The agriculture industry faces an array of challenges, from increasing costs and decreasing yield, to labor shortages and unpredictable climatic changes. Today’s farms are recognizing they need to evolve and adopt new technologies if they’re going to continue to compete and succeed. This digital transformation of America’s farms will help mitigate many of the agriculture industry’s most pressing challenges. However, such a transformation requires critical digital infrastructure including reliable connectivity and edge computing capability to process data and deliver real-time information. Unfortunately, much of rural America is faced with poor network coverage in many agricultural areas and a lack of critical cloud infrastructure nearby.
The Rural Cloud Initiative (RCI) was formed to address those challenges and to promote and accelerate the digital transformation of rural America. Technology leader Intel Corporation is a sponsor of this initiative and is making available its technology and tools, including the OpenNESS edge computing software development kit, for deploying the coalition’s solutions.
Since launching the RCI this past spring, Trilogy Networks, Intel, and the other RCI partners have been hard at work to bring other network and technology partners into the coalition, and to deploy the initial phase of the coalition’s first “Farm of the Future” at Hurst Greenery in Westboro, MO.
In September – just three months after announcing the first “Farm of the Future” project – the RCI completed that first phase, building a private LTE network to power precision agriculture applications such as sensors, monitoring devices, satellite mapping solutions, drones, and robotics for automation. Several RCI partners, were involved in completing Phase 1 of the “Farm of the Future”. Trilogy Networks deployed, its ConEx edge delivery platform along with Intel OpenNESS and LinX connectivity solution to integrate with the various partner solutions.
When finished, the “Farm of the Future” will enable precision agriculture solutions to help Hurst Greenery and more than 2,000 other area farms reduce costs, improve their operational efficiency, and increase yield. Better still, the “Farm of the Future” model is scalable and repeatable, with numerous benefits for telecom companies, agriculture technology companies, and end customers.
“New digital capabilities like 5G networks, IoT connected devices and innovative edge applications can help make rural industries more globally competitive and stimulate economic investment in rural areas,” said Renu Navale, Vice President and General Manager, Edge Computing & Ecosystem Enabling, Intel. “RCI is bringing together organizations that are able to contribute at every stage of the edge computing value chain. This provides meaningful opportunities for leading technology providers to help spur digital transformation across rural America through a viable, scalable and repeatable model that addresses this unique market.”
Many telecom companies are seeing declining revenues and increased network costs. As a trusted entity in the community with strong relationships with local farmers, the rural telecom provider is a natural fit to take to market innovative solutions like the “Farm of the Future.” It also offers a new revenue driver as providers shift to a cloud native, software-driven approach in their networks.
The “Farm of the Future” solution at Hurst Greenery utilizes connectivity and cloud infrastructure from three rural telecom providers: IAMO Communications, Chat Mobility, and Farmers Mutual Telephone Company, creating digital infrastructure that can support other “Farm of the Future” solutions in the coverage areas of these three telecom providers.
Agriculture Technology Companies
Technology solution providers for the agriculture market are leveraging this great market channel for their solutions as well. They are finding that discovery, purchase, installation, and support for their solutions on a digital platform with the support of the local telecom provider is an innovative way to reach millions of customers across rural America.
Farm as a Digital Enterprise
The “Farm of the Future” solution empowers farmers and agriculture companies to transform farming into a modern digital enterprise. With access to real-time data control and decision-making of connected devices, farms like Hurst Greenery will significantly increase overall efficiency and yield through reductions in spoilage, energy costs, insurance, and human resource costs.
Prior to now, connectivity cost has been a huge barrier to the adoption of technology in rural areas. With a reliable private network covering their farm, farmers can now easily add crop tracking, inventory monitoring, and connected device solutions such as temperature and humidity monitoring at no additional connectivity cost.
Precision use of farm chemicals like fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides saves costs and protects the environment. Instead of blanket spraying these chemicals over large areas, machine vision technologies with artificial intelligence capabilities can enable autonomous vehicles to deliver the optimal amount of the chemicals at targeted locations.
Farmers also get support from manufacturers with real-time diagnostics and expert advice for their connected machinery such as tractors, seeders and harvesters.
Designed to scale
The economic activity in rural America around agriculture and energy generation is prime for the deployment of billions of connected devices. At the same time, creating a repeatable and scalable go-to-market model is critical. Customers need an easy way to discover, purchase and deploy these solutions. Solution providers need a market channel that can scale. And network operators need scalable infrastructure that will enable new business models.
Trilogy and the other RCI partners like Intel are showing that both the technology and business value of edge solutions are provable, scalable, and repeatable across a number of use cases and vertical applications.
Intel and Trilogy recently won the Network Transformation Awards 2020 in Innovation Use Case category at Layer123 World Congress. The recognition of this use case from the industry is further testament to the potential for the “Farm of the Future.”