The Economic Benefits of Broadband and 5G in Farming

When more farms use internet speeds up to 25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload, corn yields increase by 3.6 percent, and soybean yields by 3.8 percent.

This statement is supported by the findings in an FCC working paper written this year by Katharine LoPiccalo. In addition, the results show that the more farms are enabled with broadband internet speeds, overall operating expenses decrease by 2.4 percent.

Sensors using the IoT above and below the ground can define when a crop is thirsty, detect disease before lesions appear on leaves, and guide when and how chemicals are applied.

“Sensors offer more eyes in critical areas,” says Jesse Haecker, global planter, spraying, and nutrient applicator business manager for John Deere, in a recent article in Successful Farming. “For example, the 300 sensors on John Deere’s self-propelled sprayers measure temperature, wind speed, ground speed, spray pressure, flow, and changes in terrain to direct chemical applications in varying conditions.”

In cattle, sensors such as smart ear tags are used to gauge the health of animals, and IoT feeders have been shown to increase milk yields in herds by 1% and improve milk quality by 20%! Using these precision farming applications, the number of diseased cattle decreased by 6% compared to a herd without sensor tags. Most significantly, the number of cows lost due to health problems was 24% lower.

In 2020 a report by the FCC projected that between $18-23 billion per year could be realized from digital farming technologies connected by rural broadband.

These precision-farming projections are for farms using 25+ Mbps internet speeds, also called broadband. When broadband reaches 100 Mbps, we’ve achieved the speeds required for 5G. Like self-driving vehicles, 5G will enable driverless crop harvesting, bailing, plowing, and planting. This kind of precision farming will bring whole new cost savings and crop yields and should equate to double the efficiency.

To accomplish these improvements, we need to foster a commitment to 5G rural broadband. Rural communities require a combination of middle mile fiber and wireless to bridge the digital divide and bring 5G speeds to all communities. Americans need to realize the impact 5G will have on agriculture—everything from our dinner tables to helping to feed the world. When state and national legislation facilitate rural broadband development, wireless technology can help solve the genuine, fundamental dilemma of nutrition and feeding families.

november 22, 2021
Mark Christenson President, International Bio