How will 5G impact US agriculture?

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How will 5G impact US agriculture?

Who wouldn’t agree that if there is one sector that we all as human race really need to become more efficient and prosperous using all the possible technologies such as IoT, it’s the Agriculture sector.

It is directly connected with how prosperous and peaceful we are as societies as well as nation states.

5G networks and IoT are great opportunities for the world to tackle challenges that the rising population and climate changes are posing to the future not so far from today.

Smart Farming is name of the technological evolution in the field of agriculture on the back of IoT and cloud computing. Smart Farming solutions will provide farmers and the agricultural industry at large with the infrastructure to leverage advanced IoT technologies for tracking, monitoring, automating and analyzing their agricultural and industrial operations.

Service providers and mobile operators are modernizing their network infrastructure in a substantial way, bringing network resources to the edge and integrating far distances through technologies such as small cells and Massive MIMO to get ready for much awaited 5G roll-out and its industrial scale services in a number of sectors including agriculture.

Most important Industrial IoT market on Planet?

One of the more startling statistics about our ever increasing population comes from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization which states that, in order to feed our growing numbers, farmers across the globe will have to grow 70% more food in 2050 than they did in 2006.

At first, this may sound a nearly impossible task given the ever-changing nature of our environment. Climate change, soil degradation and water shortages are all hurdles that continue to increase in size over the years.

However, our desire to continue to create and improve technologies that assist us in our struggles has driven the evolution of technological feats such as Industrial IoT and its agriculture applications we refer to as “Smart Farming IoT”.

What is Smart Farming?

Smart farming or Smart Agriculture is the term used to describe the adoption of modern information and communications technologies in order to enhance, monitor, automate or improve agricultural operations and processes.

Sensors collect information such as soil moisture, fertilization, weather and transmit that through a gateway over cellular wireless network to a central hub providing farmers real time access to information and analysis on their land, crop, livestock, logistics and machinery.

This enables the smart farm to improve its operational performance by analyzing the data collected and acting upon it in ways that increase productivity or streamline operations.

Today, countless farms around the world are beginning to implement IoT-enabled technologies and seeing the benefits. With 5G speeds and bandwidth, more applications are set to emerge taking the IoT in agriculture to new heights.

From helping with the irrigation of blueberries in Chile, to the helping to fight crop diseases in India, the sheer number of potential applications of IoT technologies in agriculture almost appears limitless.

There are, however, a few hurdles still left in the way before globalized adoption becomes a reality.

Interesting Case Study in this Video:

Uganda Smart Farming: Methods to mitigate climate change effects

Cost is at the forefront of every farmer’s mind and, given the poor state of the industry in some of the world’s less affluent nations, it could take a while before the newer technologies become affordable for them.

There is another side to this coin as well though, as increased innovation and production of these technologies means that even premium equipment will soon be supplanted by superior models, thus reducing the price of older equipment that would still bring many benefits to currently offline farms.

Applications of Smart Farming IoT

So what are these technologies and how can they help?

Given the huge variety in niche equipment needed to successfully run a modern-day farm, it will come as no surprise that the IoT technology available to the agricultural industry today is just as varied and also has the benefit of being able to be made bespoke to a specific requirement.

This provides the much needed precision farming equipment needs in order to optimize and streamline traditional agricultural operations while also being able to feedback information on equipment use and performance, maintenance and repair data and environmental conditions.

This enables farmers who adopt these technologies to further increase their productivity and the speed at which they are able to operate.

In order to understand the benefits to Smart Farming technologies can bring, let’s look at where they could be applied and how they could help improve farming and agriculture.

1- Water Management

Irrigation systems are one of the most common features of any farm or agricultural site. In order to optimize irrigation systems, farmers could access data collected from remote sensors and use it to analyze where their water resources should be directed, in what kind of volume and for how long, and all from their connected laptop, tablet or smartphone.

2- Fertigation

Fertigation is defined as the injection of fertilizers, soil amendments and other products typically needed by farmers into soil.

With an IoT-enabled fertigation solution, farmers could remotely control how many fertilizers are injected and within what volumes.

It would also enable them to monitor fertilizer concentrations and other environmental conditions, such as ph, in the soil using remote sensors and adjust to the required levels if necessary.

3- Livestock Safety and Maturity Monitoring

Anyone who’s ever worked on a livestock farm will tell you that, sometimes, animals tend to wander off.

