Behind the serene picture of rural America that is often painted with vast green pastures and slow-paced living, there is a technology infrastructure that powers the productivity of the American farmer. As someone from a farming family and as a leader in the broadband access field, Jill Kuehny lives at the intersection of these two important and complementary industries. In this interview, filmed at the NTCA’s 2023 SRC Live, Kuehny, CEO of member-owned Kanokla, shares insights on how technology is an integral part of the modern rural lifestyle.
Kanokla is a provider of broadband, voice services, and business IT services to customers on both sides of the Kansas and Oklahoma border. Additionally, Kanokla has a design studio and print shop (some of the clips in the above video are courtesy of Kanokla’s design studio). Kanokla is also embedded in its hometown of Caldwell, Kansas with a retail presence. More than a retail presence and tech center, it includes a renovated event space, called Upstairs Downtown, which is another way Kanokla brings its community together.
Agriculture Meets Tech
Kuehny, like many others in her community, wears multiple hats. The weekend before the above interview, she hopped onto a tractor, not just to help with the harvest on the family farm but to understand John Deere latest technology. From GPS location data to autosteer, tractors are more tech-savvy than ever.
Contrary to the perception of rural areas being technologically challenged, she believes farming is one of the most tech-forward industries. Whether it is leveraging online resources for troubleshooting, utilizing GPS for precise farming, or having real-time data on livestock, technology is a centerpiece of today’s farming operation.
This fusion of technology with farming has led to cost savings and efficiency for farmers. At SRC Live and as referenced in the above interview, NTCA’s VP of Policy and Innovation, Josh Seidemann, pointed out that, according to USDA data, there has been an increase in agricultural productivity of almost 300% in the past 75 years.
As the CEO of Kanokla Networks, Kuehny and her team are always scouting for ways to integrate technology to improve agriculture productivity. A notable achievement and the technology foundation for Kanokla and its customers was bringing fiber connectivity to farms in the region more than a decade ago. Today, every farm and ranch in their area has fiber. They’ve also implemented other access solutions like fixed wireless and continue to expand their fiber beyond their traditional serving area.
Community Revival through Technology
In the above interview, Kuehny shares stories of people moving back to their rural homes, bringing with them new ideas and tech-savvy expertise. One such story is one that Kanokla documented through a video (excerpts of which are in the above video). Sidwell Farms, whose leader came back to the farm after a time living abroad, is part of an operation that leverages its cattle and artisanal wheat to create a “grain-to-brew” and “farm-to-table” experience. This is one example of the younger, tech-oriented individuals that Kanokla’s fiber broadband network enables.
The Future of Rural Tech
Jill is optimistic about the future, seeing possibilities for autonomous farming where large machines operate remotely. While there is hesitancy due to the high costs and risks associated, she believes adoption will happen over time.
The rural landscape is no longer just about pastures, farmhouses, and cattle drives. It’s about connectivity, innovation, and efficiency. With leaders like Jill Kuehny and companies like Kanokla Networks at the helm, the fusion of technology and agriculture is reshaping the face of rural America.
- 00:11 – Kuehny provides an overview of what life is like in the area that Kanokla serves.
- 00:55 – Kanokla is the center of technology for the communities it serves.
- 02:09 – There is a great deal of windshield time in rural America.
- 03:31 – Technology is improving productivity.
- 06:05 – One of Kanokla’s farm customers is part of a vertically integrated (grain-to-brew and farm-to-table) restaurant and brewery.
- 07:02 – Automation frees people to do other things, such as creating an art class curriculum while driving a tractor.
- 07:44 – Autonomy will mean continued improvements in productivity.
- 08:51 – Kanokla makes virtual and physical connections with its community and beyond.
- 10:51 – The areas Kanokla serves are NTCA-certified Smart Rural Communities.