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The agriculture industry is high-risk yet low-rewarding in many respects. Besides exhausting the individuals involved, traditional farming methods take longer to achieve results and often deplete natural resources in the process - not a good sign for the planet. What would be wise is digitizing farming by deploying technology that helps automate, track, and monitor agricultural processes. That may be where the Internet of Things or IoT enters the picture.
What is smart farming?
Smart farming, also known as precision agriculture, is a method of farming that uses IoT technology to optimize crop production and reduce waste. This can include using sensors and drones to gather data on soil conditions, weather patterns, and crop growth, as well as using precision equipment to plant and harvest crops.
The goal of smart farming is to increase efficiency and productivity while reducing costs and environmental impact. It also includes using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies to analyze data and predict crop yields and resource needs.
Smart farming equips farmers and food producers to monitor their crops in real time and adjust practices accordingly.
What is the role of 5G in modern agriculture?
Good questions! 5G technology is set to revolutionize the way agricultural operations are managed. Today's farms use various IoT devices to provide farmers with improved visibility of their crops and reduced operational costs.
Implementing 5G in farming also reduces initial investments in infrastructure and energy costs due to its low-energy requirements. Research predicts that 12 million agricultural sensors will be installed worldwide by 2023. The high speed of 5G (up to 100X faster than 4G), ML, and real-time connectivity between devices and the cloud will take things to the next level.
Farmers can access a wide range of improved technology by utilizing 5G and monitor field conditions with a more extensive network of data-gathering sensors. With the help of AI, autonomous drones can scan crops for pests and diseases. Farmers can smartly spray pesticides and control soil moisture using drones!
Additionally, 5G provides the infrastructure for many smart farming applications, such as automated systems for fertilization, harvest scheduling, field monitoring, and even robotic harvesting.
Applications of 5G in smart farming
5G technologies push forward the IoT future by equipping farmers to monitor various aspects of their operations, such as water and electricity usage, livestock movements, and machinery maintenance, and attract sustainable technology adoption. Here are the top 5G apps in smart farming you should know about:
1. Livestock tracking and management
AI-powered smart farming solutions can monitor, track and manage livestock. It enables farmers to collect data on animal well-being, feed usage, location tracking, and health analytics for individual animals.
The majority of animal monitoring equipment still uses WiFi or Bluetooth. But 5G farming enhances signal stability and dependability. 5G-powered smart collars and ear tags allow real-time and accurate livestock location and health monitoring.
2. Precision agriculture
Farmers can get actionable insights by gathering and analyzing data using IoT devices. 5G networks facilitate more efficient, real-time soil and crop monitoring that helps farmers decide how much fertilizer to use, irrigation scheduling, and pest control. They can forecast crop yield by employing agriculture analytics.
3. AI-enhanced machines
Enhancing the capabilities of conventional farming equipment is another aspect of smart farming. It reduces labor costs and increases efficiency. 5G networks grant IoT-connected devices and machines to communicate with each other in real-time for better coordination. These devices can make the right choices by running the data through AI algorithms.
4. Harvest prediction
AI and ML technologies compel farmers to predict the amount of crop yield accurately. High-definition video streaming through AI-powered cameras helps systems differentiate healthy crops from spoiled ones and weeds.
The gadgets identify plants and provide data to farmers, besides guiding them to take appropriate measures. Real-time data updates help them plan their crop production cycle more efficiently and plan for marketing strategies. AI-enabled systems use historical data and advanced analytics to predict yield estimates with greater accuracy.
5. Optimal irrigation
Smart irrigation systems powered by AI permits farmers to monitor soil moisture levels in real time and adjust the water supply accordingly. Precision irrigation can result in higher-quality output and less water usage to minimize expenditures.
5G in smart farming can monitor plant health and soil moisture in real time. It helps automate irrigation cycles. AI-based systems can detect early signs of stress in crops due to lack of water and take corrective action to ensure the optimal health of plants, thus leading to higher yields.
6. Weather stations
Farmers often suffer losses due to weather-related damage and preventable diseases. Connected weather stations in the field can provide farmers with real-time data on field conditions, helping them take action to safeguard their yield.
They can help measure soil humidity and texture, air temperature, wind speed, and sun exposure. Most weather stations use LPWAN connectivity. However, in the future, they will benefit from 5G's ability to provide more data-dense observations and edge computing capabilities.
7. Drone sprayers
Farmers can use drones to spray water and agrichemicals and monitor crops, livestock, and the entire field. They can cover larger areas in less time using GPS and have greater accuracy, which ensures less wastage of resources.
