Life's better
on the farm...

The UN wants to end world hunger by 2030. A gigantic challenge. Why Deutsche Telekom is connecting the corn field and drones are talking to farmers.

T hose who think there isn't much going on in terms of mobile communications on the farm are making a grievous error. We recently showed you why cows write text messages. Now Deutsche Telekom has connected the corn field in addition to the cow. Together with agricultural machinery manufacturer Claas, an entirely new way of farming is coming about thanks to this.

Globally, More people die from hunger than from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in total.

Why do we do it? – One in nine people suffer from hunger across the world. The UN estimates that every year 3.1 million children die because they don't have enough to eat. At the same time, population growth is exploding: the UN expects there to be 9.7 billion people on Earth by 2050, which is 2.2 billion people more than at the start of 2017. It's very clear that the need for food is increasing rapidly. The UN's goal is to end world hunger by 2030 – a gigantic challenge. The connected corn field will be an important component in a world without hunger.

Since starting to read this article,

0 children under
5 years died

because of a lack of food. Every ten seconds, another one dies.

Green thumbs at their limit

Working in the fields with horse and plow is a thing of the past – at least in industrialized regions. But one thing remains the same: Many farmers rely on their intuition and experience when making day-to-day decisions such as when to harvest, fertilize or irrigate. But that's about as effective as trying to eat soup with a fork, with farmers losing some 40 percent of their income this way, say experts like Adam Anders from the investment firm Anterra Capital. How so? – Farming is an extremely complex process. Numerous factors influence how much farmers can harvest with their resources: sudden inclement weather, the intensity of the fertilization, fluctuations in moisture and nutrient content of the field and how efficiently agricultural machinery can be used are just some examples. Even if a farmer has the greenest of thumbs, it is virtually impossible for one person to optimally consider all of these influences in his management strategy.

2 Ending hunger

Ending hunger, food safety, better food and promoting sustainable farming – that's the UN's second sustainable development goal. This goal should be attained by 2030.

Our contribution

Getting more out of it – We assist in getting agriculture online and thereby make a more sustainable and effective management of agricultural land possible. This allows farmers to increase their yield without additional work.

Drone to harvester, roger!

That is why Deutsche Telekom and Claas are turning the field into a high-precision zone. In Hinsdorf in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, for example, the smart field has already been successfully implemented together with the Agrarproduktions- und Handelsgenossenschaft farming cooperative. Just like with a perfect Formula-1 pit stop, each movement is optimized down to the last centimeter. Here's an example:

The harvester is equipped with state-of-the-art mobile communications technology by Deutsche Telekom and rides through the field with computerized, down-to-the-last-centimeter precision, thereby preventing unnecessary trips. Once the harvester's granary is almost full, the harvester calls a tractor equipped with a transfer vehicle over the LTE network. The tractor "knows" the area and calculates the best route to the harvester in order to spare driving over the field as much as possible. While the harvester continues to harvest, the grain is automatically reloaded onto the transfer vehicle. The quality of the grain and the fill levels are sent to the silo management so that the farmer knows immediately how his harvest is doing.

Like in a perfect F1 pit stop, every single move is thoroughly optimized.

While the harvester rides over the field, it receives regular microweather reports over the Internet. If bad weather is in the forecast, the harvester calculates the best strategy and can recommend that the driver switch to high-speed mode instead of fuel-saving mode. This way the field will be entirely harvested before the rain begins.

As a "helping hand" to every processing step done in the field, drones also allow the farmer to take samples to determine pH value, soil moisture and more. Equipped with a sensor, the drones measure the soil condition. This data is then transmitted to a central system, which determines the optimal fertilization and irrigation strategy. Now the farmer can be sure that his fields are always well taken care of.

The net in a grain field

Harvesters, tractors, drones, satellites – everything is well connected. Klick the wifi signals and discover how the connected farm works!

  • Perfect timing

    When the harvester's grain storage is almost full, it calls a tractor with a transport trailer through the LTE network. It knows the entire area as well as the locations of all harvesters and computes the optimal way to go light on the field and empty all harvesters efficiently in one go.

  • Everything under control

    On a connected farm, the farmer can see all data and facts on his tablet or smart phone: soil quality, duration of harvest, silo fill levels, grain quality, milk quality of the cows. Should there be any problems, he will immediately be notified by SMS.

  • Air support

    The drone has several sensors measuring pH value, soil humidity and a lot more. The data is transmitted to a central system which then figures out an optimal fertilizing and watering strategy.

  • Precision work

    The harvester is equipped with modern mobile communications technology by Telekom and drives along a computer determined route across the field, avoid any unnecessary trips. When its the grain storage is almost full, it calls a tractor with a transport trailer through the LTE network.

