Agriculture comes with high-risk and low-reward factors. Besides exhausting the individuals involved, traditional farming techniques also deplete natural resources unnecessarily with no significant results.
A wise solution to solve this is implementing technology to automate, track, and monitor agricultural processes. Cropin’s technology platform already implements the latest developments like geospatial analytics, IoT integrations, and AI/ML to digitize farming. However, with 5G all set to roll out, smart agriculture is set to take off with lightning-fast-speed data transfer.
Keep reading to know how these new technologies in agriculture will help increase the efficacy of technology-driven farming
Embracing the future of farming through Smart Farming Solutions
Smart farming combines traditional agricultural practices with information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance farm produce and quality.
The usage of new technology in agriculture can help farmers reduce labor and cut down on costs while improving crop yield and production at the same time.
ICT includes a wide range of components under digital and computer technologies to facilitate all these agricultural benefits. These include robotics, sensors and actuators, drones, GPS, etc. The latest addition to this list is a 5G network.
Although mobile networks are already implementing many of these ICT technologies to offer the mentioned agricultural benefits, 5G will enhance the impact by manifolds due to low latency, high bandwidth, and support for many simultaneously communicating sensors.
Defining the Future of Farming with 5G
Here are a few ways in which 5G will improve farming.
Photo by Karsten Würth on Unsplash
Smart Farming or Precision Agriculture
As already mentioned, 5G is crucial to bring out the holistic benefits of smart farming. Cropin’s existing technology platform already aids in increasing productivity and ensuring the proper utilization of resources via precision agriculture.
However, the implementation of 5G will help speed up the entire process with machine-to-machine services. 5G’s real-time data transfer can help in the speedy functioning of these solutions, making the decision-making quick, robust, data-oriented, and real-time.
The proper implementation of precision agriculture involves AI-implemented farm machinery. With SmartRisk, farmers get quick updates on various environmental risks and diseases plaguing crops via AI-incorporated mobile applications.
At the same time, continuous monitoring of farms using AI-enhanced machinery can help farmers identify risks from the very beginning.
However, artificial intelligence requires adequate data to work efficiently. 5G will bridge the gap in data availability that is still evident by speeding up a massive amount of data transfer, which will help AI perform efficiently.
A defining aspect of precision agriculture is cutting down on unnecessary usage of agri-inputs. SmartFarm aids in this with 360-degree monitoring of farms via data gathered from farms, satellites, drones, and sensors. Implementing 5G in these devices can aid in efficient crop monitoring — an activity performed & executed by autonomous drone sprayers.
These drone sprayers, fairly new technology in agriculture, comprise crop and weed scanners and sprayers. ICT-based platforms can also integrate with IoT devices to use the insights generated by the latter to limit the application of agrochemicals to only where required, instead of blanket spraying.
Restricted, targeted use of chemicals will lead to reduced input costs and help minimize water pollution, soil damage, and crop losses.
Similarly, farmers can determine the exact harvest time using color and size analysis via AI and 5G-enabled drone sprayers.
Accurate Harvest Estimation
Drones in agriculture use high-quality and AI-powered cameras to tell apart healthy crops from spoilt crops and weeds. They facilitate this by identifying differences in leaf color and texture in plants. Accordingly, these devices isolate plants and report the data to farmers, who then take corrective action.
With 5G, these devices can report data about potential weeds, damaged crops, and their location directly to follow-up machinery in real-time. Farmers can carry out fast and effective harvests with automated crop detection and weeding, saving time and cost.
The continuous monitoring of agricultural fields and crops can help farmers understand the exact water requirements. Analysis of soil requirements is possible via soil probes buried 120 cm below irrigation lines. These devices can use 5G connectivity to collect and transfer data about the soil’s moisture content, water salinity, and patterns.
Farmers can receive this data on their smartphones via SmartRisk and manage irrigation cycles accordingly. Managing moisture content in the soil will prevent unnecessary water consumption and depletion of surface and groundwater. At the same time, farmers will reap better quality crops due to precision agriculture and make profits.
An estimate of the possible yield will also be available to other stakeholders, including providers of agrochemicals and agri-machinery, via SmartRisk, which will help them decide on sales and marketing techniques.
Livestock Tracking and Management
Once you understand the importance of livestock in sustainable agriculture, you will witness the benefits of 5G implementation in locating valuable livestock. 5G will facilitate geo-location services and real-time connectivity to communicate the animals’ health, fertility, and food intake to farmers. It will also help farm owners reduce the overall cost of livestock management solutions and livestock performance.
Photo by Stijn te Strake on Unsplash
Prominent Benefits of 5G-enabled Smart Farming
The implications of Smart Farming are yet to be fully explored. However, with 5G’s available features, farmers can expect the following benefits with its application in the future.
5G will offer up to 10 Gbps data speed, which means 100 times speedier connectivity than its predecessor, 4G. Faster speeds and significantly lower latency will facilitate real-time communication between stakeholders.
Machine-to-machine data transfer
As already discussed, direct information transfer between 5G-enabled devices without human invention can enhance the speed and efficiency of agricultural processes.
5G might take more time to entirely roll out in full throttle and cover all remote areas. However, when it does, this new technology in agriculture will reduce workforce requirements with automation.
This way, farmers can dedicate their efforts to areas that need human consideration, like planning sales and marketing. So, farmers must be ready to lap up 5G-enabled solutions for themselves and the environment to reap its benefits.
