5G networks, known as the new generation of mobile internet, are already being implemented in several countries, generating expectations for the advances that this technology will allow in all areas of the economy. This includes agribusiness through the use of 5G in agricultural machinery.
In this way, the new generation of mobile networks can transform the activities of the sector and benefit the activities in the field, through the better connectivity and greater flexibility that this technology allows, due to the speed and latency, which are much higher than those of the 4G network.
And since connectivity is one of the main bottlenecks in the diffusion of new technologies in the field, it is essential to understand the impacts and benefits expected with the introduction of the 5G network in agriculture.
Increased efficiency with the use of 5G in agricultural machinery
One of the biggest impact factors in the use of 5G in agricultural machinery is the density of connected equipment that the new mobile networks will allow.
In addition, 5G technology can increase the efficiency of agricultural machinery by promoting lower latencies (delay in data transfer), increased transmission rates, larger coverage areas with reduced signal loss between antenna changes and reduced interference.
Among the main technical advantages, we can highlight:
- lower latencies, between 1 and 10 milliseconds;
- capacity of uploads and downloads in the range of tens of Gbps (gigabytes per second) for each mobile station;
- ability to connect millions of devices per square kilometer to a single access point;
- identification of each equipment and allocation of dedicated transmission channels, using cognitive radio techniques.
“Brazilian agribusiness has been undergoing major changes and 5G technology represents a great opportunity to make it more competitive and efficient, ensuring increased productivity, machinery and time optimization. And, as a result, an increasingly significant cost reduction. The big challenge, of course, still lies in the infrastructure of telecommunication services in rural areas across the country”, points out Douglas Peccin, CEO of MP Agro Máquinas Agrícolas.
Impacts on agribusiness
By applying 5G technology to agricultural machinery, some features are enhanced. As an example, we can mention precision agriculture, with intelligent sensing and monitoring of crops.
The research director of the startup Adroit Robotics, Plinio Aquino Jr. highlights five most promising points of this technology:
The operation of monitoring equipment, such as smart sensors embedded in agricultural machinery, can be optimized.
“For example, these sensors can be remotely controlled from anywhere in the world. And they can also send high quality images in real time to management systems”, explains Jr.
He points out that monitoring equipment can be cheaper, since all the processing of the data they get can be sent to the cloud through the 5G network.
2. Increase in coverage areas
5G technology can provide large coverage by installing many small cells, which are smaller base stations. In this context, each small cell can provide coverage of approximately 250 m, and any desired number of small cells can be installed to obtain the desired coverage area.
3. Massive communication between machines
5G can also meet the demands of agribusiness regarding massive machine communication. In this context, the technology allows a high density of connected equipment, minimal battery consumption, in addition to low cost and low complexity for equipment management.
4. Better quality in equipment connectivity
More fluid connections, with a lower incidence of service interruption (seamless connectivity) during the mobility of mobile stations, can be achieved through modern handoff mitigation techniques.
“Furthermore, lower levels of interference between access points can be obtained due to more efficient interference mitigation techniques”, he stresses.
5. Decrease in equipment manufacturing costs
According to Plinio Jr, a great attraction of 5G is that it allows the manufacturing cost of some equipment to be reduced.
“As 5G provides high-speed, high-bandwidth connections, as well as low latency, processing performed locally — whether in agricultural machinery or in monitoring elements, such as sensors attached to tractors — can be moved to the cloud or server located in a computational fog”, he highlights.
What you need to know before investing in 5G technology
All technology comes to add resources. In the case of agricultural machinery, 5G tends to make it even more productive. However, before investing in this type of technology for agricultural machinery, it is important to be aware of some details, so that the investment is better used.
“What we see today is that, due to lack of knowledge and training, many resources end up not being properly used and their potential being exploited properly. Therefore, training, in-depth knowledge of all the resources that technology provides is a fundamental step towards its effective use”, observes Douglas Peccin.
Technical issues are also a very relevant point, especially in Brazil, where 5G network coverage is still in its initial phase.
“The big advantage in using 5G in agricultural equipment is the better performance in many aspects, considering the connectivity between a large set of equipment. Another highlight is the potential for greater data collection in less time, favoring the use of applications that require automatic decision making. However, before investing in this type of equipment, you should check the antenna coverage and signal efficiency on the rural property”, warns the director of Adroit Robotics.
Technologies for agricultural machinery: what already exists and what is yet to come?
The management of all machinery through real-time connectivity is already a very present reality in agribusiness. However, precision agriculture embedded in agricultural machines should be something uncomplicated, for a more intuitive operation. In addition, cross-platform technologies must communicate in a simple way. This allows the acceleration of the processes and the understanding of the crop, helping the producer's decision making.
“Something that is on the producers' radar is the search for solutions that reduce operating costs and time, and that, on the other hand, increase efficiency and productivity. Therefore, automation technologies and high-capacity and electrical machinery are trends for the future of the coming years”, indicates the CEO of MP Agro.
For Plinio Aquino Jr, the technology of sensors, which coupled to machines can capture information about the plantation, tend to be a growing trend in the sector.
“These sensors help in monitoring productivity, plant health, tree inventories, pest identification, among other information. The connectivity provided by 5G increases the efficiency of these equipment by providing a higher data transmission rate with servers and between equipment”, he says.