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Innovation of the future

Fertile ground for fresh opportunities in agriculture

Once Germany is equipped with the new 5G mobile telecommunications standard, employees in the field of agriculture will also reap the rewards of this technology. From smart fields to silent cowbells – things that were once barely imaginable have now become possible.

Saved by the collar 

A soothing sound or a dreadful racket? When it comes to cowbells, opinions differ. The fact is that 5G heralds the arrival of silent cowbells. It’s true there are already GPS transmitters to help keep track of cows and goats. But a 5G collar offers a lot more scope. Animals can be traced more quickly and accurately because their location can be determined in real time. Smart cowbells also compile a profile that provides information on the animals’ movements and health status. If a cow spends an unusually long time on one patch, the transmitter sends a signal – and someone can check that all is in order. With GPS or LTE, the availability of such functions is limited in comparison with 5G – and they are much slower. 

The 5G collar also contains sensors that evaluate the feeding behaviour of an animal and measure its body temperature. So the farmer can take action whenever an intervention becomes necessary. A sensor attached to the tail of a pregnant cow can even recognise the onset of labour and signal that a birth is imminent – allowing people to arrive on the scene at the key moment and ensure the survival of both the calf and cow.  

Stables are getting smarter 

Digital solutions are in demand, not only in the fields, but also in the farmyard. In a smart stable, for example, the livestock are milked automatically. If an animal wants to be milked, it independently presents itself to a milking robot. On average, these robots produce seven per cent more milk and during the milking process, they also check the health of the udder. There are automated feeding processes too, and a little robot can help clean the stables. This might not replace physical contact with the animals, but it does save a lot of work. 

Just like smart cowbells, the stable also collects and evaluates data. Insights into the digital farmyard are being provided by pilot projects, like the one in the Vechta district. The Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture is providing over 50 million euros for 14 digital testing grounds. These include Landnetz (Countryside Network) in Saxony, which involves supplying 5G coverage across 200 square kilometres between Nossen and Torgau. 

The self-fertilising field 

In cultivated fields too, changes are also under way, with drones and sensors providing information about plant growth and the nutrient content of plants and soil. Based on this suggestion, the farmer receives suggestions for the ideal fertiliser mix and information about where this should be applied, to within a few centimetres. This helps save resources and can also lead to a better harvest. 

5G drone flights can also deliver significantly improved image quality. Some of these tasks can also be performed with LTE technology, but 5G is faster and more reliable. In the future, fertilising and harvesting will increasingly be taken over by autonomous farm machinery. Employees will control the processes remotely in real time while taking virtual tours of the property. 

Using water sparingly 

5G should eventually be comprehensively available within the agricultural sector. Regions that have up to now been left behind will join forces with others, enabling all farmers to reap the benefits of the new mobile telecommunications standard. In tomorrow’s fields and farmyards, numerous processes will take place in parallel, thereby saving labour costs and time. Efficient irrigation is also possible: with sensors on trees and information about their growth, farmers can save up to 30 per cent of the water that would otherwise be used. Such savings are particularly important during summer droughts, as these resources can help keep the farm going. 

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