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5G Open Innovation Lab

Connectivity for growers - don't leave home without it!


Why did the farmer's son choose to play the tuba in the back of his dad's pickup truck? Sounds like a joke...but this is what farm families have to resort to in order to get internet access to continue schooling from home in the COVID era. We talk to countless growers that struggle with connectivity while out and about on their farms. And while innov8.ag is a ag data-focused company, we know that connectivity is critical to not only collecting data to enable new scenarios, but enabling growers to ACCESS the data contextually while on the go.


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In August, the innov8.ag team had the opportunity to work with our close partners at Microsoft on a global hackathon project where we addressed the dilemma of growers not having enough connectivity to operate their farm/orchard operation at full potential. Whether it be connecting with irrigation leads to view/discuss a water main blowout, calling team members while growers are in-canopy to let someone know that they forgot to spray row C, or being able to see sensor data - soil moisture, imagery, data from a sensor. Growers more often than not, simply just don't have enough wireless connectivity to complete these kinds of tasks. To learn more about our connectivity hackathon project with Microsoft, please take a moment to view our recent blog "Connectivity for Farmers"


With technology becoming more and more dependent upon the exchange of data over wireless connections (even something as simple as a text message) there's an increasing need to build infrastructure where that connectivity is lacking. This need to build network infrastructures is far more prevalent and difficult to do in industries like agriculture due to wide open spaces w/ limited population - which is how carriers typically justify network investment. Sadly, this creates a tremendous disservice for growers as the cost to install infrastructure such as fixed wireless systems or mesh networks, is often times extremely cost prohibitive for most sized farms. As any industry works where the larger corporations are the first to break through on what seems like insurmountable obstacles, so too do larger farms that have more resources to invest in implementing connectivity for new scenarios such as equipment automation. But in reality, this may disadvantage small farms that already have insane amounts of pressure from rising costs and diminishing returns. So the balance is finding breakthroughs that can help both large & smaller farms alike.


So what's different about 5G and edge computing? 5G of course brings higher speeds, enables new scenarios inclusive of Private LTE & CBRS (enabling growers to potentially supplement "mobile connectivity dead zones"), while edge computing brings high-CPU/GPU processing closer to the user/equipment for processing lots of imagery/video...without having to move the data all the way up to the cloud for processing.


innov8.ag was privileged to be invited to be a startup member of the "5G Open Innovation Lab" alongside Intel, T-Mobile, NASA, Microsoft, Amdocs, Dell, and VMware, where we will explore and test the viability of bringing affordable connectivity to a lacking industry and community. We see a tremendous amount of value in helping one of the largest industries in the world to get appropriate amounts of service to increase productivity and profitability.


Watch this 3 min. informational video to learn more about the dilemma:

About the Lab:


The 5G Open Innovation Lab is a global ecosystem of developers, start-ups, enterprises, academia and government institutions working together with start-ups to fuel the development of new 5G & edge compute capabilities, use cases and market categories that will transform the way we work, live and play, both now and in the future. By being funded by Intel, T-Mobile, NASA, Microsoft, Amdocs, Dell, and VMware this Lab provides developers at all stages unparalleled access to open platforms, enterprises and markets needed to create, test and deploy new use cases and innovations for 5G w/ edge computing. Overall, the use cases will cover industries like Manufacturing, Energy Utility, Retail, Agriculture, Transport & Logistics, Media & Entertainment, Autonomous Vehicles, and lastly Space & Satellites.



5G Innovation Partnership Zone:

Agriculture Industry Exploration Zones-


The 5G Innovation Partnership Zone (IPZ) is a public-private partnership actively seeking and working to develop new 5G and edge computing use cases. Through the implementation of these use cases we will endeavor deep into the latest technology across 5G infrastructure, spectrum, and edge native applications in order to build an appropriate infrastructure that will eventually support the every day needs of running and managing an agriculture business in rural areas. Below are some examples of the agriculture-focused use cases that the 5G Innovation Partnership Zone is exploring to test real-world viability for growers.


So what are some of the ag scenarios that would benefit from 5G & Edge Computing?

  • Phone Calls - start with the basics, ensuring that laborers can be reached & can reach out via call and SMS as priorities shift & unexpected situations emerge

  • Connected Labor Intelligence - enabling consistent connectivity for mobile phone-based time clock / productivity applications such as Field Clock, Hectre, Pet Tiger or PickTrace.

  • Imagery Collection, Processing, & Analysis - monitoring state of crops and how they change over time - with the goal to better manage labor priorities, predict yield (and in-field bin placement), & identify areas of weakness with drone & ATV-based imaging & LiDAR mapping w/ partners like Green Atlas

  • Bin tracking to enhance traceability & profitability from specific orchard locations to packing house.

  • Connected equipment, particularly for sprayers ensuring real-time logging and variable-rate application w/ partners like Smart Guided Systems' Smart Apply sprayer; We see picking platforms as an opportunity as well, by informing platform speed based on canopy density, for instance, as well as measuring crop quality & quantity / productivity in real-time. And of course, eventually we'll see more & more automation for picking...connectivity & edge computing will be key.

  • New sensors, such as chlorophyll, sap flow, soil nutrient, water quality, ....the list goes on



More from innov8.ag:


In the Agriculture sector which we will be contributing to, 5G opens the door to a variety of opportunities for growers in the US and eventually around the world. As a company, we often see a huge difference in connectivity from standing outside the canopy and then walking just a few feet underneath the canopy. This makes it extremely difficult and often times impossible for growers to send something as simple as a text to their farm leads in order to notify them of a problem. Inevitably resulting in individuals traveling tens of miles just to reach a location where they can send a message. Another reoccurring problem we see is when a grower does have sensors implemented around their orchard, they can't use the data in an actionable manner since they have to drive all the way back to the office to view the information on their mobile device and then drive back to the block where the sensor is located. This ends up resulting in wasted time and money just to make an informed decision on something that should have been immediate.


Our goal during the implementation of this project is to start simple with the use cases focused around The Smart Orchard Project at Chiawana Orchards. This location is optimal due to the fact of it being oversensorized and needing more connectivity than the average orchard or farm. We see this location as a perfect opportunity to bring 5G connectivity to a rural location that currently lacks consistent cellular coverage, so that the growers at The Smart Orchard can have immediate access to the data they receive from sensors. At the end of this lab we envision the grower not only seeing realtime data on their farm environment from soil moisture sensors and weather stations, but breaking through on apple counting & tree density data from ATV imagery partners like Green Atlas. With this data available real-time, the growers are now 'in the drivers seat' to make same-day decision for labor planning, irrigation scheduling, and pest/disease control.

Stay tuned for updates around this project and more information regarding real life applications of 5G & edge compute contributing to growers productivity and profitability!


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