28 May, 2019
Brazil's lack of dependable internet service in rural areas is an increasingly critical problem for farmers.
It comes at a time when more agriculture equipment arriving on the market depends on modern telecommunications. Some pieces of equipment require the internet for computer software updates. These programs help the machinery operate at full capacity.
Brazil's agriculture industry has grown quickly over the past 10 years. This has put the country as a leader of food production worldwide. But problems involving technology and other infrastructure remain. This includes the issue of internet coverage.
TIM Participações is the Brazil-based business of Telecom Italia Spa, Italy's largest telecommunications company. The business estimates that less than 10 percent of Brazilian farms have internet access. As a comparison, over 70 percent of farmers in the United States have access to high-speed internet. That information comes from a 2017 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"This is a structural issue that we have in Brazil that we need to solve," notes Christian Gonzalez. He is an official with Case IH, the agricultural machines division of CNH Industrial NV. He spoke with the Reuters news agency.
Gonzalez pointed out that modern equipment such as harvesters and planters can be updated while they are operating. This makes them able to produce more with less wasted time or effort.
U.S. equipment maker John Deere was one of the first to try and deal with this problem. In 2018, John Deere partnered with telecommunications provider Tropico to provide rural internet service in Brazil. They offered to set up equipment on farms to provide internet connectivity to machines and vehicles.
Other businesses, such as Brazilian telecom companies Oi and TIM, are doing something similar.
TIM joined forces with agricultural product suppliers such as Agco Corp, Case, Bayer and Trimble to develop the ConectarAgro program. This software program operates 4G internet connections, among the fastest in the world.
Rafael Marquez is marketing director at TIM, which signed agreements to provide 4G internet to two major farming groups in Brazil. He says the lack of internet harms Brazilian farmers' ability to be competitive in the market.
He noted, "The farmer wants to use apps in the field, he wants to send a video to his agronomist when he sees a ... problem ... they want to be online."
TIM hopes to reach 5 million hectares of farms covered by internet by the end of the year. In all, Brazil has around 65 million hectares of farmland.
TIM's competitor Oi signed a deal to provide internet to one of the farms directed by soybean producer and trader Amaggi. It will bring internet to the 87,000-hectare Tucanaré farm in Mato Grosso state.
I'm Jonathan Evans.
Marcelo Teixeira reported this story for the Reuters news agency. Pete Musto adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
agronomist – n. a scientist who works with the methods used by farmers to raise crops and care for the soil
capacity – n. the ability to do something; a mental, emotional, or physical ability
infrastructure – n. the basic equipment and structures that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly
online – adj. connected to a computer, a computer network, or the Internet
update – n. a change or addition to computer software that includes the most recent information