Automation, IoT and data analytics for the purpose of gaining process efficiencies and cost savings doesn’t always have to happen inside a high-tech manufacturing plant, office building or smart city. Because private LTE and 5G mobile networks can be deployed virtually anywhere -- indoors or out -- the agriculture industry now has access to advanced wireless technology that can serve as the foundation for digital farms of the future.
Hurst Greenery discovered how digitizing their greenhouses with the help of a Celona private mobile network increased crop yields while also lowering operational costs.
Hurst Greenery, a family-owned Westboro Missouri farm and greenhouse, wanted to take their agriculture business to the next level. Their goal was to integrate the latest connected farming technology into their greenhouses with the goal of achieving better crop yields at the farm while streamlining manual processes and cutting operational costs for agriculture projects. Let’s learn about how Celona and other members of the Rural Cloud Initiative (RCI), partnered with Hurst Greenery to deploy a CBRS-based private mobile network at the farm here in the US that serves as the infrastructure foundation for current and future agriculture IoT initiatives.
When it comes to choosing a wireless network with which to base the business’s smart farming initiatives on, Hurst Greenery found that traditional technologies could not be used in many agriculture settings.
For example, the use of public LTE or 5G carrier services was out of the question because signal strength in rural areas for agriculture is minimal -- if not non-existent. Additionally, the cost to operate an IoT network over metered data services such as carrier LTE/5G has the potential to wipe out any process or operational cost savings that IoT platforms can produce.
Wi-Fi, another likely candidate, is also problematic in agriculture scenarios due to the relatively short coverage capability it has over carrier-grade technologies such as LTE and 5G. A single LTE/5G wireless access point, for example, can provide approximately the same level of coverage at the farm that 10 outdoor Wi-Fi access points can achieve. From a deployment standpoint, Wi-Fi simply becomes too expensive to operate when covering large geographic footprints.
Fortunately, Hurst Greenery was working with the Rural Cloud Initiative technology partner, Celona, that offers the ideal wireless networking solution for agriculture IoT. A private mobile network running LTE/5G over the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum allows Hurst Greenery to deploy their own carrier-grade wireless network at the farm to provide the blanket coverage and reliability they need throughout the farm without concern for expensive data metering costs incurred with carrier wireless contracts.
For outdoor, agriculture deployments, Celona customers can expect these coverage, performance and capacity metrics when using either indoor or outdoor access points.
Phase 1 of the Hurst Greenery digital transformation process was completed in a matter of weeks and the results exceeded expectations.
The scope of this phase called for a Celona private LTE network to be deployed across 18 greenhouses located on the 600 acre farm. IoT sensors for temperature, humidity and soil moisture were deployed throughout the greenhouse buildings.
The IoT sensors transmit collected data via a low-power, long-range (LoRA) network into the Celona LTE radio access network (RAN). The Celona RAN is used as the network’s IoT data backhaul to centralized data analysis servers.
After analyzing the data and automating many of the temperature, humidity and soil moisture processes, the agriculture projects have experienced a 10% increase coming from procedural efficiencies and yield improvements of their plant and flower crop.
Because Hurst Greenery found significant success in the first phase of their digital transformation process at the farm, they’re eager to learn more about how Celona and other Rural Cloud Initiative partners can leverage their new private mobile network and IoT platforms to expand further into the farm’s daily operations with the hope of achieving even greater efficiencies and cost savings.
Example digital transformation projects that are planned at Hurst Greenery or other RCI test bed clients include:
Each of these IoT projects focuses on creating new efficiencies and profits in any number of agriculture settings including greeneries, fields, pastures and orchards.
At the center of all these digital transformation projects is a wireless network that delivers secure, reliable and low latency wireless data transport across long distances. Thus, the key to cultivating farms of the future should begin with a feature-rich private LTE/5G network from Celona that’s ideal for all connected farming use-case scenarios.
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