Gregory Riordan: “5G will open doors to experiment and test technologies and new concepts, get ahead, and anticipate trends”


Riordan, the Director of Digital Technologies at CNH Industrial Latin America, discusses the landscape of connectivity in agribusiness and expectations for the coming years.

Brazil – With extensive practical experience in the field of precision agriculture and knowledge of technological solutions for agricultural machinery and infrastructure, Gregory Riordan is the Director of Digital Technologies at CNH Industrial Latin America, where he is part of the Association ConectarAGRO, whose main objective is to implement connectivity in rural areas of Brazil and promote Agriculture 4.0.

He talked with topin about the progress and plans for the digital transformation of the fields, digital technologies capable of helping farmers, the role of ConectarAGRO regarding this development, the benefits of the deployment of 4G and 5G networks, and the expectations for the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI), sensing, robotics, weather stations, and Internet of Things (IoT) on farms.

topin: What is the current scenario for the deployment of 5G in agribusiness? 

Gregory Riordan: The deployment of 5G in agriculture and cities is still in its very early stages. The 5G auction just took place and was completed a few months ago. The frequencies that will be used in Brazil were auctioned and distributed among the operators, including some new ones. And some pilot projects are being implemented as a proof of concept and encouragement.

topin: What needs to be overcome to achieve greater adoption of this technology? How could it be adopted?

Gregory Riordan: Regarding agribusiness, some basic infrastructure issues are necessary to deploy and expand any “G” in the field. The first point is that the optical fiber reaches the cities; there is still a huge gap in the availability of data connections in these locations. 

The second point is expanding connectivity in rural areas. Each operator has its business model to bring infrastructure to the regions, but the question is to find a business model that enables the project. The main driver of the operators has always been the number of users who will subscribe to monthly fees or plans to allow the adoption of connectivity. This is the challenge of the rural environment, where there is a lower concentration of people compared to urban centers. 

We often discuss this topic in ConectarAGRO, an association of which CNH Industrial is part, which is one of the strengths of the initiative, as we began to find this business model, which allows the advancement of public connectivity in rural areas. 

topin: Can you give some examples of solutions designed to overcome connectivity challenges in the field?

Gregory Riordan: We can mention Opere+, a free app for managing and monitoring the agricultural operations of CNH Industrial so that you have useful information on the operation and performance of the machines directly at your fingertips. With a few touches on the smartphone screen, the farmer starts the operation and receives instructions, in real time, on how to improve it, even in areas where there is no internet.

It is the first app that democratizes digital agriculture for small producers: it offers information in a simple way, without the need for a physical interface with the machine, and uses sensors already existing on the farmer’s smartphone to monitor and inform the behavior of the agricultural operation and can work offline when there is no connectivity.

Every solution that uses connectivity to bring a better experience helps to enable its own connectivity, as it becomes a new tool and a new service that can be commercialized through existing networks, whether 4G or 5G. 

topin: How can 5G help farmers in practice? Why is it a technology needed for precision agriculture and Internet of Things (IoT) machines?

Gregory Riordan: Today, 5G is not a technology that goes far beyond current agricultural applications. We glimpse two things with 5G: the first is a much larger transmission capacity for future applications, for example, an autonomous tractor connecting full time with transmission tools, such as videos, to see what is happening around it. 5G can become a differentiated technology, allowing this type of application by the band and the transmission capacity.

The second is a much smaller latency; that is, there will be a gain in reducing the time the signal takes to arrive. This is a critical detail in some applications that need an immediate response. In medicine, for example, where there can be no delay in the signal, 5G will ensure better results in remote surgeries.

Currently, 4G serves 99% of the applications we have today for the next five years of technology that uses rural connectivity very well. However, Brazil’s vanguard in the implementation of 5G is very important, which happens at almost the same time as in other countries, to have the capacity and competence to develop these networks and solutions in a much more balanced way at the same level as other markets.

