I have been taught at a young age to pay attention to small details because without the small things there are really no big things that will be accomplished.
When Linda Neunzig came to me and asked if I would be willing to participate in the 5G Food Resiliency Project, I said “sure” without even knowing what this program was about. I have learned through the farming community that when Linda says she has an idea you listen and say “sure”.
We have never had very good connectivity and has been an issue for many rural areas around Washington state. Connectivity is something that many people take for granted where we have struggled with it through the years. Everything we do is through a low broadband hot spot or dish network. This makes bringing any sort of technology to Swans Trail Farms almost impossible unless we have the connectivity needed.
During the Covid Pandemic we as nation realized how fragile our food supply chain was do to lost labor, shipping and distribution problems. It was something that needs to be addressed and improved. As the CARES Act started settling in the county saw an opportunity to strengthen agriculture in Snohomish County and beyond. This is where technology comes into play, no other industry while equally important has seen a lack of technology implemented as Agriculture. Manufacturing, healthcare, banking to name a few who have seen huge strides through the years in technology while agriculture has seen very little. By implementing technology farms will be able to grow more food in a smaller amount of space. It will make our crops more efficient and farms will not be as depended on labor with more automation. The 5G Food Resiliency Project will advance technology in agriculture.
Think of the Food Resilience Project as a sandbox, its place to test new and cutting edge technologies that can be used in the future on different farms. Swans Trail Farms fit perfectly within the three criteria they were looking for. First and foremost our location to I-5 and Everett gave them the ability access sites needed to complete this project. Secondly we have apples which are the one of the top exports for Washington State along with a variety of crops such as Strawberries, corn and of course pumpkins. Thirdly we here at Swans Trail Farms are very excited about this program and how it can help benefit other farms in the valley and beyond.
We have started using these new technologies in the apple orchard which is a main priority for this project. Last week we put in moister probs and a weather station. Along with WSU Extensiond and Steve Mantle from Innov8 ag we will be monitoring the amount of water and nutrients our apples will be getting throughout the growing season. These water sensors are a fairly new technology that will tell us when we need to water and when to shut it off. Just like the human body the amount of water you give an apple tree will dictate the health of the tree. In the past it was done by just a feeling with no real data telling us if we needed to water our trees. It was basically a shot in the dark which we had no clue if we were watering too much or not enough. The moisture probs will give us the hard data that communicates a desired amount of water to grow the perfect tree. Washington State University also installed a cutting edge weather station that will measure anything and everything you can think of with weather. Each orchard has small microclimates within its orchard. This piece of technology will let us monitor those climates and react appropriately to the data gathered. As time moves on we will be excited to welcome other new innovative ways to bring technology to Swans Trail Farms.
The 5G Food Resiliency Project will be a step in improving agriculture and the way farms grow their crop. As my father farmer Ben always said nothing great ever happens, it takes many small steps of improvement to make great things happen. I know this project is one of those steps.