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The next generation of the internet is almost here—and it could even transform our farms

The 5G farm of the future will have real-time soil monitoring, connected tractors, remote veterinarian care, and more.

The next generation of the internet is almost here—and it could even transform our farms
[Photo: Mauricio Alejo]

While the buzz around 5G is often focused on smartphones (and the technology’s promise of lag-free gaming and streaming), the cellular technology stands to hypercharge industries far beyond entertainment. With its high bandwidth, low latency (i.e., the ability to transfer lots of data with minimal delay), and high reliability, 5G is faster and more dependable than 4G, and so robust that it can replace wired connections—bringing everything from factory robots to fleets of autonomous vehicles online.

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Also poised for big change is agriculture. Sensors and artificial intelligence could take some of the guesswork out of nature’s cycles, allowing farmers to remotely monitor weather patterns, livestock wellness, and soil nutrients, while autonomous driving and cloud computing could make equipment more efficient.

“Our ability to have machines sending data in both directions is really important,” says Lane Arthur, John Deere’s director of digital solutions. Add to it the fact that the U.S. farming industry has lost roughly 7 million workers since the 1950s, and you have a new frontier for Silicon Valley’s problem solvers: the farm of the future.

5G by the numbers

5x: How much faster 5G’s initial peak speeds will be, compared to 4G (aka LTE)

2035: The year 5G’s “full economic effect” will be realized globally, according to Qualcomm

33: The number of U.S. cities that currently have 5G connectivity*

Sources: “What You Need to Know About 5G,” Consumer Reports (5G speed); Qualcomm 5G Economy Study (2035); “Here Are the Cities Where You Can Access 5G From Major U.S. Carriers Right Now,” Digital Trends, *as of 10/18/2019 (5G cities)

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A version of this article appeared in the Winter 2019/2020 issue of Fast Company magazine.

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