The future of agriculture through the application of 5G technology

20. November 2020. Nikola Vido
Star Trek in the Croatian field: Drones are filming pests, AI is adding corn, the tractor is driving alone …
CROATIAN TELECOM BRINGS 5G agriculture is coming: Here is how technology brings an increase in yield:

 

We are in a historical moment when we have the opportunity to increase the quality of life of mankind. She also arrived in Croatia fifth generation of the mobile network: it is the technology of the future that brings about revolutionary changes in healthcare, transportation, education, agriculture, energy, entire economies, and could potentially be as significant as the discovery of electricity or the first car. With the development of 5G technology, 2.3 million new jobs will arrive in EU countries, and global GDP could grow by $ 4 trillion by 2030. At Hrvatski Telekom and Večernji, we are committed to making new technology available and expect it to work and benefit humanity. !!

When the young English farmer Jethro Tull invented the first seed drill (the horse-drawn machine) in 1701, he had no idea that he would change agriculture forever. His motive was to circumvent the displeasure of the servants who did not want to listen to his new instructions on how to more effectively manually throw the ridge across the field. But his invention directly helped develop an agricultural revolution that made much better use of resources, and this ultimately became one of the factors of the industrial revolution that affected the entire world. His sower was laying the seeds in neat rows instead of the previous manual scattering around the field as which sower thought was the best …

Agriculture and technology have a long history of cooperation, and the last 50 years have brought new radical transformations in farming. The development of new more complex machines has increased the capacity and efficiency of cultivation, as well as the expansion of arable land. Seeds, irrigation systems, artificial fertilizers have also been improved …

Jethro Tull has been perfecting seed drill technology all his life.

Today, the world of agriculture, on the other hand, is at the beginning of another revolution, and at its centre are the pile of data and fast connectivity offered by the 5G network. Artificial intelligence, fast and accurate analytics, instantaneous communication of connected sensors and other innovative technologies that are already in sight could further increase yields and bring greater utilization of agricultural goods and processes in food production.

Imagine this scene. In Slavonia, you are near Osijek on a large field and you are watching a tractor without a driver cultivate the land on its own, and drones are flying over the field. The sensors on the tractor continuously record everything around them and know exactly the conditions in the atmosphere such as temperature and humidity, as well as the condition of the soil and whether it is necessary to plough shallower or deeper … The farmer does not have to be in the field. transmission in high resolution and all this data is automatically processed in the cloud.

And just as Jethro Tull in the 18th century didn’t know exactly why a plant grows better when the soil around it is dug up, neither will a farmer need to know all the science or the background of technology that will know exactly how to get the most out of every part of arable land. This does not mean that the farmer will be idle and listen to the progressive rock band Jethro Tull (that they are really named after that pioneer of farming), but let’s say that the machines will be able to cultivate the land independently and at night and greatly help the growing needs of the world’s population. 9.7 billion people by 2050.

If advanced connectivity is successfully incorporated into agriculture, global GDP could grow by $ 500 billion, according to a new study by the McKinsey Global Institute.

All this is neither Star Trek nor science fiction, but a very realistic scenario that awaits us in the future in the Croatian fields, and not so far away. Hrvatski Telekom has already started launching the 5G network in several Croatian cities, and innovative technologies are increasingly being developed by domestic experts, despite fierce global competition.

Wireless sensors connected via a 5G network could monitor field conditions and detect when crops need watering, pesticides or fertilizer. In addition to the sensor field, 5G also provides some truly advanced solutions in agriculture such as highly specialized drones and self-propelled tractors. Drones will become the standard in agriculture, in parallel with the introduction of 5G technologies. Namely, it has already been proven how drones can perform various plantation inspections or spraying more efficiently and precisely. I am sure that the coming years will bring great changes in the agricultural segment, especially in the area of Slavonia, which dominates in agricultural production. Those who do not turn to new technologies could soon feel a further decline in competitiveness in the domestic and foreign markets – says Ivan Jelušić, electrical engineer and one of the co-founders of the Osijek hit company Orqa, specializing in the production of drone control goggles.