With IoT-enabled sensors producing real-time livestock data such as GPS positioning, farmers will be able to keep track of even the most determined-to-travel animals.

There are even systems being developed that provide real-time biomedical data on livestock such as body temperature, pulse and even tissue resistivity.

4- Crop Communication

As the world becomes ever hungrier, farms will need to be able to keep up with global crop requirements.

In order to do so, Smart Farming IoT solutions can be deployed to enhance production, minimize waste and costs and improve resource consumption.

The ability to monitor the condition of the soil in which your latest crop is planted via your smartphone or tablet is something most farmers would jump upon if given the chance.

5- Drilling, Seeding and Spraying

Driver-less vehicles have a major application in Smart Farming IoT once that market matures. Remote controlled autonomous tractors built to do functions such as drilling, seeding and spraying are already being deployed in pilot projects and have shown incredible results.

6- Aerial Crop Monitoring

Monitoring a vast field to expose issues related to soil variation, fungus and irrigation is quite challenging and costly to achieve in a timely fashion.

But thanks to cheap drones, equipped with MEMS sensors, inexpensive but powerful processors, GPS and radio technologies, now farm monitoring is not only affordable but way more precise.

Now farmers can use time series animations to keep an eye on development of their crop and soil variation issues leading to more efficient crop management

Case Studies:

As we’ve seen, there are various ways in which Internet of Things applications can enhance farming and agriculture.

Many of these systems are also multi-functional and can provide solutions to more than one agricultural aggravation.

Let’s now take a look at some real-life case studies where the adoption of Smart Farming IoT technology by farmers in different areas of the world has had significant and quantifiable results.

Blueberry Irrigation in Chile:

With fruit being one of Chile’s largest exports, farmers in country need to be able to produce large amounts in order to satisfy demand. According to researchers at Chile’s UCSC University, the implementation of remote sensors around farming areas has reduced the volume of water used by 70%.

The placement of sensors in the soil allowed farmers and researchers to monitor the conditions of the soil as well as the plant’s requirements. In doing so, farmers were able to optimize their irrigation process in order to use less water while increasing plant yields due to optimized conditions.

Fighting Disease in India: 

Crop diseases are one of many hurdles farmers and those working in agriculture have to continually deal with. One way in which farmers in the Indian State of Punjab are fighting these diseases is through the data collected by IoT-enabled remote sensors.

By monitoring conditions such as humidity, rainfall and temperature levels, farmers are able to better determine their crops susceptibility to disease and act accordingly. With India’s population now surpassing a whopping 1.2 billion people, the ability of farmers across the country to grow crops with a reduced risk of failure due to disease is essential.

Smart Farming IoT solutions promise to provide greater food-security and optimized yield for this largely agrarian economy.

Pest Control in Slovenia:

Another battle farmers are constantly fighting is that with pests. Greenflies and fruit flies are among those targeted by farmers in order to protect their crops. In Slovenia, several fruit growers have begun to use data and automation to fight back against these pests.

By using the data collected from remote sensors and other equipment, growers can begin to understand their fruit or crop’s growing habits better which can then help manage pests more effectively.

Using similar methods, data from such sensors has also been used to automate and enhance the efficacy of spraying pesticides which can also save time, money and resources.

So, we’ve now seen how the adoption of Internet of Things applications in agriculture is making a real difference, not only by speeding things up or automating them, but by also providing the data that enables those working in farming and agriculture to visualize their performance and actively take steps to improve their operations and end product. However, don’t go thinking that the integration of IoT applications in agriculture don’t come with challenges of their own. In order to best realize the potential for these applications, farmers and those working agriculture will need to encourage new practices and procedures in order to secure and maintain these network systems.

Securing the Future:

With the Internet of Things looking set to revolutionize not just farming and agriculture but many global industries, more and more businesses and organizations are looking to build stable foundations for this new, evermore interconnected world.

This means that, when upgrading or replacing older, traditional systems, owners or managers in potential smart farms will most ly be looking for open platforms that allow for integration with certain aspects of existing legacy systems as well as proving smooth upgrade paths for future technologies so as to reduce the financial burden of keeping your systems and security up to date. Choosing open standards based IoT platform software and hardware is key to future proofing your agriculture IoT.

