Intelsat Satellite Connectivity is Making Smart Farming a No-Brainer | Intelsat (2023)

May 30, 2023
Joel Schroeder, Director, Land Mobile Products

(reading time: 10 minutes)

Agriculture 4.0 and the Rise of Smart Farming

Agricultural practices are largely the same today as they were in the 1970s at the end of the industrial agricultural revolution that brought high-yield crops, hybrid seed varieties, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and other mechanical infrastructures. These technologies resulted in accelerated productivity, but farmers are now facing decreasing margins, increasingly complex regulatory requirements, greater scrutiny from consumers, growing complexity of machinery, and changing weather patterns that are increasing the incidence of droughts and extreme storms.

We are now in the midst of another agricultural revolution to utilize connected technologies to help farmers make more informed decisions and optimize their operations through the collection and analysis of a myriad of data points on crops, conditions and equipment. Perhaps the most game-changing of these digital innovations is connected heavy equipment, which allows farmers to control their large machinery, like tractors, remotely. This cuts down on the hours needed in the field, allowing the farmer to cut staff and focus on improving yields.

Connected smart farms or “precision farming” require robust connectivity solutions to stream data from equipment to the cloud. There over 570 million farms globally, many of which are located in rural locations with poor or spotty access to traditional connectivity solutions. Intelsat FlexMove satellite network is giving farms the reliable connectivity needed to adopt connected equipment and bring on the next great agricultural revolution.

The Rise of Heavy Equipment for Precision Agriculture

Farms rely on large equipment for most of their operations, including cultivation, irrigation and harvesting. This equipment includes tractors, harvesters, pumping units, sprinklers, plows, conveyors and more. Much of a farmer’s time is spent manning this equipment out in the field – often for over 12 hours a day, but new connected solutions are beginning to change that. Heavy equipment for agriculture is now being constructed with sensors built in and connectivity on board, allowing the farmer to optimize and troubleshoot machinery remotely while receiving real-time data inputs on the health of their equipment and crops. Autonomous equipment gives farmers even more freedom.

Harbor Research forecasts that the heavy equipment and machinery market for agriculture will reach nearly $10 billion this year, growing to more than $26 billion in 2030. Just over 37 percent of the farms in the U.S. had connected equipment last year and Harbor expects that to grow to more than 70 percent by 2030.

Companies like John Deere are leading the connected machinery market with products like their satellite gateway, which offers on-board telematics to monitor, control and repair machinery remotely. John Deere’s Precision Ag suite of tools includes data dashboards to monitor, analyze and share data from anywhere. At the Consumer Electronic Show (CES) in 2022, John Deere released the 8R, its first autonomous tractor.

Connected and autonomous agricultural equipment will lead to more precise operations, more effective irrigation and reduced labor costs as farmers spend less time in the field and require less labor. Farmers will have more time to focus on real-time data rather than operating machinery. Data insights will allow farmers to make informed decisions, understanding potential outcomes up front rather than waiting an entire harvest cycle to see how their decisions pan out. It all translates to greater operational efficiency and higher yields.

With heavy agricultural equipment operating in rural environments, cellular or Wi-Fi connectivity doesn’t cut it. A large tractor being operated remotely needs a reliable connection at all times to move past unexpected obstructions and keep work flowing smoothly. An interruption due to poor connectivity or bad weather can cause operations in a smart farm to shut down completely. Intelsat FlexMove satellite network gives equipment manufacturers the tools to build in reliable, redundant connectivity, while farmers can now retrofit existing equipment with compact satellite antennas.

Connected Farming for a Changing Climate

Smarter, more efficient farms are arriving at a critical time. Agriculture is extremely vulnerable to our increasingly erratic and changing climate. Warming temperatures, extreme weather, droughts, floods, invasive crops and pests are creating difficult and unpredictable conditions for farming. Paradoxically, agriculture is also contributing to the problem. Agriculture currently outputs 19 to 29 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions – a number that is likely to keep going up without intervention to more efficiently run operations.

