Column: What 5G Innovation Manager Matthias Jungen hopes to get from the 5G network on and around the farm.
When I’m making a delicious meal, I prefer to use local products, which I either buy directly from farmers or at the market, as the taste is more intense when the fruit and vegetables are fully ripe. I also have more trust in the food if I know the producer. And the shorter transport route makes the CO2 emissions lower. Even so, I sometimes shop at a wholesaler on my way home, or online, if it’s more convenient. But then I forego all the local benefits.
Smart farming makes both farmers and consumers happy
In that way, I am probably a fairly typical modern-day consumer. However, for the farmers, such demands don’t make life easier. In the agricultural sector, pressure on margins and from competitors is high. I wish that the farmers could respond to these demands, but that will only happen through the use of modern technology which can bring down production costs and simplify direct sales.
Using technologies such as IoT-based sensors, fields can be analysed and cultivated precisely. In this way, sensors can measure moisture, for example, or the nitrogen content of the soil. Or cameras can detect weeds or diseases. This detailed information enables the farmers to target the use of fertiliser, herbicides, pesticides and watering exactly where it is needed. Smart farming thereby helps to achieve efficient cultivation of the land, which decreases costs and helps the environment.
When a field is equipped with sensors, the watering and use of fertiliser and pesticides can be optimised. For example, the sensors signal via the 5G network that the nitrogen content in one corner of the field is too low, whilst another corner is too dry or has a pest infestation. The farmer can now apply fertiliser, water or pest control precisely in these targeted areas, saving water, fertilisers and pesticides and thereby also reducing costs. I then conveniently order the ripe fruit and vegetables from the farmer’s online shop.
Drones deliver the tomatoes
If I think even further ahead, I can see other entirely different opportunities for improving efficiency. Instead of using pesticides, field robots would be used to detect weeds and pull them out. That would help the environment and cause less pollution to the groundwater. Animal welfare can also be improved. For example, fawns could be located by drones carrying thermal imaging cameras before the grass is cut. Water consumption will be metered precisely, heatwave or not. Robots and drones will move around autonomously and communicate via the 5G network without any delay in transmission.
And when I imagine a solar-powered 5G transport drone, instead of a truck, delivering my fresh tomatoes directly from the farm to the city, my conscience is as delighted as my taste buds!