As with any internet-based technology, Smart Farming IoT applications and technologies are vulnerable to cyber threats from hostile attackers.

Stringent risk analyses will be required in order to understand where vulnerabilities may be and how best to address them. Also data gateways enabling communication between the devices and the cloud will have to offer embedded firewall security and also be able to physically withstand harsh environment.

While past experience can never prove the future, it can be estimated by observing trends and industry requirements.

The future of agriculture is now looking to be increasingly dominated by smart farming IoT devices and systems that will provide farmers with much more control and visibility and actionable data to optimize sustainable management of their land, as well as of their machinery never before.

The sheer amount of data that these applications can unlock and give farmers access to is unbelievable and, by the year 2025, it is estimated that there will be roughly one million data points generated per day from an average smart farm.  This will no doubt lead to further innovations in agricultural iot technology (think AI). Of that, we can be fairly certain.

This is an updated version of the original article posted on July 6, 2017.

5G and Smart Farming IoT – Promise of Making the World Green Again was last modified: March 30th, 2020 by Rick Spencer


5G and the future of farming

How will 5G impact US agriculture?
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Users of the Samsung Galaxy S20 phone will be the first to have access to 5G technology in Canada.

Rural residents and farmers will have to wait much longer – if the technology ever arrives.

Rogers announced in early March that it is rolling out 5G networks in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and Montreal, with 20 more markets to come by the end of 2020. Users of the Samsung Galaxy S20 – the first truly 5G enabled phone available – can now use them in 5G mode in those markets where the service is available.

Why it matters: The increased speed of 5G can help drive better results from connected devices – including sensors, autonomous vehicles and systems making automated decisions. Those are all technologies on farms, or close to arriving in agriculture.

Data rates for 5G are about 100 times faster than 4G, or LTE as it is known in Canada, up to a theoretical 10 gigabits per second. That’s being able to download a movie in a second. The increased speed is expected to drive unimagined innovations, especially among connected devices.

The technology, however, is much different than the cell service we’ve come to know, flitting through the air from a distant tower. 5G antennas need to be much closer to each other to maintain a stable signal – a maximum of a half a kilometer.

Signals for 5G are at higher frequencies than are now used, which make them less able to penetrate walls and other obstacles. Think of it a net of transmitters instead of a beacon.

The speed and capacity of 5G networks could render house and business-based WIFI systems obsolete, but that would rely on widespread distribution of the technology, which isn’t ly, especially in rural areas.

The need to build expensive nets of transmitters might make sense on a waterfront, or a downtown area, or to link a cluster of high tech businesses, but Prof. Helen Hambly of the University of Guelph says it will be a challenge to make 5G investment make sense in rural areas.

“It’s not going to evolve in that same way in a rural context. There are too many big spaces, too many trees, too many things to deal with,” she said.

What is 5G?

5G is the next step up in wireless speed, running 100 times faster than the current 4G or LTE technology used in wireless devices cell phones.


  • High speed could connect devices at rates that would allow for greater immediate transmission of large amounts of data or images.
  • Devices,such as in a barn or greenhouse could talk to each other and other systems anywhere in the world.
  • Autonomous vehicles would have more reliable, high speed connections.
  • More capacity for telecommuting anywhere.


  • A need for antennas to be close to each other, about half a kilometre.
  • Obstructions are a challenge,including trees and buildings.
  • Unknown cost.
  • Politics,including the fact that Chinese- owned Huawei is a leader in 5G technology.
  • The lack of a fibre optic internet backbone in most of rural Ontario.

High speed fibre still needed

The first limitation is the lack of high speed fibre backbone in many rural areas.

5G “is not just next generation of wireless. Where is all this data throughput going to go to? Some need fibre capability,” she says.

Huge amounts of data will be able to be connected at high speed in a net of 5G antennas, but it will need the high speed of fibre in order to move it to somewhere else in the world quickly.

High speed fibre service is not common in rural Ontario – although fibre networks are being built in pockets across the province.

Most, however, only provide service to rural roads on the routes between towns and villages.

“It’s not going to evolve in that same way in a rural context. There are too many big spaces, too many trees, too many things to deal with… Very distinct farms or agriculture units could find 5G cost effective and of high benefit.” – Helen Hambly, University of Guelphphoto: Supplied

In the U.S. cellular provider Verizon’s CEO Hans Vestberg said that, “The company will need to build 1,400 route miles of fiber each month over the next couple of years to build out the network that it needs for nationwide 5G.”