The environment isn’t the only beneficiary of optimized farming. Today, about a third of the global food produced is lost or wasted despite nearly 9 percent of the global population, or 690 million people, lacking needed nourishment. Studies show that by 2050, climate change could result in a 13 percent decrease of developing countries’ wheat production and a 15 percent decrease in rice production. Connected equipment that allows farmers to more efficiently cultivate, irrigate and harvest crops will help feed the hungry and prevent waste.

Global population growth, food scarcity and economic insecurity will continue to put significant upward pressure on agriculture markets to produce sufficient levels of human food, stock feed and biofuel. This has led to a drive for Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA), an approach to managing crops, livestock, forests and fisheries in a way that increases agriculture productivity and resilience, while reducing emissions. This is pointing to not only the consumer demand, but the global necessity for the integration of connected, intelligent technologies that lead to more sustainable, optimized farming.

The Autonomous Connected Farm and the Farmer of the Future

With connected farms sending over 10 terabytes per year in 2022, growing to 153 terabytes in 2032, the role of the farmer is beginning to evolve. Today’s farmers, and the farmers of the future, must understand data analysis in addition to horticulture. With connected equipment and a growing number of autonomous equipment, farmers will spend less time doing manual labor and more time in the critical role of utilizing data to optimize farms for a more sustainable future.

Fewer young people are entering agriculture than at any time in human history, but the evolving set of technology skills that smart farms require could very well change that. According to Harbor Research, the agriculture market is conventional in terms of technology adoption, but the combination of consumer demands, climate change and regulation is expected to drive greater adoption in the next two to three years. Connected and autonomous equipment will allow farms to operate with leaner staffs, while the evolving role of the data-savvy modern farmer will attract new talent. Given the average age of farmers in the U.S. is more than 57 years old, recruiting new talent and minimizing labor requirement is critical.

For both small and large-scale farms, connectivity challenges have continued to be persistent, leading many farmers to drag their feet on embracing digital solutions. Rural internet access leaves much to be desired. This is particularly true in developing economies. In Brazil, 85 percent of its nearly 5.2 million farms are small family establishments, often in rural locations. Yet they account for up to 70 percent of Brazil’s food production. The number is similar in developed regions like the U.S. where 90 percent of its more than three million farms are small family owned and operated farms that generate 21 percent of food production. Satellite connectivity gives all farms equal access to technology solutions that can help them weather environmental, economic and market instability. In the competitive landscape of agri-business, integrating connected equipment, automation and analytics ensures competitive equity and healthy growth across the market.

Intelsat FlexMove Provides Reliable Connectivity with Flexible Subscription Plans

Intelsat FlexMove network is the next-generation, multi-orbit connectivity solution designed to meet the needs and challenges of an agricultural industry undergoing digital transformation. Intelsat operates the world’s largest geosynchronous satellite network, merging software-defined satellite technology, multiple orbits, cloud infrastructure and terrestrial network advancements, and offering multiple layers of coverage over any region globally. These layers of coverage offer farmers true resiliency to ensure “always on” connectivity. Intelsat is also the only commercial satellite operator with third-party cybersecurity accreditation, protecting farmers against cyber-attacks.

Intelsat FlexMove is a global, secure, fully managed connectivity solution designed specifically for a farm’s needs at any scale or location. It removes the complexity of dealing with bandwidth availability, configuration and management of network infrastructure, giving farmers peace of mind. FlexMove Communications-on-the-Move was developed for heavy equipment in the field, offering a simple equipment-mounted satellite antenna that automatically acquires a connection and maintains communication while it’s moving. Farmers don’t have to worry about a tractor losing connectivity and unintentionally running through crops or holding up operations. Farmers will also benefit from FlexMove Communications-on-the-Pause, a highly compact and portable satellite terminal designed to automatically connect in a fixed location, enabling many smart farm solutions.

Delivered exclusively through Intelsat’s network of highly experienced Solutions Partners, FlexMove is offered in flexible, unparalleled service agreements, accommodating the volatile world of agriculture. FlexMove’s cost-effective, easy-to-install terminals can establish reliable connectivity in seconds, making them the preferred solution for connected farms worldwide. Learn more at


What problem does smart farming solve? ›

Smart farming reduces the ecological footprint of farming. Minimized or site-specific application of inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides, in precision agriculture systems will mitigate leaching problems as well as the emission of greenhouse gases (6).

