We've all heard it before. You're on the phone to a farmer driving through regional South Australia and they alert you the call may drop out because they are predicting entry into a mobile blackspot.
In some way, sadly, it almost seems like an accepted practice in regional Australia. However, in today's day and age it shouldn't be.
Recently I read an article about work being done on the technology for 6G mobile phone coverage and telecommunication companies planning to switch off the 3G network.
In an era where COVID-19 has seen people seeking greater telehealth services, educating kids at home and working from their house, it is difficult to believe that mobile phone and internet coverage still remains in the dark ages for so many parts of South Australia.
Increasingly grain growers are relying on mobile phone coverage to implement technology on-farm and to collect critical data to inform their customers and markets.
And yet, some growers still have no mobile phone coverage, or at the very least, patchy and limited reception.
It's not only a daily frustration, but a lack of mobile phone reception is dangerous.
Too often the focus has been on upgrading mobile phone infrastructure in areas of high population.
Grants have been directed towards priority lists to boost mobile phone and internet coverage in or on the outskirts of metropolitan based areas.
Regional South Australia, home to graingrowers and agriculture commodities which are the backbone of the state's economy, have all too often been the city's poor cousin when it comes to mobile phone reception and internet connectivity.
So while conversation continues about switching off 3G mobile phone coverage, we need to do better to bridge the digital divide for grain growers based in our regional communities.
Without a solid connectivity infrastructure, it is not possible to reliably use artificial intelligence, analytics, connected sensors, and other emerging technologies to further increase yields, improve the efficiency of water and other inputs, and build sustainability and resilience across crop cultivation.
As an Eyre Peninsula grain grower recently said to me: "If they turn 3G off we'll be worse off because quite often when we are on the fringes, it's all we've got".
The grower went on to say that 3G provides slow internet but enough to send a text to sell their grain or accommodate a remote monitoring advice. And after all, that's better than nothing!
We need to give our farmers the opportunity to have the best connectivity at their disposal.
They deserve to be able to pick up the phone and make a call when they need it, without having to tell the person on the other end 'heads up, the signal is about to drop out.'
Start the day with all the big news in agriculture. Sign up here to receive our daily Stock Journal newsletter.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.