The rollout of 5G is progressing at a deliberate pace, and while gamers and streaming video consumers are no doubt excited for the incredible speeds and low-latency connections that 5G provides, farmers are already using the technology to improve their operations. On this episode of Samsung’s Recalibrate podcast, Ashish Jain, CEO and co-founder at KAIROS, and Kat Robinson of Samsung Networks shared their thoughts on the impact of 5G on smart agriculture.

Robinson kicked off discussion with a stat from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization: “By 2050 the world population will increase to 9.6 billion so to feed all those people we have to increase food production by 70% using the same amount of land we have today,” she said. In order to meet the increasing demand for food, farmers are relying on smart systems, connected devices, and 5G projects like Me+Moo.

Mee+Moo is a 5G initiative launched by RuralFirst in Scotland, which leverages 5G technology in cattle raising. Some 2,000 cows don connected collars and biometric ear tags that allow for better tracking and health monitoring over vast, remote areas. Farmers can proactively target sick cows and remove them from the herd to reduce the spread of infections. In addition, the cows are milked by an almost fully autonomous milking station, enabling farmers to optimize their time.

Jain explained that current projects in smart agriculture are revealing the promise of autonomous farming systems. In his words, the end goal is “completely automating crop yield, soup to nuts, without a human involved.”

He pointed to a project now in its third year called the ​Hands Free Hectare which involves crop production using autonomous tractors, drones, IoT sensors, and no human hands.

“When you’re talking large scale vast areas of land, and the connectivity that you need and the latency and bandwidth requirements for things like drones and autonomous vehicles, that’s where 5G will really shine,” Robinson said.

Still, there are questions on whether using short-wavelength 5G signals are practical for large farms as longer-wavelength LTE signals are better at spanning great distances. Jain dismissed the concern.

“5G is a combination of technology and will leverage the best technology suitable to the job,” he said.

Smart agriculture isn’t just about optimizing farm operations and reducing costs, it also can help produce higher-quality crops. The speakers reference a Californian vineyard experimenting with intelligent irrigation systems that know precisely when the soil needs to be watered in order to produce the best tasting grapes for superior wine. Let’s cheers to that!

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