KPN tests 5G applications for precision farming in Drenthe


KPN has successfully tested the first 5G application for precision farming on a test farm in Valthermond in the Dutch province of Drenthe. During the test a drone camera that can take very accurate photos of a field was used in relation to potato cultivation. The images were sent via a mobile connection with 5G characteristics to an agricultural machine that then doses crop protection on the potato crop virtually in real time and very accurately. A process that currently takes around two days has been reduced in the 5G field lab to a mere two hours.

KPN 5G Field Lab Drenthe

The tests in Drenthe at the ‘t Kompas test farm, in collaboration with the Province of Drenthe, Wageningen University & Research, Stichting Dronehub GAE, Agrifac, Innovatie Veenkoloniën and ZTE, demonstrate the added value of 5G for the agricultural sector. “We are delighted that the latest technological innovations in the domain of drones, sprayers and connectivity are being tested at the ‘t Kompas test farm in Valthermond,” says provincial executive Henk Jumelet of the Province of Drenthe. “The Province of Drenthe has joined forces with KPN and all the other parties to investigate how 5G technology can contribute towards improving operations in the agricultural sector”.

“Agriculture is expected to be one of the main areas of application for 5G,” adds Tom Poelhekken, Chief Technology Officer at KPN. “Thanks to 5G technology precision farming is becoming more accessible to agricultural firms, enabling them to respond almost immediately to developments on their land. As a result, farmers can make savings in areas such as crop protection, to the benefit of the environment. And at the same time the yield is expected to rise, because it is possible to react straight away to the condition of the crop.”

In addition to greater speed, 5G specifically provides more flexibility, shorter response times and greater reliability. In Drenthe a test was made using new technology in an existing agricultural process to combat leafy plants that grow in between the potato plants. A drone scans the field with a multispectral camera and, thanks to the mobile connection with 5G characteristics, the large data files are sent immediately and converted into a job card for the agricultural machine, which can then work the field very accurately. This process requires a huge amount of bandwidth on the upload side, something for which the present 4G networks are insufficient. This will change with the future generation of 5G mobile networks. During the test in Drenthe KPN combined different frequencies for the first time (uplink carrier aggregation), enabling the drone images to be sent in real time.

Discovering the value of 5G along with customers and technology partners

KPN is going to prepare its 4G network step-by-step for the arrival of 5G. The test in Drenthe is part of four different field labs for 5G applications in the agricultural, urban area, port and automotive sectors. In these field labs KPN studies, together with customers and technology partners, how 5G can optimize business processes and improve the customer experience. Later this year KPN will carry out the first 5G tests in Amsterdam Zuidoost, the Port of Rotterdam and a freeway near Helmond.