Farms who have high speed fibre internet are most ly customers of local telecommunications co-operatives Quadro, based in Kirkton, Ont. Quadro continues to take fibre to where there’s a business case in its surrounding area.

Companies Quadro could provide the fibre backbone if telecommunications companies decide to bring 5G networks into rural areas.

“We’re waiting to see what the major carriers do,” says Matt Green, network operations manager with Quadro. “There’s big hype for it. It is going to change the world no doubt, but it’s going to take more time than anticipated.”

Quadro provides mobile phone service through the Bell network, but Green says they don’t hear anything about what Bell is up to any faster than the public.

Hambly has done research on rural area connectivity, including writing reports as part of School of Environmental Design and Rural Development, Ontario Agricultural College, University of Guelph in partnership with SouthWestern Integrated Fibre Technology Inc. (SWIFT).

SWIFT is an organization put together by rural Ontario counties as a conduit for planning and execution of high speed internet rollout. The organization received another $8 million in funding on March 9 from the federal and provincial governments as part of continuing funding announcements towards high speed internet.

However, many of those investments will be in point to point wireless – from a dish on a tower or a silo connecting to other dishes on individual rural properties.

Wireless is beneficial, but it’s not enough to power the next generation of technologies, says Hambly, which is why SWIFT has pushed for fibre networking to rural areas and farms whenever possible.

What will it look on the farm?

The poster child farm for 5G is a vineyard. Hambly says that’s the example that’s commonly used. It has high value crops, has a tight geographic footprint and vineyards are already looking at automation.

A vineyard with autonomous machines to mow grass, spray, monitor vines and fruit, along with automatically engaging environmental controls wind machines for frost mitigation will have a need for a lot of devices to be connected.

That data can be shared between devices or fed into decision making systems involving the grower – or the wine maker.

The poster child farm for 5G is a vineyard. It has high value crops, has a tight geographic footprint and vineyards are already looking at Getty Images

Other ly candidates for 5G connection include barns and greenhouses – where limited space and high value operations make data gathering profitable and desirable. The systems that manage individual cow data in dairy barns will be well served by the increasing speed of 5G technology.

“Very distinct farms or agriculture units could find 5G cost effective and of high benefit,” says Hambly.

However, for “crop farming and cropping, the relationship with 5G is not so obvious just yet,” although she says that potato farming could make sense related to 5G at some point.

Crop fields are large and farmers travel kilometres between farms, making a focused 5G application unly.

Hambly says there are trials being proposed at the University of Guelph related to sensors for soil and moisture and 5G, to see what the value could be in row crops.

The expense and infrastructure needed for 5G systems could mean a change in relationship among farmers, their equipment companies and telecommunications suppliers.

Could John Deere be the one to sell the 5G system, as it does now with GPS technology? Could a farmer partner with Rogers in a system that brings value to both? Or could a local telecommunications co-operative Quadro be a business partner with a farmer?

Hambly says she has written a paper for Verizon in the U.S. that looks at these questions.

“Are there lines of business for companies Cisco (the company that provides wireless networking equipment and many of the routers in homes and businesses) in agriculture? They are thinking that way.”

Indeed Cisco recently purchased Prospera, a company building a digital platform for farms.

Agriculture included in some 5G projects

There are organizations looking at agriculture along with other projects around next generation data transfer. They include the Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks known as CENGN.

The organization has members across the telecommunications world, including Bell, Cisco, Huawai, Telus and numerous other technology providers, governments, universities and colleges.

One of the case studies promoted on the CENGN website is that of Ukko Agro, a Toronto-based startup that has created a cloud-based platform that helps farmers control pest outbreaks, while decreasing pesticide usage. Ukko completed a CENGN-funded project that found that pesticide use in potatoes could be reduced by 25 per cent, saving about $40 per acre.

Thinking about 6G

Those setting up 5G infrastructure also have to keep the next level of technology in mind, called 6G for now.

It’s even faster, expected to arrive around 2030, and will allow the seamless integration of machine decision making.

Hambly says the other factor whose impact is unknown is the rapid move to put thousands of satellites into low-earth orbit, which could provide another high speed option for rural remote areas. How could technologies work together – 5G, fibre and satellites – to provide the service a farmer need.

