Appreciating the foundation

Matt Mcintosh Correspondent North America
Autonomous implements, drones, monitoring systems – all of them would be impossible without wireless communication. - Photo: Canva
Autonomous implements, drones, monitoring systems – all of them would be impossible without wireless communication. - Photo: Canva

Communication technology underpins advances in production. Let’s show some love and respect for the humble wireless signal.

I do not enjoy social media – but it sure can be useful. From Twitter to Tick-Tock, social media platforms have allowed people worldwide to communicate what might otherwise be untold or unknown stories. The media and commentary streaming from war-torn Ukraine offer the best current example, providing those of us living in safer harbours a first-hand glimpse of the tragedy. It’s also highlighted the humanity of the multitudes who have opened their wallets, homes, vehicles, and freezers to help the growing Ukrainian diaspora.


Unfortunately, these platforms are also heavily infected with misinformation, not to mention a good dose of malfeasance and bigotry. Really, our collective connection with social media, and communication technologies more generally, gives me abusive relationship vibes – sometimes it’s great, but other times completely destructive.

This dichotomy is one the agricultural community knows well. Widespread media use and abuse has caused many problems – extremist groups spewing falsehoods or misconstrued narratives about farm practices and biotechnology; anti-science beliefs from both far ends of the political spectrum; misguided statements resulting in trade and policy problems; I could go on…

Modern communication tools have allowed farmers to connect directly with those outside the sector

But simultaneously, modern communication tools have allowed farmers, ranchers and other agricultural professionals to connect directly with those outside the sector. Working in Canadian agriculture for over a decade, I’ve seen this happen and evolve in real time to, I would argue, the benefit of anyone open to benefiting from it.

Those buying food have been able to see how it reaches their plate. Farmers have been able to share their lives with an interested public, or connect with one another for business, to fix problems, influence policy, and so on.

It’s also helped agricultural journalists find stories and sources, which personally, has been pretty valuable. In fact, I would be hard pressed to do much of my day job – that is, regularly contribute to a Europe-based publication while living in Canada – without relatively recent advances in communication technology. Now that instant communication is the norm, however, I’m not sure communication technology in general gets enough appreciation and respect.

Wireless communication makes modern farming possible

Advances in this realm underpin every other advance (or perhaps most) in modern agriculture. GPS is a form of communication technology. Autonomous implements, drones, monitoring systems – all of them would be impossible without wireless communication. Even the humble radio and landline telephone, when you really think about it, is still an astounding feat in human history.

I propose we all take a few seconds, set aside the flashy, perpetually “game changing” advances, and really appreciate what communication technology has done for us as ranchers, growers, and agricultural professionals. The ability to invisibly send signals to objects and other people was the real game-changer. Most everything else is just an extension on the house – an attractive space, but useless without the foundation.

This is not meant to be a hot take. It’s just a reminder to be appreciative, and hopefully reconsider our responsibility in using communication technologies, even when there’s a gremlin in the auto-steer system or social media gets visceral.