  • Watching the silo

    A digital silo monitoring system checks the fill level with sensors and automatically orders supplies if necessary. Temperature and humidity sensors prevent the silo contents from spoiling. In case of problems, the farmer is informed by way of SMS or email.

  • Perfect timing

    When the harvester's grain storage is almost full, it calls a tractor with a transport trailer through the LTE network. It knows the entire area as well as the locations of all harvesters and computes the optimal way to go light on the field and empty all harvesters efficiently in one go.

  • Precision work

    The harvester is equipped with modern mobile communications technology by Telekom and drives along a computer determined route across the field, avoid any unnecessary trips. When its the grain storage is almost full, it calls a tractor with a transport trailer through the LTE network.

  • Weather and location

    The connected harvester automatically downloads a micro weather report and can adjust the harvesting and watering strategy when rain is predicted. A GPS location system allows perfect control of the farm equipment.

  • Well connected

    Even the cows are connected. Thanks to the drone's sensor data, the farmer knows how many nutrients the soil needs and can therefore control manure production by adjusting the amount of food.

News from the cowshed

To make the farmer's life easier, the modern cow shares her needs with the farmer in the connected cowshed – if needed, by text message. Yes, you read that right. Of course, cows don't have smartphones, but then again they don't need them. That's because special sensors, integrated into the cow's collar, among other things, automatically determine how actively the cow moves and chews, where she is located, how her rumen is doing and much more. If a smart milking robot detects an infection in a cow's udder, for example, then the farmer is immediately alerted via his cell phone so he can isolate and treat the cow before the illness worsens or is transmitted to other cows.

Cows, agricultural equipment, and drones continually supply the farmer with valuable information

This is not only good for the cows but saves a lot of money on expensive veterinary services. All of this collected data about the cow and the field help the farmer detect problems early on and formulate the optimal "menu" so that the cow and field remain healthy and well cared for, thereby allowing crop yields to thrive.

The cow who sends text messages

A cow as a mobile customer of Deutsche Telekom. Is there such a thing? – Yes. She doesn't have an actual cell phone, but she can send text messages. The motto here is: Cows using mobile communications takes the guesswork out of farming. Why cows are sending text messages and revolutionizing work on the farm is explained in our article Revolution in the Cowshed.

Trend: The cow is being put to pasture

The new Narrowband IoT technology will soon allow cows to get more fresh air. The current trend is to move cows to the pasture. Until now, one of the farmer's greatest difficulties was that he could only obtain important data such as health information and milk quality when the cow was actually inside the cowshed. But this is changing thanks to narrowband IoT technology. This technology can function with very little power and can relay data over wide distances. The connected cow can therefore send all the important information to the farmer from way out in the field as well. And the farmer continues to have everything under control, even if the cow is taking a break somewhere in the distance.

Andreas Bergner, T-Systems

Thanks to Narrow­band IOT, cows can be kept in their natural environ­ment again

Andreas Bergner, T-Systems

So what are the benefits of all this connecting? – Communication is everything – even in the field and the cowshed. Deutsche Telekom provides fast connection of all involved over the best network. Farming 4.0, – the official name of the precision farming concept –, not only significantly increases harvest yields. Through sustainable management, Farming 4.0 can also help save an unbelievable 2.2 billion tons of CO₂ by 2030. This corresponds to 2.2 times the CO₂ footprint of all of Germany. What's more, Farming 4.0 can help save valuable potable water through more efficient irrigation: specifically, 250 trillion liters of water by 2030, enough to supply 180 million people with water for an entire year. Such was the conclusion of the #SMARTer2030 study conducted by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative GeSI.

To summarize, farmers are happy about their reduced workload, the environment about less CO₂ pollution and people about more crops and clean drinking water. The connected corn field – a success to our taste.

  • What can you do? More vegetables

    Want to do something to fight hunger in the world? – Then stop eating meat! A fourth of the worldwide grain crops are given to animals as fodder. If no one were to eat meat anymore, the world's hunger problem would be solved, says a study conducted by the Institute of Environmental Sciences of the University of Minnesota.

  • What can you do? Beware of fish

    If you like to eat fish, you should carefully investigate where it's from. The relief organization ActionAid says that especially in the fish-rich waters off the coast of West Africa, the industrialized nations are depleting the ocean of the fish people there need to survive. If you opt for fish, then try to go regional, if possible.

  • What can you do? Donations

    Donating is the fastest way to help. Even a few coins will help someone not go hungry for one day. That's why when choosing an aid organization you should always look for the seal of the German Central Institute for Social Issues (DZI).