Future of Farming- Agritech Predictions for 2023
2022 has been a challenging year for the global food system, to say the least. It uncovered several structural weaknesses in the wake of challenges such as extreme weather events, supply-chain disruptions, geo-political tensions, international conflicts, and growing food wastage. The year also exposed our inability to manage global hunger and food security, reversing the progress made over decades of efforts.
The enormity of the challenge is evident from the fact that food security, climate-resilient agriculture, and agri-financing were the central theme of discussions at the recent COP27 event in Egypt and the G20 Summit in Indonesia.
In this context, we expect some significant agri-food industry trends to accelerate in 2023.
Agri-financing and sustainability investments will skyrocket
Expect investments in sustainability projects to continue to see momentum. The United Nation noted recently that the world has not been doing enough to help poorer nations withstand the effects of global warming. Climate adaptation finance has been woefully underfunded. This has started to change in 2022 and will accelerate in 2023. We will see more and more of PepsiCo’s recently announced $1.25 billion 10-year Green Bond to fund eligible Green Projects, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s pledge of $1.4 billion to help smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia build climate resilience into their work practices, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plans to invest up to $2.8 billion in 70 selected projects under the Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities plan. We expect the private sector's contribution to see new heights in 2023.
Accelerated digitization of agriculture for maximizing visibility & transparency of food systems
Digitalization in agriculture is one way to reduce the climate impact of farming as well as the impact of looming economic slowdown in certain regions. We expect enterprises and governments around the world to accelerate technology investments in agriculture - leveraging advancements in cloud computing, earth observation, remote sensing, data, and AI/ML models - to help the sector unlock new possibilities while solving real-world agricultural problems. This can significantly boost food production, improve profitability and reduce operational costs which are crucial in a downturn.
There will be a strong focus on maximizing the visibility and transparency of global food systems. This means combining expertise in multiple areas such as data science, digital applications, GIS, agri-science, agronomy, AI/ML models, weather data, IoT, and drones, among others to deliver better visibility and intelligence around the agri-production lifecycle. Organizations will be compelled to push the boundaries of science and technology to find meaningful solutions to not only future-proof agriculture but to safeguard the subsistence of the human race.
Enhanced focus on smallholder farmer empowerment
There has been a massive focus by private players, governments, and international organizations/development agencies to build farmer-centric solutions over the past couple of years. We expect this trend will significantly pick up pace in 2023 and beyond. Of the estimated 580 million farmers in the world, a staggering 500 million are small-holder farmers who are not easily accessible. Global food-system stakeholders have realized that meaningful and enduring transformation of agriculture is not possible unless smallholder farmers at the grassroots level are trained and enabled to adopt smarter, more efficient, and sustainable ways of farming. Digitization and intuitive, inexpensive, and easily accessible technology can go a long way in making this happen. The Government of India’s Kisan Drones project to use drones for crop assessment, digitization of land records and spraying of insecticides to boost productivity is a great example of making technology more easily available for small farmers. Farmer empowerment at the grassroots will take centerstage in boardroom conversations of agri-businesses next year.
Building food self-sufficiency and reducing food wastage
Nations will take concerted measures to build self-reliance and self-sufficiency in food production to feed their citizens. The Covid-19 pandemic in the last 2 years and the geo-political conflicts in 2022 were an eye-opener and drove home the fact that creating a self-reliant food system is a critical and strategic imperative for nations. Very high dependence on a few markets for major crops, staple foods, and raw materials like pesticides and fertilizers opens up governments and whole populations to the risk of disruptions in food production and the threat of food insecurity. Governments will step up large-scale adoption of technology and data to help their economies to build self-reliance by increasing productivity, efficiency, predictability, and sustainability in their food-supply systems.
Reducing food wastage will become a priority for economies as the world grapples with the twin challenges of food insecurity and economic instability. Today, one-third of food produced globally is either lost or wasted at different stages – right from the field to packaging, warehousing, and distribution. Technology will play an increasing role in helping to check food waste. For example, soil sensors can help monitor soil health to prevent the loss of crops in the field. Digital solutions can monitor the crop lifecycle and send real-time advisories to growers that can help them to reduce wastage in the cultivation process. IoT-enabled connected farming solutions and digital dashboards enable farmers, suppliers, processors, and retailers with end-to-end traceability of food produce/commodities which in turn cut food loss in the supply chain. There will be widespread adoption of digital crop monitoring and smart supply chain models to minimize food loss and wastage across the food value chain.
Regenerative agriculture to reduce soil degradation
We expect more investments to happen in soil conservation and biodiversity in the next couple of years. Good soil health is at the root of productive agriculture. A lot more needs to be done to check soil degradation, and maintain and improve soil health in order to make regenerative agriculture possible. Farmers need to be guided by data-driven decisions on the optimal use of water, pesticides, and agrochemicals and regenerative agriculture practices that can nurture soil health. Policymakers, agrochemical companies, technology players, and NGOs will come together with new initiatives and investments to safeguard the soil.
Embracing technology for a sustainable future
As we grapple with numerous challenges, organizations, and countries need to make quick and take decisive actions backed by the right investments to enable sustainable living and protect our planet at large. 2023 could very well be a make-or-break year for us to decide our fortunes. We shouldn't let the food system fail and the time to act is now!
Editor's Note- This blog was updated in March 2023 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
The possibilities for smart agriculture are many with Cropin.