What are the disadvantages of smart farming system? ›

In terms of the disadvantages of smart farming technology, some concerns exist. Having your farm monitored through artificial intelligence, drones, satellites or any other high-tech systems increases the likelihood of the information about your farm getting out to the public or competitors.

How can satellites help with farming? ›

Satellite data collects detailed information to predict crop yields, including NDVI. Earth observation (EO) data can measure details, such as soil moisture, to help farmers support crop health.

What is an example of smart farming? ›

Example technologies used in smart agriculture are: Precision irrigation and precise plant nutrition. Climate management and control in greenhouses. Sensors – for the soil, water, light, moisture, for temperature management.

What is the disadvantage of smart farming using IoT? ›

Three major obstacles for IoTs in agriculture
  • Poor Internet Connectivity in Farms. Most farms are located in remote locations where internet connectivity might not be strong enough to facilitate fast transmission speeds. ...
  • High Hardware Costs. ...
  • Disrupted Connectivity to the Cloud.
Oct 11, 2018

What are the triggers for smart farming? ›

In smart Farming, temperature, humidity, light intensity, and soil moisture can be monitored through various sensors. These are again used by the reactive system to trigger alerts or automate processes such as water and air control.

What is the risk of smart irrigation system? ›

According to the experts, malicious actors can create a botnet of smart irrigation systems by infecting various types of Internet-connected devices with malware (e.g. routers, laptops, smartphones). The malware searches the local network for irrigation systems and takes control of them using various security flaws.

What are 3 disadvantages of farming? ›

Disadvantages Of Industrial Agriculture
  • Deforestation. Intensive farming causes soil degradation and leads to the expansion of new lands. ...
  • Pest and weed resistance to chemicals. ...
  • Soil degradation. ...
  • Impact on natural habitats. ...
  • Water pollution. ...
  • Climate change.
Dec 4, 2020

What is the difference between smart farming and smart agriculture? ›

What differentiates smart farming from precision agriculture is that it does not focus on precise measurements. Instead, smart farming focuses on capturing data and interpreting them using computing technologies to make farm operations more predictable and efficient.

What are three things that satellites do for us? ›

What are satellites used for? (and why they matter)
  • Earth Observation and Imagery. Satellites can provide an image of the surface of the Earth. ...
  • Communication. Satellites can enable communication services on the ground. ...
  • Navigation. ...
  • Navigation. ...
  • Communication.

When did farmers start using satellites? ›

Since the launch of the first Landsat satellite in 1972, NASA and its partners have mapped agriculture worldwide and provided key input into global supply outlooks that bolster the economy and food security.

What is another name for smart farming? ›

Smart farming, aka precision agriculture, has many synonyms and subsets, including 'Agriculture 4.0', 'satellite agriculture' and 'site-specific farming'.

How do you implement smart farming? ›

Key Considerations When Implementing Smart Farming Solutions
  1. Hardware. Your choice of hardware will depend on the types of information you want to collect and your overall smart farming goals. ...
  2. Data analysis. ...
  3. Hardware maintenance. ...
  4. Mobility. ...
  5. Connectivity. ...
  6. Infrastructure. ...
  7. Data collection frequency. ...
  8. Data security.

What is smart farm using AI? ›

Smart farming with artificial intelligence provides an efficient solution to today's agricultural sustainability challenges. Machine learning, Deep learning, and time series analysis are essential in smart farming.

What is the purpose of smart farming using IoT? ›

IoT smart agriculture products are designed to help monitor crop fields using sensors and by automating irrigation systems. As a result, farmers and associated brands can easily monitor the field conditions from anywhere without any hassle.

What are the risks of IoT in agriculture? ›

Protecting all digital aspects

With IoT, farmers can make their farms more efficient and profitable. However, it also leaves business owners, including those in the agricultural industry, open to hackers. All computerised equipment used for day-to-day operations is at risk of being hacked.

How much does smart farming cost using IoT? ›

With Let's Nurture, the total cost of developing IoT based PoC for Smart farming will be in the range of $10000-$11000. This range will include the per unit cost which will cover 0.7 m3. Let us see the basic features which can be availed through IoT based PoC for smart farming.

