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Connectivity for Farmers - 2020 Microsoft Hackathon

Giving growers more power through adequate connectivity in rural areas


Study by USB

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Connect Farmers, Drones, & Farm Equipment with Private LTE and Azure Stack Edge

It's no secret that mobile coverage gets spotty as soon as we venture outside of the city. This has been plaguing farmers for ages, but continues to worsen as farmers are struggling with the basics of connecting their children into remote learning, while also dealing with data collection and viewing needs while working on the farm, and increasingly dealing with equipment that benefits from connectivity for updates/upgrades/data downloads & sharing. With this project, we planned to 'hack' together an architecture and working prototype that enables Private LTE for a farm, connecting drones, farm equipment, and mobile phones for a Smart Orchard in Washington State. This orchard already has 50+ sensors (read more here by clicking here) that are flowing data into Microsoft Azure Farmbeats, most of which are connected through "1 bar" of Verizon service. However, there are two 'data heavy' scenarios where the grower would benefit from "5 bars" of mobile coverage and edge computing.

1. The orchard is already using a Smart Apply sprayer that uses LiDAR to spray chemicals based on the height/width/volume of every tree, resulting in money and environmental savings with up to 50% less chemicals. LiDAR data is collected on a Android tablet that controls the sprayer, and has invaluable uses for studying how the trees are changing throughout the growing season.

2. Every 2 weeks, WSU researchers & run 2 drones over a 20-acre block to capture multi-spectral and thermal imagery, enabling an overhead view of crop vigor, NDVI, NDWI, and other measures to compare against IoT sensors deployed across the orchard. Growers are excited to review the data to understand how they should modify use of chemicals, nutrients, pesticides, herbicides based on learnings.

For both of these scenarios, as well as scenarios that leverage data from environmental sensors, we're also optimizing around connecting mobile phones while growers are *in* the orchard. Without connectivity, a grower can't make real-time contextual decisions while s/he is in the field, and our focus with Microsoft doubles-down on using 5G & Private LTE technologies to ensure the orchard labor force has relevant data at their fingertips throughout the day.


Watch this short project recap to learn more! ~3 mins


Our Hackathon Team:


Platform Development-

Daniel Cornell- Sr. Service Engineer

Juan Perez- Principal Product Manager at Microsoft Azure Stack Edge


Application Development:

Travis Lingenfelder- Customer Engineer

Gibson Guo- Business Development Director at Microsoft

Akwasi Akosah- Software Engineer Intern


Radio Development:

Marcello Benati- Director Strategic Innovations- Chief Disruption Architect

Sherief Selim- Senior Cloud Solution Architect

Christophe Le Roux- Intelligent Edge Sales Lead EMEA at Microsoft

Ram Balakrishnan- Principal Program Manager

Thomas Detwiler- Principal Hardware Engineer


What's Next?

As a result of this hackathon project, we have an architecture that brings together edge computing & wireless connectivity for a orchard, and are planning toward deployment. We'll keep you updated on the how & when. Expect another exciting announcement in the coming days as to how we'll 'make this real' as part of a broader collaborative technology & regulatory ecosystem.


Stay tuned for an upcoming post about how we are actively working with other corporations to make future connectivity for growers a real thing!


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