AI-enabled drones save time while optimizing the use of chemicals, which prevents pollution and contributes to achieving better yields. The high speed of the 5G network enhances the performance of drone sprayers through real-time data.
Examples of how 5G improves agricultural efficiency and productivity
The introduction of 5G in smart farming boosts process efficiency and farm equipment productivity. Additionally, controlling the use of dangerous chemicals, avoiding potential mishaps, and minimizing exposure to hazardous work conditions are possible. Let us take a look at a few real-life examples:
1. Autonomous tractor by John Deere
Manufacturer John Deere's self-propelled tractor generated a lot of buzz at CES. It leverages 5G, AI, and edge computing. It uses tailored, data-driven farming methods rather than old-fashioned, one-size-fits-all thinking for crop output, water, pesticide use, and waste management.
John Deere's fully autonomous tractor, unveiled in January 2022, is fitted with six stereo camera pairs that use AI. 5G technology, in conjunction with IoT and AI, enables 360-degree obstacle detection, geo-awareness, and distance calculation.
For autonomous operations, the farmer only needs to set up the tractor in the field and can manage it using a mobile app while concentrating on other complex tasks.
The farmer can modify pace and depth while accessing live video, photos, data, and metrics through the app. Any irregularities will trigger an alarm, and the farmer can make modifications to improve the machine's performance.
2. Cellular-driven gadgets by OST
The OST University of Applied Sciences of Eastern Switzerland is testing cellular-connected drones and robots with cameras. They can be used to swiftly scan vast areas of land to monitor crop fields and livestock closely.
The self-learning software can conduct real-time analysis using cloud computing technology and a 5G cellular network. Farmers save time by automating the large-scale collection of detailed information previously collected manually. It also creates new opportunities for farmers and ensures future crops are more resilient.
An Israel-based startup is offering drones and light sport aircraft known as Taranis. It captures photos of entire fields down to the leaf level. At 100 mph, it maintains an ultra-high resolution and quickly detects areas that require care.
It suggests the most efficient time to administer treatments or the optimal planting window by conducting fine-grained field-level weather forecasts.
Challenges of using 5G in agriculture
As glorious as it sounds, implementing 5G in agriculture is challenging because it is still at a nascent stage. From infrastructure requirements to data management and privacy concerns, there are several factors to consider before fully embracing this technology in farming:
The frightening cost of installing 5G is one of the biggest obstacles to its adoption in agriculture. It is estimated that deploying 5G across rural farms is significantly more expensive than in urban areas. Also, most farmers will likely have limited access to financing for such a costly investment.
2. Data privacy
The deployment of 5G networks raises concerns over data security, privacy, and the possibility of cyberattacks. Operators need to employ stringent security measures such as encryption, authentication, and authorization to keep user data safe. Furthermore, the interconnection of numerous farming devices may open new avenues for malicious actors.
Due to the necessity to improve their current 4G networks, operators' 5G deployment costs may double. According to McKinsey, the infrastructure cost to achieve the anticipated coverage by 2030 could reach $900 billion.
Given the high expenses of building such infrastructure in rural locations, network operators lack the financial motivation to offer coverage across large farmlands and remote regions.
4. Weak upload speed
Although 5G technology has the potential to provide faster download speeds, experts anticipate that it may have weaker upload speeds compared to 4G and 4G LTE, which is a potential drawback of this technology and negates what IoT brings to the table: superior connectivity.
What makes 5G in smart farming stand out?
With 5G, smart farming can achieve new heights of precision, automation, and real-time monitoring capabilities. In this section, let us look at the benefits 5G brings to the table for smart farming:
- 5G empowers easier collaboration between operators, researchers, and suppliers, which is not how farming was done conventionally speaking.
- Farmers can benefit from the automation of tasks such as irrigation, crop maintenance, harvesting, and post-harvest processing.
- The improved bandwidth capacity offered by 5G compels farmers to quickly access market prices and information about commodities or products, leading to increased profits.
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Positively changing the future of agriculture with 5G
5G technology is doing its bit to significantly improve food production and consumption. It qualifies farmers to better monitor their crops in real-time, allowing them to adjust irrigation processes or implement pest management strategies efficiently.
In addition, data collection and aggregation from various sources, such as satellites and drones, allow faster decision-making on farming activities. As 5G technology becomes more widely available, it does have the potential to upgrade the capabilities of smart farming greatly.
Are you looking to build a smart farm to modernize and equip the farming workforce with insights into AI-based equipment? Book a free consultation with our IoT experts to develop the proper applications required to do the job.