Swedish mobile network operator Telia has introduced the concept of the 5G Onion to showcase how vegetables can be grown with minimal pesticide usage thanks to 5G technology.
Commercially cultivated onions are prone to weeds, which absorb vital nutrients from the crop, leading to decreased yields. To address this issue, conventional agriculture has heavily relied on cost-effective chemical pesticides. However, this has had adverse effects on regional biodiversity, evident in metrics such as the declining number of pollinators. An alternative solution involves returning to organic farming practices, where manual weed removal was common. But implementing this method poses challenges due to its time-intensive nature, especially considering the EU’s established deadlines for reducing the use of pesticides.
Partnering with robot manufacturer Ekobot, network provider Axis Communications, and the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), Telia conducted a pilot project in 2021 using a 1,500-pound robot equipped with video technology and connected via a 5G internet connection. The robot identified and removed weeds with surgical precision, resulting in a significant reduction in pesticide usage – up to 70%. Farmers reported a decrease from six to two pesticides used, along with a 19% reduction in carbon emissions.
The onions, which are part of the staple diet in Sweden, were also observed to be 6% larger and had an extended shelf life.
“With the 5G onion, we want to exemplify how today’s technology can solve a difficult challenge in a somewhat unexpected way,” said Oscar Karlsson, Head of B2C at Telia, in the press release.
The telecommunications company also distributed a limited number of these onions in its stores to highlight the benefits of the 5G Onion project.