Asking a rancher how many head of cattle he has, is like asking someone how much money they make – it’s simply not a polite question to ask!  Of course, asking them how they use technology to manage their heard(s) and/or optimize their farms and you may be surprised by the answers you receive!

With the onset of fall here in Montana, the harvest is in full swing and in many places of higher elevation, already complete.  Many of these areas depend on a keen eye passed down over generations to monitor crop and livestock health.  While technology is prevalent around many farms and ranches it mostly sits in their equipment (combines and tractors) and irrigation systems, often relying on GPS.  So called ‘smart farming’ is in its relative infancy.   This infancy is based on the fact of limited real time connectivity.  It used to be that only those with proximity to either an Interstate or Railroad (think fiber pulls) had any hope of a decent connection.  Even if that was the case you still had to convince either the provider or railroad to get you a splice at a decent price.  Now there are stories of lighting up pens and pastures and using RFID ear tags to track and manage livestock – but in reality, this usually ended in costly wired connections for the last mile (or three), let alone those pricey ear tags, which is why this model was never widely deployed.

With the promise of 5G, that is all about to change.  Think of the benefit of a combine going from a ‘store and forward’ technology to a real-time communication model where it can interact with sensors in the fields and better yet other machines to maximize cutting patterns or settings based on relative humidity of crops.  Over a few thousand acres this could save not only a ton of fuel, but decrease time, and ultimately harvest and yield better price for the crops themselves.  There are even use cases talking about drones and video analytics via AI to identify crop damage, invasive species (weeds), and a whole host of other things that you may never see otherwise.  This enables farmers and ranchers to pinpoint irrigation or herbicide application to remediate issues in a timely and extremely cost-effective manner.  In the end, it’s the real-time connectivity that enables these decisions.

At Cisco, we have a great legacy of innovating in the access, aggregation, and core for our largest Service Provider customers.  This is enabled through our NCS and ASR Families, but most importantly is tied together by our IOS/XR line of code that streamlines policy, security, and automation for our providers across our portfolio.  This is covered in depth in the new ‘5G Ready Network Playbook’  so all of us in the Cisco family can help educate our sellers and partners, about the Cisco Solutions that will enable this 5G Revolution.

Montana has only 3 Interstates and 8 Freight Railroads to cover an area of 147,000 square miles, hence there is a great deal of fiber left to pull or better yet we can seize the opportunity and help accelerate the promise of 5G.  Rural areas are greenfield opportunities (pardon the pun) and you have limitless use cases that ultimately help some of our nation’s leading conservationists (yes farmers and ranchers) be more effective at taking better care of the land and more importantly the animals and plants that end up on all of our plates!  Good Selling.



Matt O'Brien

Senior Business Development Manager

Global Partner Organization (GPO) - Digital Transformation and Industries