What is smart farming automation? ›

Farm automation (or smart farming) is a variety of tech innovations in traditional farming to optimize the food production process and improve quality. As of now, advanced farming technology can be an essential part of the farmer's daily work.

What is IoT connectivity? ›

What is IoT Connectivity? IoT connectivity is the means by which an IoT device, which can be anything from a simple sensor in a factory to a self-driving vehicle and encompasses applications from streetlights to robots, connects to the cloud, other devices and integration points such as IoT gateways.

What three problems can irrigation cause? ›

The expansion and intensification of agriculture made possible by irrigation has the potential for causing: increased erosion; pollution of surface water and groundwater from agricultural biocides; deterioration of water quality; increased nutrient levels in the irrigation and drainage water resulting in algal blooms, ...

What are 3 harmful effects of excessive irrigation? ›

Over-irrigation leads to water loss, increases energy use for pumping, causes leaching of nitrogen and other micro nutrients, and wastes time. Crop nitrogen needs, fertilizer costs, and nitrogen losses to groundwater also result from over-irrigation.

What are the worst irrigation methods? ›

Flood irrigation uses the surface of the field by simply dumping water and allowing it to disperse accordingly. This method of irrigation is quite wasteful, not environmentally friendly, and does not accurately account for plant needs.

What is the biggest threat to farming? ›

The 6 biggest threats to farming on a global scale
  • Climate: The great-granddaddy of them all, this is the most pressing, catch-all threat. ...
  • Crisis: Climate change occurs over decades, but crisis can strike swiftly and unexpectedly.
May 12, 2023

What is one negative effect of farming? ›

Agriculture is the leading source of pollution in many countries. Pesticides, fertilizers and other toxic farm chemicals can poison fresh water, marine ecosystems, air and soil. They also can remain in the environment for generations.

What are the negative effects of modern farming? ›

Modern farming methods have overused the natural resource base. Increased use of fertilizers has led to the loss of soil fertility. The use of groundwater for tube well irrigation has led to water depletion. Modern farming methods require a great deal of capital.

Which app is best for smart farming? ›

Cropin Grow (SmartFarm)

Its real-time satellite- and weather-based advisory enables accurate output predictability for agribusinesses and other agricultural organizations while making businesses and farm operations exceedingly efficient.

How is smart farming different from modern farming? ›

Smart farming uses technology to increase efficiency and yield, and these farmers will often use sensors and data analysis to manage their crops and irrigation. Traditional farming is an approach that relies on more manual labour and fewer technological tools.

What is the long form of smart in agriculture? ›

The Government of Maharashtra has launched the State of Maharashtra Agribusiness and Rural Transformation (SMART) Project to promote farming in the state.

Do cell phones use satellites? ›

Cell phones do not use satellites, instead they rely on cellular towers for signal.

What does the United States use satellites for today? ›

In their 22,300-mile, geosynchronous orbits, DSP satellites help protect the United States and its allies by detecting missile launches, space launches and nuclear detonations.

How many satellites does the US use? ›

Which country has the most satellites orbiting Earth? The United States has the most satellites orbiting Earth. The 2,804 satellites that are owned or operated by an entity from the U.S. make up more than half of the total amount of space satellites that are currently in orbit.

What is the greatest benefit from satellite? ›

These satellites are used for a variety of applications including observation (by both military and civilian agencies), communication, navigation, and weather monitoring. Space stations, space telescopes and spacecraft in orbit around the Earth are also regarded as satellites.

What are the future benefits of satellites? ›

This means in the near future, when you board a long flight, thanks to satellite technology, you will have access to the internet with much lower latency allowing you to use all the applications you need, whether it's accessing popular streaming services such as Netflix, hosting a video conference, or even playing your ...

What is the most important part of a satellite? ›

The most important feature of a communications satellite is the transponder -- a radio that receives a conversation at one frequency and then amplifies it and re-transmits it back to Earth on another frequency. A satellite normally contains hundreds or thousands of transponders.