“The good thing is that some farmers are taking advantage of fibre,” says Green. “We see it all the time, a lot of analytics being used. It would be nice to extend that out into their entire property (with technologies 5G) and take advantage of all those capabilities.”


Using 5G to ‘unleash’ the power of farming

How will 5G impact US agriculture?

As John Deere’s Director of Intelligent Solutions Nancy Post has explained to Enterprise IoT Insights, connected farming is becoming a more popular endeavor for the modern farmer, and as smart farming gains attention, technologies artificial intelligence, machine learning and 5G are becoming more commonplace.

“It’s pretty amazing how connected a modern farm is,” Post offered, adding that there are 167 million connected —or as the industry says, “engaged”—farm acres globally.

5G and other connectivity technologies have been trialed on all different types of farms all over the world. Below is an exploration of just a few.

Precision weed elimination

In the same interview referenced above, Post explained that in the future, John Deere hopes to use AI to look at every single plant to determine if it is a crop or weed. This will allow spraying of a chemical only on the weed, which would produce healthier crops and do less damage to the environment.

“Spraying is one of the most costly inputs that a farmer has,” Post said. “Our estimates are that a farmer could save up to 90% on their input with a technology this.”

KPN, along with partners Wageningen University and Research (WUR) and Huawei, is also interesting in tackling the challenge of precision spraying in a case study that takes place in a 5G test field in Valthermond, Netherlands and uses robots, deep learning and a cloud-based edge solution to identify and destroy problematic potato plants.

As of this past February, the project was achieving an accuracy of 95% and was covering one third of a hectare per hour, far exceeding the speed of manual workers.

The robots used to detect the unwanted plants are fitted with cameras that capture images of the plants in the ground, which is then sent over a 5G connection to a computing server that trained to recognize sugar beet and potato plants in images. If the server concludes that the image of the unwanted potato plant, the robot receives this information and then activates its precision herbicide sprayers.

According to KPN, this process takes approximately 250 milliseconds, which comprises of 20-25 milliseconds for the communication from the vehicle to the central computer and back again and 200-230 milliseconds for the cloud application to process and analyze the images.

Improved crop production

While not technically a farm, a greenhouse in a small town in east China’s Zhejiang province has been set up with sensors linked to China Mobile’s 5G networks. The sensors help ensure that the 18 different kinds of tomatoes housed within the greenhouse experience the perfect temperature and humidity, the ideal amount of light and fertilizer levels and receive customized plant feed.

In addition to making sure the tomatoes are happy, the greenhouses also have a pest and disease control system linked to the 5G network, which intelligently identifies and kills infestations.

All of the control systems can be managed remotely using a 5G handset.

Zhao Yu, who runs the smart farm program, explained that before the transition to the 5G network, the existing 4G network frequently experienced freezing, delaying data analysis.

“5G networks are faster and more accurate [and]gives us the result immediately,” he said.”

Animal care and monitoring

Last year, 180 cows at a British agricultural technology research center were outfitted with 5G-enabled collar that tracks their movements and eating habits, while dairy cattle at an English farm in Somerset were given collars that control a robotic milking system.

At the agricultural technology research center, data gathered by the collars is sent over the 5G network to the cloud, where it is analyzed. Farmers and veterinarians can keep track of any suspicious changes in a particular cow’s data remotely, boosting productivity and efficiency of the farm.

The Somerset dairy cows’ collars work a bit differently. When the cow is ready to be milked, it enters the milking machine, and from there, the collar identifies the individual cow, allowing the machine to precisely latch on to its teats. The collar keeps a digital tally of each cow’s milk contribution.

The dairy cow collars are part of Cisco’s 5G Rural First initiative, which is on a mission to demonstrate the business case to bringing 5G to rural areas with the U.K.

“We are testing the ability of 5G to transmit the data from our sensors much quicker, and not via the farm’s PC and a slow broadband internet connection,” said Duncan Forbes, project manager at the Agri-Epi Centre.

According to Cisco’s Director of Innovation, EMEAR Nick Chrissos, 5G can “really unleash” a farm’s power — every farm “around the U.K. and everywhere around the world.”

5G China Mobile Cisco KPN rural coverage smart farming


10 ways 5G will change farming and agriculture

How will 5G impact US agriculture?

