How 5G Will Change Food Forever (And For The Better)

Hallelujah, there’s one big blessing on the horizon this year — over the course of 2020, Deutsche Telekom will extend 5G coverage to the capital cities of all 16 German states. But when you think of 5G, the next generation of mobile broadband, you might think of the sort of space-age use cases that only a small minority of people would have contact with. Self driving cars, say, or medical surgery taking place remotely.

Except 5G isn’t happening that far away from you. One sector 5G is set to have a huge impact on is food: how we grow it, how we access it and how we consume it.

AUTOMATION AHEAD

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The Hands Free Hectare in the UK was the first ever initiative in which crops were planted, tended to and harvested without a human worker ever setting foot in the field. The team behind the project took farming equipment and modified it to be autonomous, while drones monitored the crops and samples were taken by machine to test if fertilisers or pesticides needed to be applied. The project has done so well that last year it was granted funding to expand to a Hands Free Farm.

Retailers’ price wars and agriculture legislation in Germany has led to protests by farmers, who argue that lower profits and higher costs means the profession just doesn’t add up anymore. If automated farming took off in Germany, it could mean they could take care of their land more efficiently. 

SOMETHING’S FISHY

According to the BBC, salmon is one of the UK’s biggest food exports, worth over one billion pounds a year to the economy. But salmon is generally farmed nowadays for commercial use and fish farms are often prone to disease: apparently Scottish salmon farms struggled in 2019 to keep up with the previous year’s supply of salmon due to issues like sea lice infestations and disease. The answer – pesticides – are criticised for damaging some of Scotland’s lochs. 

The 5G RuralFirst project announced it would be using “IoT sensors to measure parameters such as pH, dissolved oxygen, salinity and temperature inside and outside of the salmon cages.” These measurables are more important than they might seem — fish can die if these numbers are exceeded.

The idea also found favour in Scandinavia, with Norway’s Telenor also arguing that 5G could upend fishing, claiming that sensors and image analysis could be used to identify low-quality fish. Obviously similar measurables could also be implemented for other animals to track their well-being and ensure any illnesses are caught early on, before they become serious. 

DELIVERY BY DRONE

Image courtesy of Manna

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s your ham and pineapple pizza.

For a conventional delivery service to make economic sense, you need tightly-packed cities. But what if you lived in a small Irish village? Enter: Manna.aero, a startup who have built the MNA-1090 drone (which uses 5G connectivity) to deliver for the cost of just one pound, what, up until now, has been carried out by bike and car. “In five years, it’s going to be the most normal thing you can imagine,” Manna Chief Executive Officer Bobby Healy told Bloomberg. Yes, he’s aware that there’s one big hurdle to overcome: the issue of regulation. But Healy believes the industry will eventually get there and hopes to deliver between 20,0000 and 50,000 orders successfully by drone before the end of 2020.

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