What do satellites look like from Earth? ›

The satellite will look like a star steadily moving across the sky for a few minutes. If the lights are blinking, you probably are seeing a plane, not a satellite. Satellites do not have their own lights that make them visible.

How old is the oldest satellite still in use? ›

The Vanguard spacecraft, the oldest satellite still in orbit, is seen here in Cape Canaveral, Florida, back in 1958. Today, there are more than 2,600 active satellites in orbit, as well as thousands of dead satellites that circle the planet as space junk.

What is farming for yourself called? ›

Subsistence farming, or subsistence agriculture, is when a farmer grows food for themselves and their family on a small plot of land.

What are really big farms called? ›

Commercial farms are large-scale farming operations that produce crops and other agricultural products for sale, as opposed to raising crops to sustain a family or community. The USDA Economic Research Service defines commercial farms as farms with $350,000 or more gross cash farm income.

What is modern farming called? ›

Modern agriculture may refer to: Agribusiness. Intensive farming. Organic farming. Precision agriculture.

Is Smart Farm legit? ›

Trusted by enterprises in over 60 Countries, SmartFarm Plus is an award-winning SaaS-based Farm Management Platform to Drive Efficiency, Achieve Predictability and Ensure Sustainability.

Which country has the most advanced agriculture technology? ›

China leads the agriculture production of fruit, vegetables, cereals, cotton, eggs and poultry.

How smart farming is using blockchain? ›

Blockchain technology or blockchain in agriculture can track all types of information about plants, such as seed quality, crop growth, and even the travel of a plant after it leaves the farm. This data can improve supply chain transparency and eliminate concerns associated with illegal and unethical operations.

What is a farm robot? ›

An agricultural robot, also known as an agribot, is a robot designed for use in the agriculture industry. Agribots automate tasks for farmers, boosting the efficiency of production and reducing the industry's reliance on manual labor.

What are advantages and disadvantages of smart farming? ›

Drawbacks To Smart Farming And The Future

Smart farming can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by lowering the demand for tractors and other fossil-fuel-powered machinery. However, it may increase the usage of pesticides and fertilizers, both of which contribute to global warming.

What is the smart farming strategy? ›

Smart farming, which involves the application of sensors and automated irrigation practices, can help monitor agricultural land, temperature, soil moisture, etc. This would enable farmers to monitor crops from anywhere.

What is the importance of robotics in smart farming? ›

Land-based robots also perform tasks such as mowing, weeding, and spraying. These robots can also handle other agricultural tasks such as crop dusting and pest control.

What are the negatives of technology in agriculture? ›

Agricultural technologies have negatively impacted the environment through soil degradation, air and water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and the disruption of food webs.

What are the conclusion of smart agriculture using IoT? ›

7.1 Conclusion

Using IoT the system can predict the soil moisture level and humidity so that the irrigation system can be monitored and controlled. IoT works in different domains of farming to improve time efficiency, water management, crop monitoring, soil management and control of insecticides and pesticides.

What data is collected by smart agriculture sensors? ›

By using IoT sensors, farmers can collect a vast array of metrics on every facet of the field microclimate and ecosystem: lighting, temperature, soil condition, humidity, CO2 levels, and pest infections.

What is the strength of smart farming? ›

Smart farming systems reduce waste, improve productivity and enable management of a greater number of resources through remote sensing. In traditional farming methods, it was a mainstay for the farmer to be out in the field, constantly monitoring the land and condition of crops.

What is the conclusion of robotics in agriculture? ›

Conclusion Agriculture robots can reduce the cost of cultivation by controlling the high cost of labor, efficient use of fertilizers, pesticides. The jobs in agriculture are a drag, dangerous, require intelligence and quick, though highly repetitive decisions hence robots can be rightly substituted with human operator.

What are the main challenge of using robots on farms? ›

One of the biggest challenges is cost, as the implementation of robots in agriculture can be expensive. In addition, there may be a lack of infrastructure and technical expertise, making it difficult for farmers to adopt this technology.

Are robots good for farming? ›

In the end, robots could revolutionize farming, making smaller farms more economical and the entire industry more sustainable, changing an agricultural world in which the model has long been “get big or get out.”


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