Committee hears of grain producer connectivity drop-out

A Federal Parliamentary Committee has heard about the connectivity plight of South Australian grain producers during a hearing in the South Australian Parliament.

Grain Producers SA (GPSA) Chief Executive Officer Brad Perry provided evidence last week from the experience of grain producers in South Australia when dealing with unreliable connectivity on-farm.

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Communications and the Arts is undertaking an inquiry into ‘Co-investment in multi-carrier regional mobile infrastructure’.

“Many areas where our grain producers live and work in regional and rural South Australia have a low population base. In fact, South Australia’s regional areas are generally low in population compared with interstate regional centres,” Mr Perry told the Committee.

“Grain producers are significant contributors to South Australia’s economy and need accessible, reliable, affordable connectivity to do business. Without it, they struggle to adopt the latest technological innovations or even to do the basics, such as undertaking business in real time out in the paddock or in the office.

“For broadacre cropping, reliable connectivity is critical to ensure producers get the most out of their significant investment in digital agricultural machinery.

“With the high price of inputs, reducing costs through accuracy by utilising precision agricultural equipment is important. To do that, you need full connectivity. There is no room for patchy reception.”

Mr Perry told the Committee that it’s important that grain producers who contribute significantly to the South Australian economy, but live in sparsely populated regions, are a priority in mobile phone blackspot funding allocations.

“When a telecommunications company is co-investing with government in what is a very expensive infrastructure project, it comes down to how many customers they can get on that coverage. In the end, they are going to get closer to at least a regional or metropolitan (centre) rather than, say, the 20 grain producers who populate a huge amount of land and probably contribute highly to the economy.”

The 3G switch off which is occurring over the course of the next 18 months was also raised.

“One point to finish with is whether there is any consideration to 3G being turned off shortly. There have been some concerns from grain producers about that and what that will mean.

“Some of them only get access to 3G and nothing else. I wonder whether there is an opportunity to utilise that change for greater coverage.”