IoT in agriculture
Data provides farmers with the ability to make more informed decisions about how they manage their farm. Currently, it is very expensive and time consuming to collect data on farms – for example, it costs thousands of pounds for farmers to conduct soil samples.
IoT could change that. By having sensors in the field which send small amounts of data back periodically, farmers can have much more detailed information at their fingertips. This could be data on the soil, the location of equipment or electricity usage.
As part of the 5G RuralDorset project, Wessex Internet has deployed over 40 different 5G-enabled sensors across three farms. Partnering with FMEC, a farm software provider, the internet provider is experimenting with how best to collect and visualise data for farmers.
Also collaborating with the Vodafone Group, Wessex Internet is aiming to reduce the cost of these sensors for the farmer. By developing a completely new connectivity device, Wessex Internet hopes its experience with farms will ensure that farmers have sensors which are reliable, useful and rugged.
Drones, robots and cameras are all set to to be the farm equipment of the future. However, at present, these technologies have not properly made inroads into farms across the country. The industry is still dominated by large industry players and inefficient machinery.
Super-quick 5G could help deliver automation to the farm. Ensuring sufficient connectivity across the farm would not only mean getting data back to farmers instantly but could also support time-critical activities. This could include robots and drones which wouldn’t need pilots, as well as cameras which could be deployed anywhere on the farm easily.
Within the 5G trials, Wessex Internet worked with some of the next-generation industry players in this area. Firstly, with Hummingbird Technologies, one of the UK’s leading agri-drone specialists, the team looked at reducing the time it takes for the drone to get field images back to the farmer. This could ensure that the data can be used straight away by the farmer in the most effective way.
And at Kingston Maurward College, Wessex Internet has partnered with CattleEye to see how cameras might be used on farms for the benefit of cattle welfare. The CattleEye software uses the camera images to decide if cattle are lame or unhealthy. 5G helps this data get back to the farmer straight away so they can ensure cattle are treated quickly.
Finally Wessex Internet is working with Qualcomm to explore the uses of spectrum that can deliver massive processing power to arable farming robots which are capable of “per plant” farming and destroy weeds with electricity not harmful pesticides. This approach can also improve crop yields by 200% and requires a new chipset design which Qualcomm is pioneering. There is a global market for such solutions.
It is very difficult to collect data and monitor stocks in the sea. The harsh conditions and general lack of connectivity mean that farmers and research organisations have little information about life beneath the waves.
The project focuses on how 5G could provide suitable connectivity to Jurassic Sea Farms in Portland Port. Collaborating with RS Aqua, Wessex Internet has connected their rugged sensors to 5G to prove that the technology is suitable for collecting information such as oxygen levels and light levels in the water. This information can help the farmer manage their crop appropriately to minimise waste and maximise yields.
Wessex Internet has also worked with the University of Exeter and JET Engineering, to develop a solution which enables farmers to see what is going on under the water. The University of Exeter are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to measure biofouling levels on the seaweed crop. Being able to understand this information, helps the farmer understand and manage the health of the farm ecosystem now and into the future.