoInnovation at Indigo Agriculture in Boston, MA. “Getting the right technology investments into this sector now has the potential to be transformative in Rural America and beyond.”
“While we face a myriad of challenges as small farmers and small business owners, we remain committed to a mission of feeding our communities while remaining careful stewards of Colorado’s natural environment,” said Roberto Meza, Co-Founder and Farmer of Emerald Gardens in Bennett, CO. “Innovative technologies, both high-tech and low-tech, are helping us get there.”
“As American farmers and ranchers struggle to compete in a global marketplace partly because of the Administration’s unnecessary trade war, public investment in research and broadband infrastructure is critical,” said Chairman Crow. “Congress must ensure that ag-tech is accessible and effective in helping American farms of all sizes produce the food, fiber, and fuel that we all rely on.”