Rural Dorset to test 5G mmWave technology for next generation agriculture

A pioneering Dorset project has been awarded funding to conduct cutting edge research with the world’s leading wireless technology innovator.

5G RuralDorset is working with semiconductor company Qualcomm Technologies Inc., to investigate how next-generation connectivity can revolutionise agriculture, increase productivity and reduce environmental impact.

The trials will test 26GHz spectrum and the latest microchips to transmit the huge amounts of data required to enable “per plant” farming that is made possible by autonomous vehicles and robots.

The Future of Food initiative led by Wessex Internet has already seen 5G RuralDorset conduct the largest 5G agri and aquaculture trials ever in the UK, with sensors across multiple farms, drones to aid crop spraying and AI-powered cameras to monitor cattle health and seaweed growth.

This latest funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport will see research move to Dorset Innovation Park, where the project has facilities to test the very latest equipment with the potential to supercharge the rural economy and change global markets.

5G RuralDorset Spectrum and Security Lead Dave Happy said: “Semiconductors, also known as microchips, now power the global economy. Higher frequency spectrum expected to be released by Ofcom this year may be able to transmit large volumes of data quickly, transforming sectors including agriculture. Intelligent teams of robots which can spot weeds and destroy them naturally have the potential to increase yields by 200% and reduce the need for harmful herbicides and chemicals by up to 95%.”

Ben Timmons, Senior Director, Business Development, Qualcomm Technologies International, Ltd. said: “This work in Dorset is the latest demonstration of how we’re inventing the technologies of an intelligently connected future, spearheading research efforts to scale mmW 5G in 26GHz band across diverse use cases and collaborating with industry leaders to drive the commercial momentum.”

Jill Haynes, Cabinet Member for Corporate Development and Transformation for Dorset Council, which leads the 5G RuralDorset project, said: “Working with a company like Qualcomm Technologies Inc., on R&D trials with global significance demonstrates how quickly the innovation ecosystem is growing here in Dorset.”

Digital Infrastructure Minister Julia Lopez said: “Whether it’s saving lives at sea, smart farming or improving ambulance response times, our £5m funding has put Dorset at the forefront of cutting-edge trials in how 5G technology can truly benefit people and businesses. The UK is a world leader in semiconductors too, so it’s fantastic that 5G RuralDorset is continuing to work with Qualcomm to make agricultural industries more productive and environmentally friendly.”