Ivan Jelušić, Vlatko Matijević and Srđan Kovačević from the company Orqa.

Jelušić says that drones in cooperation with the 5G network are well-positioned to help farmers and to see the moment when every Croatian family farm will have a drone system as a regular tool:

– It is the systems for early detection of crop quality that are enabled through the use of drones and multispectral cameras that are connected to the 5G infrastructure and give stakeholders an insight into plantation econometrics and plant health in real-time. Technology today, where high-bandwidth network infrastructure plays an important role, allows for continuous monitoring of plantations. With the time that comes and the technologies that emerge, the price of such solutions will become more affordable and affordable to the extent that each farm or family farm will have its own drone system, as tractors and other working machines have today. In the meantime, I am sure that companies will offer clients in agriculture the use of drones through the short-term rental with a pilot, which will be a favourable introduction to agriculture for greater opportunities with the use of advanced technologies – concludes Jelusic, and is ready to offer its expertise to domestic farmers

–Companies like Orqa d.o.o. want to bring farmers closer to the use of drones in agriculture and we are open to pilot projects with small and medium-sized family farms (OPGs).

“Precision agriculture” is becoming increasingly important, and Marko Kozjak from the local company VeeMee, which promotes the originality of agricultural products and studies all relevant information between producers and customers, including the effort to make as little food as possible, helps us to understand what exactly the term means.

Drones can record and even transmit high-resolution images and instantly detect pests or crop diseases.

– It is a concept of agricultural production based on selective monitoring, cultivation and treatment of smaller segments of agricultural land. With the help of sensors, the growth and development of each individual plant can be monitored and problems in their origin can be identified; variations of the observed elements such as yield, soil fertility status, weed status, disease development, etc. are monitored, which significantly reduces the cost and facilitates problem-solving and prevention. All this enhances the planning of long-term food production and helps preserve the environment and achieve self-sustainability, “explains Kozjak.

Marko Kozjak (VeeMee): Sensors can be used to monitor the growth and development of each individual plant, as well as yield, soil fertility status, weed status, disease development …

It also reveals exactly how this is achieved in practice with the help of new technologies:

– While, on the one hand, small and large robotic machines are being developed for processing, hyperspectral images from satellites and spacecraft are used for monitoring, but there is a problem precisely in the lack of sufficient precision. Caused by high sensor prices – resulting in either too few sensors or lower recording frequencies. The only viable solution is a network of many small, inexpensive and connected sensors, which monitor the microclimatic conditions on each micro-unit of the surface in real-time – this is made possible by a standard called “IoT” (“Internet of Things”) and will be achievable only through the application of 5G technology that allows a significantly higher density of devices (sensors) – one million per square kilometre, significantly less connection energy and higher speeds, throughput. Also, 5G solutions do not require complex local IT infrastructure. Well-conceived “Farm Management” solutions rely on information obtained from a network of IoT sensors crucial to replace previous manual data entry. The final effect is more economical production and significant savings in raw materials, human and machine work, and savings in energy consumption. Thanks to timely information collected with the help of a system that enables the reduction of the “human factor” to a human measure. In short, we can conclude that the technology of the 5G network increases the efficiency of food production in agriculture while raising the ecology, economy and quality of life to a higher level – describes Kozjak.

Slavonia is well aware that technology can help agriculture even more. Popular Fazos, the Faculty of Agrobiotechnical Sciences in Osijek also has qualified scientists, as well as a large area of 100 hectares for testing. Another important aspect of precision agriculture was revealed to us by assoc. dr. sc. Ivan Plaščak from Fazos Department of Geoinformation Technologies and GIS:

Extraordinary prof. dr. sc. Ivan Plaščak on the collection of ground control points, so-called GCPs, for the purposes of georeferencing and precise positioning by drone of the collected images at the Fazos experimental site.