Is a new ‘green revolution' within reach? Agriculture is a multibillion dollar industry and one of the largest in the world, accounting for almost 1% of GDP in the UK, 6% in the US and 12% in Australia. It’s also set to be a growing industry, with the demand for food set to increase as the world approaches a population of eight billion.

However, it’s an industry hugely affected by small changes in temperature and moisture levels, which often means that issues are only found when the damage has already been done. 

“In an era where crops are being left to rot because of a shortage of pickers, technology will be key to the agricultural industry’s survival,” says Daniel Valle, EMEA Chief Technologist, WWT. “Part of this will see farmers adopting 5G – a technology which will better support productivity, and a vital tool in preventing the passing of increasing costs of business to consumers.”

Cue agritech, which is about to get a boost from upcoming 5G-powered ‘precision agriculture’, such as 5G drones and connected farm machinery.

“Agriculture is rapidly adopting transformative 5G technology to monitor the environmental conditions for optimum plant growth, and to track, feed, monitor livestock and even milk cows without human intervention,” says Professor Mak Sharma at Birmingham City University.

“Other examples include the ploughing, sowing, feeding, health monitoring and harvesting of crops autonomously and without human intervention using 5G connected farm machinery.”

All of this is possible with other mobile networks, but 5G’s high bandwidth, support for a huge number of sensors communicating simultaneously, and low latency, make it perfect for farms.

 Here are 10 ways 5G could transform farming and agriculture.

1. Precision agriculture

(Image credit: Cambridge Consultants)

Also called ‘smart farming’, precision agriculture is all about applying precise treatments to crops, so instead of treating an entire field the same, farmers can give each row exactly what it needs. It’s all about reducing inputs, from water and food to fertiliser and herbicides.

“5G is critical to this, as it supports machine to machine (M2M) services,” says Simon Jordan, Senior Sensor Physicist at Cambridge Consultants.

5G speeds-up everything, allowing machines to be controlled centrally and data to be sent back in real time; without 5G, the system relies only on data being uploaded at the end of the day.

2. 5G farm machinery

(Image credit: Cambridge Consultants)

For precision agriculture to really take off requires 5G-connected farm machinery. A massive increase in compute power and data collection are the driving forces behind the rise in artificial intelligence (AI), but there’s a missing link; how to get that data to where it’s needed for analysis.

“5G on farm machinery and sensors will increase massively the amount of data available, meaning AI can now get to work properly,” says Paul Beastall, Director of Technology Strategy at Cambridge Consultants.

“Farms are typically run from a mixture of experience and specialised knowledge, and centralised AI is already spotting patterns that allow yields to be improved, for instance by giving early warnings of disease in greenhouses.”

3. Drone spraying

(Image credit: John Deere)

Autonomous drone sprayers are coming; equipped with a weed scanner and crop sprayer, they scan crops using AI to identify weeds – precision agriculture defined – then apply pesticide only where needed. After 30 minutes they return to a field boundary station, refill their tank and top-up their battery. 

“There are a number of projects today which use insights generated by Internet of Things (IoT) farming tools to improve efficiencies,” says Valle.

“For example, applying deep learning techniques to drone camera footage to help identify concentrated areas of weeds, applying herbicides only where they are needed.

Similarly, crops can be gathered earlier or later using analysis of the colour and size of the crops.” 

Manual labour will still have a place, says Valle, but by combining smart technologies with the power of 5G, farmers will be able to more efficiently allocate their time to the areas which really matter.

4. Weed and crop monitoring

(Image credit: Cambridge Consultants)

The tech now exists for cameras to tell the difference between crops and weeds. A good example is a Vodafone 5G-powered system from Blue River, which is now owned by agricultural giant John Deere.

It’s ‘See & Spray’ tech uses high-resolution cameras that capture 20 images per second, with AI applied to the images to allow the system to recognises the difference between cultivated plants and weeds. Instead of blanket-spraying, reducing the use of pesticides.

Another example is Fafaza, which does something similar by detecting differences in colour and leaf texture to isolate plants. “It’s designed to work autonomously, without a guaranteed network connection, and all the processing required is installed on the platform,” says Jordan.

“However, if a 5G connection were available, it could report the locations of weeds or potential trouble spots to allow later follow up by another machine.”

5. Insect tracking

(Image credit: n/a)

Is there a Biblical swarm of locusts incoming? That’s unly, but even a small swarm of the insects can decimate crops in a very short time. Cue 5G-powered geolocation services. 

