Sustainable agriculture is digital
March 30, 2021 | Images: Agroscope / fenaco / Adobe Stock / Huawai
Digitization in agriculture is one of the topics of focus within the Sunrise and Huawei Joint Innovation Center. On the basis of 5G, modern technologies are ensuring that farming is becoming more «smart» and therefore more sustainable and efficient. An array of pilot projects are demonstrating the benefits farmers can expect when data, drones, GPS and similar technologies interact with cattle and plants.
Diversity is the lifeblood of Swiss agriculture. From the Rhine Valley to Upper Valais, approximately 50,000 agribusinesses are keeping livestock, producing food and maintaining our cultivated land across mountains and valleys. Agriculture is associated with a down-to-earth attitude and being close to nature. But just like our everyday lives and working lives as a whole, Swiss agriculture has become inexorably digitized.
«Do not worry about the harvest, but about the right cultivation of your fields.»
- Confucius (551–479 BC)
This process has been driven, on the one hand, by concerns about natural resources, increasing demands regarding food safety, animal welfare and productivity, and the desire to improve working conditions for farmers. On the other hand, a large number of smart technologies are now available whose synergy is, step-by-step, making the vision of «Smart Farming» a reality.
The «Internet of Things» in support of agriculture
The Internet of Things generally revolves around digital interconnectivity and the Internet’s applications within the real world. The knowledge we’ve gained from our fitness trackers and navigation systems in our cars is used in Smart Farming and applied to tractors and combine harvesters, farms and stables, and plants and animals. The connected «things» exchange data, which in turn are interlinked and evaluated. Conclusions can be drawn from the data that enable smarter economic management.
Technologies – modern «seeds»
Powerful telecommunications connections are the foundation of digital interconnectivity. With its extensive fields, remote farmsteads and animals on alpine pastures, digital interconnectivity would be particularly inconceivable within the agricultural sector without mobile communications. This includes the cloud, big data and artificial intelligence, high-resolution image recognition, sensors and robotics as well as drones, satellite technology and GPS. With the introduction of the fifth generation of mobile communications, a veritable paradigm shift is just around the corner. This shift will open up completely new application scenarios that have never been possible before.
5G is ushering in a paradigm shift
5G delivers wireless connectivity at a high bandwidth, low latency and with an enormous amount of parallel connections. This means that all devices required for the Internet of Things, such as sensors, tracking systems, drones, computers and smartphones, can benefit from high-performance mobile communications at the same time. And that, in turn, means that large quantities of data can be transmitted at breakneck speed with almost no delay. This makes real-time applications possible, such as the Innosuisse-funded innovation project for weed control regarding the so-called bitter dock. Compared to 4G transmission, 5G only needs a third of the energy to transmit the same amount of data. 5G networks are therefore an important component when it comes to ensuring sustainable production in agriculture and achieving the goal of a climate-neutral Switzerland by 2030.
The vision of Smart Farming – already a reality
Summary: Benefits for us all
When it comes to potential application scenarios, there are no limits except for the ones we place on our own imagination. Smart irrigation systems that measure soil moisture or water quality and calculate the exact amount of water required are just as possible as systems that monitor pests digitally, with these pests being identified and their number and level of proliferation monitored so that they can be combated precisely and proactively.
The overall result is an agricultural sector that has a lower impact on the environment in terms of pesticides, conserves natural resources, generates higher yields and saves farmers costs. Smart Farming is utilizing and drawing closer to organic farming, resulting in lower expenditure as well as better protection of people and nature.