Over the next decade, 5G will play a pivotal role in smart and precision farming, which promises to be the key to maximizing resources and improving production.
As the next generation of mobile technology, 5G was designed to meet the continued growth in demand for data and connectivity from industries, such as agriculture, providing mobility, stability and speed.
New smart agriculture technologies, such as drones, autonomous farm vehicles, robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and IoT devices, which leverage fast, high-capacity private and public 5G networks, will ultimately maximize the operations. This will not only improve the quality and quantity of crops, as well as the health and welfare of livestock, but will also improve the sustainability and profitability of the agricultural industry.
To showcase the opportunities for Australian agriculture, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) has identified five ways 5G will change agriculture.
Many industries in Australia are realizing the potential of drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), but they will have one of the biggest impacts on the agricultural industry.
With over 55 percent of Australians Earth Used for agriculture, drones running on the 5G network could dramatically improve productivity, helping to perform time-intensive and labor-intensive tasks on large farms and estates.
While drones are already used in agriculture, mobile operators, like Optus explore how 5G could play a crucial role in allowing drones to fly beyond visual line of sight and be fully autonomous, leaving at different times of the day to complete tasks, which would be a game-changer for the farms.
With the high-speed and ultra-reliable connectivity of 5G, drones could automatically transmit HD video and images, including thermal and topographic images, track and identify objects like livestock, weeds and pests to using AI, and act on controls seamlessly controlled from miles away. This will allow agro-industries to better analyze field conditions, distribute seeds and sprays, and manage crops and livestock in real time.
2. Autonomous agricultural equipment
Autonomous farm equipment is the next big thing in smart agriculture. Connected via 5G, they will streamline operations on farms and contribute to labor shortages in Australia, which have become a problem for some farmers during the pandemic.
With 5G’s reliable and fast connectivity, farmers will be able to remotely operate a variety of driverless machinery, such as tractors and combines, and even ‘field robots’ that could handle tasks like weeding. 5G will also allow autonomous farm equipment to communicate directly with each other in real time, allowing farmers to control end-to-end crop management processes and increase their efficiency.
John Deere is a manufacturer looking to use 5G to make autonomous farm equipment smarter, revealing concept autonomous electric tractor and ‘See & Spray’, an AI-powered weed sprayer, last year. Both machines use the cloud to operate, so they need an ultra-low latency 5G connection to be efficient and become more of a reality on farms.
Another smart tractor, Monarch tractor, which is an autonomous electric tractor with 360-degree cameras and sensors capable of collecting data in the field, can be controlled from a farmer’s phone, and with 5G, farmers can remotely control crops. fleets of these tractors to manage entire farms.
3. Livestock tracking
Real-time animal monitoring with precision breeding technology (PLF) will become more prevalent with 5G. 5G technology, such as animal tags, sensors and cameras, will transmit accurate and reliable data about an animal’s health and location faster for better livestock management.
With reliable 5G connectivity, farmers can monitor animal feeding and sleeping patterns, feed availability, indoor and outdoor environments, and general behavior to identify if an animal is sick or even pregnant, helping helping farmers make better choices for their livestock and improve animal welfare.
5G animal monitoring projects are already being tested on farms. 5G RuralFirst in the UK is using 5G connected collars and biometric earrings on cows for better health tracking and surveillance in large, remote areas, which will allow farmers to proactively target sick cows and remove them from the herd to reduce the spread of infections. In Australia, TPG Telecom was awarded a 5G Innovation Initiative grant to be tested using its 5G network, along with cutting-edge image processing, computer vision and computing technologies, to enable multiple high 4K video streams quality of counting sheep in a regional stock exchange, automating the process and eliminating human error.
4. Food management
Improving food management will be key to increasing the food supply. Using high-speed, high-capacity 5G networks, food producers will be able to connect multiple IoT devices and sensors to track and monitor food throughout the supply chain, from processing to storage and delivery.
This will improve traceability and storage conditions, which will increase food safety, minimize the risk of contamination and food poisoning and reduce food waste, with 7.6 million tonnes of food waste each year throughout the supply and consumption chain in Australia.
While sensors and video feeds in food management are nothing new, 5G will provide instant and more reliable analysis of data and vision.
As part of the Australian 5G Innovation Initiative, the Australian Meat Processer Corporation uses 5G compatible video technology to improve the quality assurance process of meat production, with the aim of reducing the cost of compliance and at the same time time to increase compliance efficiency. audit for farmers in regional and rural Australia.
Other tests on food storage, such as Simplot Australia Testing sensors in seed potato storage bins to measure CO2 levels to determine optimal storage conditions and reduce seed loss, will greatly benefit from 5G, with the ability to monitor real-time storage conditions, reducing waste and increasing farm income.
5. Weather stations
Farmers and their crops are often at the mercy of the weather, so having field condition data is increasingly important for precision farming. Using 5G-powered weather stations can help farmers optimize their work, water use and crop health, preventing damage and disease.
Weather conditions such as precipitation, temperature, wind speed and direction, air pressure and humidity can all be measured in real time via 5G on multiple large properties, providing more data dense observations. to help farmers achieve better crop yields.
Weather stations using 5G are already starting to hit the market, such as Origo which was developed in Perth, Western Australia, and uses a mesh network and 5G IoT services to provide 24/7 coverage across all farms. Beyond that, there is a huge opportunity with connected regional weather stations.
Mobile network operator Telstra is currently deploying 55 robust and high-quality IoT-enabled weather stations around Toowoomba, Queensland, using existing mobile network sites to deliver a hyper-local weather data and forecast system to farmers in the region to support better decisions management on agricultural production, labor and supply chain. The project will test the viability of a weather network service to deliver highly localized weather to farmers and could become more widely used across Australia with the continued deployment of 5G IoT networks, which are complementary to public 5G networks.
There is great potential for smart and precision farming on the horizon as mobile network operators continue to invest in 5G deployment across Australia, including in regional and rural areas. . Australia is a big country, so it will take time for the new 5G network infrastructure to become robust, but the future opportunities for agriculture offered by 5G are extremely exciting and promising.
A video highlighting the five ways 5G will change agriculture can be viewed here.