Canadian Farmers Say Software Is Crucial for Repairs

Canadian Farmers Say Software Is Crucial for Repairs

Every week, we get a roundup of recent developments in Right to Repair news, courtesy of Jack Monahan and Paul Roberts from Fight to Repair, a reader-supported publication. Sign up to receive updates in your inbox. (It’s free!) Or become a premium subscriber for access to exclusive content and live events!

Farmers are no strangers to promises about new technologies that are supposed to revolutionize everything. Gone are the days of horse-drawn combines—today’s combines steer automatically, produce reports on crop yields, and coordinate with drones and weather stations to determine how and when to fertilize. Together, these technologies are enabled by a new wave of machines that are being marketed to farmers to solve their biggest problems.

A salvage yard among green hills full of slightly rusty farm equipment
If its parts won’t talk to each other, a fancy new tractor isn’t really any smarter than the old ones in this junkyard.

But as anyone who’s ever struggled to get a computer to recognize a printer knows, “smart” products can look pretty stupid when they won’t talk to each other. Indeed, farmers have run into lots of problems with the interoperability of software-driven agriculture equipment. That’s why Canadian farmers have been pushing for a law that would require that interoperability is at least possible.

Big companies are using software to lock down their systems in the same way that companies like Apple do, making it hard for anyone else to fix or upgrade the machines that provide them their livelihoods. The Canadian interoperability bill has received a lot of support from the farming community, but it is currently stuck in the Senate.

As farming gets more and more complex and technology-dependent, we need common sense protections for interoperability, troubleshooting, and repair of that equipment. It’s important for farmers, for rural communities—and really, for any of us who eat.

More News

  • New Zealand wants to extend the lifespan of products: A country well known for its sustainability efforts is seeking to reduce waste through a proposed right to repair law. If passed, the bill would give consumers the right to repair their goods by obligating manufacturers to provide necessary information, spare parts, and tools for repairs.
  • The race for video game preservation: Older video games like the Super Nintendo have many technical intricacies, which is causing hobbyists to have trouble both preserving their software and hardware. There are countless consoles and aging devices that enthusiasts are scrambling to save, and the software locks on these consoles are giving preservers trouble—raising questions about the need to lock up software on video games that haven’t been sold in decades?
  • New extended security updates from Microsoft: An announcement from Microsoft says the company will keep computers that run on Windows 10 out of the trash, but the next step is to “automatically [extend] the life of these computers,” says Lucas Gutterman of U.S. PIRG. These updates, being directed at businesses and schools, point to the overarching issue of ensuring electronic devices receive long-standing software support to ensure they can be used for as long as possible.