Brazil took a long time to develop cellular connectivity in the country. We got into this too late, but then we evolved too fast. 5G will open doors to experiment and test technologies and new concepts, get ahead, and anticipate trends. With it, we can test what works immediately or does not work and know the return the producer will have with the innovations. 

topin: Is it possible to benefit not only production but communities around a property by deploying private 5G networks? What would be the advantages?

Gregory Riordan: Yes, and we are already seeing this with 4G through ConectarAGRO. Public connectivity brings many benefits to the region; it is not limited to farms; communities and highways are eventually covered and are available to everyone who works and lives there.

We know how important connectivity is for schools, businesses, logistics, security, and more. In the case of 5G, it will be the same; the implementation will bring these benefits with the additional ones: much higher transmission capacity and much lower latency. 

topin: What can solutions such as weather stations and sensing do to drive productivity in the field? Is it possible to mention some use cases?

Gregory Riordan: Climate information, such as rain, temperature, humidity, and wind, is vital for decision-making in agriculture — when to plant, irrigate, spray, or harvest. Monitoring this data from large properties was a great challenge, but today we already have many solutions.

Connected farms can automate this entire process and monitor information in real time through sensors that, with algorithms, act like robots in decision-making. For example, the critical decision of spraying or weed or pest control, which must be made at that exact time.

Time is the key factor in agriculture. Depending on the time and situation, the delay in performing a corrective application may represent a loss of 10 to 50% in production. So decision-making must happen as soon as possible. This already gives an idea of how these solutions can impact or boost productivity and, consequently, the profitability of the field.

CNH Industrial offers different solutions focused on this. A good and current example is the sensors by Augmenta, a company the group has just acquired. They are installed on top of the cabins of tractors and sprayers, assessing, in real time, the health of crops.

In sprayers, these sensors help in decision-making: whether to fertilize or not, whether to apply a particular control product of some situation or disease of the plant or not. When connected to the internet, these apps consult the database in real time and automatically adjust the application, with savings of up to 30% in the use of fertilizers. This is an important issue at the moment, where there is a shortage of fertilizers due to logistical problems and conflicts between Russia and Ukraine, which have limited their exports.

topin: Some companies already have robots connected to data analytics, AI, and remote control platforms to be used in various crops. How can this benefit production, and what can be expected from these technologies by the end of the decade?

Gregory Riordan: Autonomy and robotization are strong trends. Globally we have the limitation of qualified labor; often, a certain operation does not happen due to the lack of operators. Robotization helps to remedy these shortages and reduce these losses. The capacity to perform automated operations, through robots, guarantees the quality and the best potential of the cultivation.

The great advantage of robotization is to carry out all the necessary applications within an expected quality standard, even when we have situations of labor restriction. Other benefits are productivity and time savings. Robots can work 24 hours a day and perform the application when the intelligence system indicates a need. In robotization, the time interval between diagnosis and application is as short as possible.

CNH Industrial has made important investments in automation and robotization. The recent acquisition of Raven, a leading American company in precision agriculture technology and a reference in autonomous systems, is an example. The idea is to expand our portfolio of solutions in all regions where we operate.


CNH Industrial is one of the founders of ConectarAGRO. The non-profit association brings together today more than 30 different companies — among them are Bayer, Nokia, Solinftec, TIM, and Trimble — to collaboratively and openly solve one of the important problems of producers and companies in the agricultural sector: the lack of connectivity in the field (according to the Ministry of Agriculture, about 73% of rural properties in Brazil are not connected).

Learn more about other initiatives by ConectarAGRO 

ConectarAGRO also seeks to encourage and promote rural digital inclusion, helping bring training and qualification to people, as well as solutions for producers to have access to currently available technologies, such as precision agriculture, autonomy, AI, IoT, drones for field mapping, and more.

Founded in 2020, the association has already helped bring 4G connectivity, at the frequency of 700 MHz, to more than 7 million hectares of rural and remote areas throughout Brazil. There are more than 55 thousand connected rural properties, benefiting over 900 thousand people and covering more than 25 thousand kilometers of roads and highways, in addition to 140 public schools and 31 basic health care facilities in rural areas.

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