–First and foremost, precision farming can help stop soil degradation. This is currently a problem of Croatian and world agriculture and the topic of almost all meetings on environmental protection. Soil destruction is caused by poor use of mechanization or agrotechnical and ignorance of the use of agrochemicals. Now people have become aware that the direction needs to change. This precise agriculture is what, in layman’s terms, determines the potentially different actions for each smallest part of the agricultural area. Thus, the field as a whole is not observed, but every small part of it up to less than 1 meter of surface. We used to treat the whole area equally, say for 150 hectares we determined that 200 kilograms of nitrogen are needed, and now smaller particles are marked and it is calculated exactly where more should be added and where less to create optimal conditions for plant growth and development – describes Professor Plaščak.

Areas in which researchers at the Fazos Department of Geoinformation Technologies and GIS conduct scientific and professional research and which services they offer on the market.

He says that the harvest is also recorded and mapped where the yield was higher and the field more fertile. Thus, farmers can better calculate what is better to invest in and which part of the field is better to leave for renewal, and where they will continue to sow. Satellite imagery is also widely used in tracking arable land, but new technologies bring even better resolutions and the ability to accurately capture every inch of land. It is clear that we can recognize both the disease of the plant and the individual parasite, as well as the lack of any nutrients. And those are the things we test on our college trial. We are working on an algorithm that recognizes the disease/pest, but also in what quantity it is on that surface because there is a threshold of harmfulness. You will not, for example, go for a rapeseed gloss treatment when you find two glossies on an area of ​​350 acres. The treatment starts when a certain amount of adult gloss per plant is in a particular phenophase. Also, it is not necessary to cross, for example, a plot of 350 hectares and look for pests, but it is solved by unmanned aerial vehicles – drones – says Plaščak, who revealed some other projects that Fazos is perfecting and offering to Croatian agriculture:

Sowing of corn.

– What we are currently offering as a service is setting a corn germination threshold. After sowing corn, if the corn germination threshold is below 80 per cent, then you should go into screening because it is not economically justified to invest in the development of such a set. So, did 80 per cent of the plant’s sprout on the sown production area. You need to determine that percentage of plant germination. Until now, this was done using the “stick and rope” method, which is still used today. You take one frame made of slats of a square meter and walk on the sown production area and count the plants that have sprouted inside that square. And after a few counts of the square samples, you calculate the percentage of germination for the entire production area. What we do is fly over that area and record it with a drone, load the map into a computer, run our application and automatically get what the percentage of germination is, with a possible error of up to a maximum of five per cent. Also, among other things, we can carry out the zoning of agricultural production in the entire territory of Croatia or any part of it. This means that we know and can determine which area is suitable for growing a particular crop, for example in which areas it is best to plant Lika cabbage or Međimurje potatoes.

But what does all this mean in practice for our farmers and family farms (OPGs), will they have to install a 5G base station in their field in order to be able to connect all these famous machines, sensors and new technologies? This is answered by prof. dr. sc. Gordan Šišul from the Department of Communication and Space Technologies of the Zagreb Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computing.

–High transmission speeds are not required to achieve mass communication between machines (mMTC or IoT) when it comes to connecting numerous sensors and sending telemetry data. No new base stations are required for this type of traffic. If a farmer wants gigabit speeds in his field (especially in the 26 GHz spectrum) he has to count on new base stations. The bigger problem is connecting all these base stations to a fixed (core) network because it requires both quality and branched optical access network. So if the farmer has an optical connection on his farm there will be no major problems.

Three basic classes (types) of 5G network services: enhanced mobile broadband access, mass communication of machines or mass Internet of Things, and ultra-reliable low-latency communications.

Šišul points out that the transition to 5G is a much bigger step forward than when we switched from 3G to the 4G network.

– 5G represents a bigger leap for the economy compared to the jump that was achieved when we introduced 4G instead of 3G. The 4G network has become a full packet network (“all IP”) and has primarily brought higher transfer speeds compared to 3G. It is real wireless broadband access. 4G is a necessary prelude to 5G and is appropriate for its time of creation. 5G is the foundation of Industry 4.0 – almost instantaneous connectivity anytime, anywhere.

