How M2M is Connecting U.S. Farms, Equipment and Livestock

Machine-to-machine technology helping to shape U.S. agriculture.

By Scott Charlston on October 25, 2013

Using machine-to-machine (M2M) technology to automatically exchange information and perform actions is starting to show up in some remote and unlikely places on America’s farms and pastures.

A wide variety of sensors and devices that help protect crops through monitoring water, air and soil data or do a host of other things, like detect pregnancy in livestock or monitor milking frequency, are changing U.S. agriculture for the better.

Even with the varied needs of different crops and the range of geology, weather and various conditions farmers face, new M2M technologies can monitor crop conditions down to the row, allocating the right resources when needed and helping increase efficiency.

With new sensors and monitors, farmers can discern exactly when a cow is fertile or ready to calve; while robots help improve milk production and profitability by sending quantity alerts via text message. RFID (radio frequency identification) tags are used to track each cow’s milking frequency and milk production. Advances like this have already helped reduce labor costs and increase dairy output by about 10 percent for those farmers employing them. Automated planting and plowing, assisted by GPS and tractor auto-pilot systems, help provide huge savings through reduced labor, fuel and nutrient costs.

With the expanding availability of wireless connectivity in rural areas through programs like the Verizon LTE in Rural America (LRA) program, more farmers are now able to adopt M2M technology in their operations.

Last summer, the Matanuska Telephone Association (MTA), one of 20 participants in the LRA program, launched a 4G LTE network in rural Alaska. The MTA network connects to Verizon Wireless’ core 4G LTE network and covers 1,552 square miles in the Last Frontier. Thirteen LRA participants have launched their 4G LTE networks to date, covering nearly 1.8 million people and more than 41,000 square miles – an area larger than the state of Kentucky.

Since 2011, the Verizon Innovation Centers have produced M2M solutions for education, energy management, public safety, communications and more. With 4G LTE capabilities becoming more available across the countryside, the possibilities and benefits are virtually endless.