‘Rural broadband is a global issue’– farm equipment firm AGCO on connecting agriculture
A new smart farming initiative in Brazil, called ConectarAGRO, is seeking to make use of LTE and 5G connectivity, as well as satellite and microwave technologies, to enable 500,000 farms to connect machinery, deploy robots and sensors, and engage precision mapping.
US agricultural equipment manufacturer AGCO Corporation is involved in the project, alongside the Brazilian arm of Telecom Italia and Finnish vendor Nokia. The objective is to bring connectivity – and thereby automation, and intelligence – to 93 per cent of Brazilian farmers, which remain un-served by wireless broadband coverage.
“Rural broadband is a global issue. Countries like Australia, Brazil, and the US all struggle with with connectivity on farms,” says Jonathan Riley, product marketing manager at Fuse, AGCO’s smart farming division.
Riley makes clear the case of high-bandwidth cellular, home on the range. “With more new machines having LTE and 5G capabilities, now and in the future, entire fleets will be able to communicate, data can be transferred in real-time, and advanced capabilities can be developed. We’re connecting the entire operation through innovative solutions in order to capitalise the land more effectively and efficiently.”
AGCO provides smart solutions for the enture crop cycle, it says. It highlights its five core brands: Challenger, Fendt, GSI, Massey Ferguson, and Valtra. These are supported by Fuse’s family of smart farming solutions, including its Auto Guide system for autonomous and semi-autonomous farm vehicles, which seeks to reduce fatigue and minimise overlap, during both day and night operations.
AGCO Connect provides telemetry solutions that enable growers and dealers to coordinate, optimise and connect their fleets, to better manage maintenance and remotely monitor equipment in the field. It also offers precision planting sensors to help self-calibrate and self-correct while in the field.
“These are just a few examples where farmers are maximising their agronomic resources to increase profits while reducing down time. Farmers are continuously looking for solutions that reduce their pain points and enable to make decisions immediately whether they are on the field, in their office, or in the cab,” says Riley.
Enterprise IoT Insights caught up with Riley for its recent Making Industry Smarter report, called Connecting Agriculture. The report is free to download, and available here. The original interview, in full, is below.
How is the agriculture changing with digital technologies?
“Digitalization is introducing complex challenges along the entire agronomic value chain, while also presenting new opportunities. The access to relevant information across all levels of production allows for optimal production diversity, security, speed, reliability and efficiency.
“AGCO created a dedicated division fore smart farming in 2013 for this topic, called Fuse, based on an open approach in precision agriculture. Fuse leverages our mixed fleet expertise, and we complement this knowledge with partnerships, joint ventures, and our own ‘future farm’ sites, where we can experiment with new products, techniques, and innovations.
“Fuse delivers smart farming solutions to customers through smart equipment and smart farming practices, such as self-adjusting combines, guidance, telemetry, and rate and section control. The goal is to provide resources at the right place, at the right time, and in the right amount.”
What is the opportunity with digital technologies?
“New digital technologies allow AGCO to help reduce the carbon footprint around the globe. By providing smart solutions, we not only help with the implementation of sustainable agriculture, but also allow growers to maximize yield potential and reduce waste in the process.
“Accessibility, traceability, and connectivity are challenges our customers face. It is our job to provide easy, compatible and smart solutions that reduce their pain points and focus on the big picture rather than on tedious tasks. As IoT, sensors, big data, and automation become more intertwined in the agriculture sector, we’ll start to see a rise in productivity, sustainability, and profitability for our growers.”
How is data being used to make farming smarter?
“Data analytics is one of the key differentiators for whether an operation provides more yields or not. Data provides gives farmers sight of what is happening in the operation – so they know better whether to change a prescription, what to adapt on the fields, and when and where to plant crops based on thigs like soil erosion.
“It equips farmers with the right tools. Data analytics gives growers the whole picture of what is occurring on their land to improve their businesses. Fleet data enables them to receive predicative maintenance, machine optimization and increase uptime.
“Farm data brings agronomic improvements and cost reductions. Without one or the other, the operator loses potential in yields and increases downtime. By enabling growers to turn data collection into smart decisions, we help them maximize the return from every seed.”
Which technology is the most transformative for farming?
“More robust automation and robotics rely heavily on sensors. These sensors connected to a local environment will enable machine automation. The added benefit of this is more efficient machine utilization.
“With sensors either electrical or acoustic machines will be able to adjust settings in real time to current conditions for optimal utilization. Machine automation based on real time sensor data is a game changer in the industry.
“Traditionally, data was transferred to an office after an operation was completed in the field. Settings could have been incorrect on the machine and the yield or as applied map would show those deficiencies. Now with automation and connectivity, smart machines are able to adjust in real time, while managers off-site can monitor conditions in real time.
“Better connectivity in the field facilitates data collection which leads to the next level of precision agriculture, which is data science, via analytics and machine learning. Data Science will play a greater role with on farm decisions both agronomic and machine in the coming years.”
What is the value of LTE and 5G in this sector?
“Rural broadband is a global issue. Countries like Australia, Brazil, and the United States struggle with providing connectivity on the farm. To fill the void in Brazil, AGCO, along with eight other companies, is providing an internet connectivity service through ConectarAGRO, where farmers gain access to their data and can connect their entire fleet more seamlessly.
“With more new machines having LTE and 5G capabilities, now and in the future, entire fleets will be able to communicate, data can be transferred in real-time, and advanced capabilities can be developed. In doing so, we’re connecting the entire operation through innovative solutions in order to capitalize the land more effectively and efficiently.”