His colleague from FER, Marko Jurčević, associate professor from the Department of Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering and Electrical Measurements, agrees with Šišul:

– The key advantage of the fifth generation of mobile communication networks (5G) is many times higher transmission speed compared to 4G networks, and many times lower latency in data transmission, which are the characteristics of wired communication links. It is these characteristics that are the reason why drones are increasingly being connected to 5G networks. Namely, drones primarily collect data. The ability to transfer this data quickly (almost instantly) opens up some new possibilities such as the application of artificial intelligence, real-time video transmission and drone control – Jurčević points out.

Izv. prof. Marko Jurčević, PhD: The key advantage of 5G is a much higher transfer rate and a much lower latency in data transfer.

 

He adds that drones can be used for a whole range of activities in various branches of the economy, including agriculture:

– 5G allows a drone to transmit high-resolution footage about a hundred times faster than 4G, for drone pilots, this means they have a view of what the drone is watching in very high quality. This can be used for inspections of various infrastructure (transmission lines, viaducts, roads, high-rise buildings and any hard-to-reach locations in general), surveillance of what happens on the ground (road traffic, agricultural land, environmental protection, journalistic reporting) – so for any an activity for which the transmission of high image quality is important.

And sensors and fast analytics are important in agriculture because there are so many factors in that branch that can affect soil cultivation and crop. It often happened to farmers that they noticed the appearance of, for example, a new parasite too late.

– Large agricultural lands planted with a crop require monitoring of crop progress every few days due to possible diseases, pests, monitoring of drought consequences, ie irrigation needs, supplementation needs, etc. Agriculture is a sector that is greatly affected by small changes in soil and air temperature and humidity. Crop problems are often noticed too late. In Europe, intelligent irrigation systems (even soil fertilization) are often used, which correctly dose the necessary resources depending on the individual soil segment. 5G networks can create completely new possibilities if we consider using drones or autonomous (self-driving) tractors (which already exist today) to do all the work on some agricultural land without significant human intervention. Sowing, complete monitoring and protection of crops, monitoring of weather conditions, harvesting or harvesting are jobs that can be done completely independently by agricultural machines today. Autonomous tractors sow, drones with various sensors or cameras monitor crops and identify possible problems, small robots take soil samples to determine the amount of fertilizer or pesticide needed to be used and in which exact locations. This approach to agriculture in the world, as well as in Croatia, is not uncommon, and 4G networks are already used for such activities. 5G networks, as one big upgrade, can support a much larger number of devices, machines or sensors that can communicate with each other at the same time, which makes them perfect for such applications – explains Jurčević.

And finally, we could get to the stage that as consumers and customers we have all the information about the food we buy.

We estimate that in the near future, 5G networks and solutions based on it will significantly affect the landscape change of outlets. Enable digital product labelling, significantly greater dynamism and responsiveness within stores and with products on shelves. 5G will further accelerate sales transactions in a completely contactless environment and significantly reduce latency or system outages. New technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) paired with a platform like VeeMee will give customers a much greater connection to the food source and control over what they eat or drink, which is an important component for a healthy life – predicts Marko Kozjak from VeeMee.

Moreover, Kozjak estimates that new technologies could attract more young people in the agricultural sector, and perhaps even partially return young people to rural areas of Croatia.

Certainly, because agriculture is primarily based on experience and technology. Increasing profitability with automation and support of the production process from planning, through breeding, care and yield to product recognition and marketing, are well-founded arguments in favour of choosing a return to nature – through recognizing agriculture as a profitable industry within which to pay for career and family life – in partnership with technology.

So, in agriculture, we are following an exciting period with the help of a new technological breakthrough.

Read more at: https://www.vecernji.hr/techsci/star-trek-na-hrvatskoj-njivi-dronovi-snimaju-stetnike-ai-zbraja-kukuruz-traktor-sam-vozi-1446220 – www.vecernji. hr

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