• Posted on Sep 22, 2023

When many people think of farming, they picture an idyllic scene with cows and chickens happily grazing on lush grass fields. The reality is that large-scale farming is nothing like tending an urban garden in your yard. It’s a ton of work, and it’s not uncommon for farmers to spend 12 to 14 hours a day tending livestock, watering crops, and clearing weeds for next season’s harvest.

Thankfully, broadband is transforming agriculture and promises to make life a lot easier for modern farmers. Thanks to 5G in agriculture, those long, grueling days spent toiling the fields could eventually be a thing of the past.

Smart Farming With Autonomous Tractors

Farmers rely on tractors to sow seeds, apply pesticides, and harvest crops. Tractors of yesteryear were slow, lumbering machines that got the job done, but they weren’t what you would call “smart.”

Depending on the size of a farm, it would have taken a farmer several hours per day to cover all of their acreage with a tractor. That often meant they needed to hire extra help to handle other chores, such as milking cows and processing the harvest.

Enter autonomous machinery such as the smart tractor. In 2022, John Deere unveiled the first fully autonomous tractor, equipped with geo-awareness, 360-degree obstacle detection, and six pairs of AI-powered stereo cameras. It’s like a robot vacuum but much bigger (and smarter).

To use this tractor, all a farmer has to do is set it up in their fields and ride it around the perimeter once to establish boundaries. This teaches the tractor where it’s supposed to go so that it stays within the confines of the farm.

Once that’s done, the tractor provides images, data, and live video as it mows, sprays, and disks the fields. The farmer can access all of this data easily via a mobile app. Meanwhile, they’re free to focus on other tasks around the farm. This could also save the farmer a fortune on labor costs while shielding them from pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

Monitoring Crops for Failure

Crop failure doesn’t just affect the farmer; it also hurts everyone else. No thanks to climate change and unpredictable weather, today’s farms are facing crop problems on a scale never seen before. That translates into less produce for sale at the grocery store, plus rising prices, which are especially painful in this time of inflation when everything seems to cost double what it once did.

If you’ve ever managed a small home garden, you know how tough it can be to spot plant problems before it’s too late. All it takes is a few stray caterpillars, a bunch of sneaky aphids, or some mysterious disease to wipe out your hard work in just a couple of weeks. Just imagine how tough crop monitoring is for farmers, some of whom keep an eye on hundreds of acres daily.

Thankfully, broadband is transforming agriculture to make crop monitoring easier. The company EarthSense has produced a robot called TerraSentia, which collects plant health data using GPS, LIDAR tools, and light detection. Its cloud-based software lets scientists train the robot on plant physiology, allowing it to detect when plant health deviates from the norm.

This robot can also scan a whopping ten plants per second. That’s far faster than the average farmer (and any other human, for that matter). This feat is only possible thanks to 5G technology, which allows for near real-time data transfer.

Some farmers also invest in smart silos, which feature sensors to help monitor harvests for mold and spoilage. Thanks to less wastage, more food will end up on people’s plates instead of in landfills.

Once tech such as TerraSentia becomes widespread, farmers can stop problems in their tracks before crops fail. It’s a win-win for farms and grocery shoppers worldwide.

Healthier, Happier Livestock

Hobby farms can be fun to maintain, and keeping watch over a few chickens or goats is not too difficult. Large-scale farms are different beasts entirely. They’re often home to thousands of cattle; whether those cattle are free-range or confined in a barn, monitoring the herd is a lot of work.

With 5G-equipped drones, farmers can get a bird’s-eye view of their entire acreage in just minutes. These drones can help them spot sick animals and areas of worn-down pasture, allowing them to know when it’s time to move the herd to a new field.

Livestock monitoring also enables farmers to keep an eye out for predators such as foxes, wolves, bobcats, and hawks. Farmers do their best to ward off such threats, but they can’t be everywhere at once. Drones cover much more ground in a fraction of the time that a farmer could, giving farmers an aerial view of predators before they have the chance to turn cattle into dinner.

Rural 5G Challenges

One of farming’s biggest challenges is that many farms are in isolated rural areas. It took years for internet providers to offer some kind of connection to rural properties, and even then, farmers were limited to spotty satellite connections.

Internet providers have already begun deploying 5G in urban locales, but bringing 5G to rural farms will be a bit tougher. That’s because 5G relies on the proximity of many cell towers to work.

Providers hope to overcome this limitation by using low-bandwidth, long-range frequencies (2.5 GHz to 4.2 GHz). Such bandwidths require fewer cell towers because they can travel several miles, unlike other bandwidths that can only go short distances.

Build a Robust Rural Network With eNetwork Supply

Now that you’ve learned how broadband is transforming agriculture, are you ready to cross the digital divide and take advantage of the power of 5G? Whether you’re a large-scale farmer or have never grown a tomato in your life, eNetwork Supply is here to help. We offer a great selection of new and gently used equipment to help set up your network.

Check out our network equipment inventory, or call us at (312) 283-5983.