“5G can relay data back quickly from fixed in-field sensors,” says Jordan. “These can measure things insect numbers and disease pressure, as well as soil conditions in real time.” 5G-powered geolocation can also be used to accurately find machines on a farm.

6. Real-time livestock tracking

The ability to locate and monitor valuable livestock – particularly in upland areas and ranches – is critical to farmers. If cows’ health, their food intake and even their fertility, can be communicated back to farmers, they can decide when to intervene. 

“5G will enable connectivity and geolocation services, which could reduce the cost and increase the performance of livestock monitoring solutions that currently depend on proprietary radio solutions,” says Jordan. “However, this will depend on 5G coverage being available and early deployments are focused on urban centres.” 

Ofcom reports that 91% of the UK landmass has good 4G coverage, so there are reasons to believe that 5G-based solutions could quickly impact farming.

7. Connected cows and calving

Knowing where a cow – and a herd – physically is can be critical to farmers, never more so when it’s calving season.

Cue the ‘Moocall’ sensor, a tail-mounted sensor by Vodafone that alerts farmers when a calf is about to be born. Since its launch in 2017, more than 250,000 calves have been born safely using the Moocall sensor.

This is the IoT, and while it doesn’t specifically require 5G, there’s no doubt that the IoT and 5G will soon go hand in hand. 

“With the growing prevalence of IoT and 5G, we expect to see increasing innovation in the agricultural sector,” says Anne Sheehan, Director, Vodafone Business.

“By using digital tools, farmers can gain better control over processes such as raising livestock and growing crops, improving overall productivity, efficiency and financial performance … technologies such as IoT and 5G must be viewed as a priority for the farming sector.”

8. Reduced water consumption

(Image credit: Nokia)

In dry, arid and remote areas, saving even a drop of water is critical.

In a trial partnership with Algeria’s mobile network operator Djezzy, Nokia has created what it calls a Worldwide IoT Network Grid (WING) to equip Algerian peach farmers with practical data to help them achieve better yields.

Soil probes buried 120cm under an irrigation line collect and send back data about the soil that allow the farmer to track soil moisture, water patterns and salinity. 

The readings are analysed so the farmer can accurately manage irrigation cycles and soil nutrition. After one month, Nokia’s trial saw the farmer reduce water consumption by 40% on a single irrigation line for one hectare, and increase his revenues up to 5% per hectare. WING operates on all mobile networks, but such trials will only be improved with 5G. 

“Our mission with WING is to shape the future of agriculture and other industries and create a smarter and more connected world,” said Ankur Bhan, founder and head of Nokia WING. “Trials such as this will be vastly improved with 5G, with operators and industries reaping the benefit of WING’s full potential, as IoT devices will share and communicate data faster than ever before.”

9. Heavy-lift drones

(Image credit: John Deere)

Another example of drones in farming is Volocopter’s new VoloDrone, a future-gazing heavy-lift drone developed with John Deere.

An unmanned, fully electric, heavy-lift utility drone capable of carrying a payload of up to 200 kg/440 lbs, VoloDrone can transport boxes, liquids and equipment to anywhere on a farm … or even buzz around a field scaring-off birds.

Fully electric, it has a diameter of 9.2m and is powered by 18 rotors.

10. Can 5G help truly remote areas?

(Image credit: Hiber)

Probably not, or at least, not for a long time. Cue ‘remote connectivity’ tech where 5G can’t help, such as satellite-driven IoT services.

“5G is going to mean much faster browsing than ever before, but it won’t have any impact on rural areas and developing countries that ly don’t even have access to its predecessors yet,” said Laurens Groenendijk, co-founder and MD of IoT remote connectivity startup Hiber.

“This is because, as 5G’s frequency is higher, its range is actually shorter and additional cell towers have been built to cover the existing network coverage area.” 

Hiber recently launched the world’s first ever IoT satellite network, called Hiberband, for remote areas and developing countries.

It covers 90% of the world, and one of its first projects is a bee monitoring solution called Hostabee that helps maintain a stable climate in the hives and helps beekeepers and farmers reduce bee mortality rates … and so help farmers with the necessary pollination needed to grow their crops in the first place. The Hiberband network transfers data from modems and antennas on the ground directly to the nanosatellites and then back to the user.

(Image credit: Future)


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