Smart farming as a service 5G in PH agriculture: a transformation in waiting | Inquirer Business

Smart farming as a service 5G in PH agriculture: a transformation in waiting

/ 01:56 AM August 12, 2022
Deepak Talwar

Deepak Talwar —Contributed photo


Is it possible to take a slow-growth industry ravaged by natural disasters, urbanization and COVID-19 and transform it into a profitable, growing sector that creates value for business owners and customers alike?


Such is the challenge facing the Philippine agricultural community.

According to market research firm Statista, about a quarter of employed Filipinos work in agriculture, a sector which in 2020 contributed a significant 10.2 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Given its importance to so many lives, as well as the economy as a whole, it is crucial to act now to ensure the sector’s long-term viability. The answer lies in placing smart investments in 5G and complementary technologies, alongside innovation and collaboration with communications service providers.


Smart farming

As typical in many emerging economies, agriculture in the Philippines remains overly dependent on manual labor, conventional tools and outdated methodologies. Yet the past few years have shown promise with significant technological advancements. Examples include automation of repetitive and labor-intensive tasks, as well as precision agriculture.

Yet the main hope for future change lies in combining these advances with the emergence of more recent developments, such as the rollout of high-speed, low-latency 5G networks. Such infrastructure promises to allow agribusinesses to make the quantum leap to smart farming systems designed to increase farming precision—leveraging a combination of edge computing, artificial intelligence, internet of things (IoT) and robotics. Examples include applying customized and data-driven approaches to water and pesticide use, to minimize wastage, reduce input costs and increase crop yields.

Emerging technologies

One of the highlights of the recent CES (Consumer Eletronic Show) 2022 tech event in Las Vegas was agritech company John Deere’s launch of 5G-enabled autonomous tractors, which are designed to increase productivity on a giant scale, while optimizing human effort and reducing equipment and production costs.

Another technology that offers promise is the 5G-connected drone. Equipped with cameras and sensors, it enables agribusinesses to perform large-scale, automated inspections of individual crops. The drones collect data for analysis, even across massive areas, providing decision makers with the necessary knowledge in real time to make informed decisions, while also freeing them from the need to perform time-intensive laborious tasks.

Such technology was recently demonstrated by 5G Open Innovation Lab partners Amdocs, Microsoft, Dell, T-Mobile, VMware and In this pilot project, which took place at 5G Innovation Lab’s field lab in Snohomish, Washington, specially equipped drones gathered imagery and data on apple plant life, soil and irrigation. Captured data were transferred to the cloud and processed and analyzed within minutes. Crucial information was then provided in real time that enabled farmers to optimize irrigation levels throughout different parts of the pilot area, enabling them to slash water usage by half.

Israel-based startup Taranis offers another innovative approach, with technology capable of capturing images of entire fields with leaf-level granularity using light sports aircraft and drones. Even at speeds exceeding 100 kilometers per hour, the solution rapidly identifies areas either in need of attention or ready for planting, while recommending the most effective times for treating or planting crops by providing accurate weather forecasting.

Smart farming as a service

With its high speeds and low latency, 5G’s ability to support near real-time data transfers, complemented by reliable mobile connectivity and IoT technology, offers endless potential for agriculture innovation and creation of new use cases. Properly applied, such potential will enable Filipino agribusinesses to improve crop management efficiency and build more robust business models. For this to happen, however, the technologies must first be made affordable to farmers—especially those owning small arable lands.


With the challenge of high input costs, variable weather conditions and inaccessible markets for selling produce, this leaves a major opportunity for communication service providers (CSPs) to offer “smart farming as a service.” Such a model would provide agribusinesses of all sizes with affordable, end-to-end technological solutions that negate the need to purchase, own or maintain expensive tech equipment. The value proposition is simple: they can just subscribe to the service and use it. The result would be a win-win for farmers, CSPs, end-customers—and the economy. —contributed INQ

The author is regional vice president and customer business executive for Asia-Pacific at Amdocs, a Nasdaq-listed company which offers an open and dynamic portfolio of digital solutions, platforms and services that help businesses take their business to the cloud.

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TAGS: farming, Philippine agriculture, smart
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