How to integrate sustainability into IoT applications in agriculture

I grew up in the countryside in Sweden. My parents had a big farm, at least compared to other farms in Sweden. They were dedicated to make sure that the approach to agriculture was done in a holistic and circular way, today this is often referred to as regenerative agriculture.

Connected vehicles

At that time, the knowledge about climate change wasn’t well understood but issues such as biodiversity, chemical pollution, soil degradation as well as healthy diets were discussed often.

My parents were always eager to know more, curious to understand connections between different inputs and outputs as well as the more complex systems of nature and how we relate to and treat nature.

With today’s access to information and communication (ICT) technologies, my parents would have been able to collect data and receive insights in totally different way. They would also have been able to share these insights and receive learnings from others in a much quicker way, hence it would have been a possible to be more resilient to changes, such as weather patterns, new seeds, working methods etc.

My daily work at Ericsson is all about integrating sustainability into relevant business projects as well as understanding where sustainability creates a pull in the ICT market and in particular using IoT.

One of the latest projects we are involved in, is a newly launched testbed at the Swedish Agriculture University site outside of city of Uppsala, led by the Swedish research agency, RISE.

The project group includes a number of organizations and companies with agriculture and weather expertise, as well as technology companies like Ericsson, Telia and for example in the drone area.

The testbed consists of four dedicated fields where the aim is to create an arena for co-operation with regards to new technology and be a foundation for new decision support systems for agriculture. It will include agricultural working machine systems based on autonomous vehicles as well as IoT deployments to collect quality assured data from specific trial fields.

Examples of data that will be gathered during the three coming years are: water availability, precipitation, temperature, air and leaf humidity, nutrition status and light reflection.

In the testbed drones equipped with cameras, light and heating sensors will be used to diagnose and predict growth and yield. The testbed will also include connected working vehicles, which also will be used to measure, for example; energy usage, steering, logging of inputs such as seeds, nutrients, and plant protection. The testbed will in the future include autonomous vehicles,.

The testbed´s cloud data system will manage and analyze data, provide visualization of results, and it will be connected with systems from Swedish Agricultural departments open data system, Swedish Meteorological Hydrological Institute weather data as well as economic farming info from LRF Konsult (Agri farming association consultancy firm).

In this joint partnership, new ways to present data, for example via Augmented Reality to improve feedback to farmers and working vehicle driver/operators, will be explored, with the purpose to improve efficiency, safety and improved working environment.

For IoT and 5G to be used to enhance food production, including autonomous fossil-free working vehicles, a few vital areas needs to be addressed, such as connectivity coverage, connectivity management, interoperability of both protocols and data (including semantics), security, data ownership clearance, and business models.

Ericsson’s Massive IoT solution and IoT Accelerator as a Service platform meets key requirements for low-cost devices, ubiquitous coverage, security and long battery life (more than 10 years battery time). The solution is based on new 3GPP standard technologies including NB-IoT and Cat-M1.

In this project we can see how our market leadership in cellular IoT, 5G and connectivity management coupled with our aaS IoT platform brings scalability and enables ecosystems in order to reduce barrier-to-entry and unleash the IoT business potential for telecom service providers and well as enterprises such as farmers, and with a strong sustainability focus.

As one of my colleagues, Jan Höller, a Research Fellow in IoT at Ericsson, says: “IoT solutions are built by a combined set of technologies, including devices, networks, cloud, machine learning and AI, and smart agriculture is a strong showcase of how these technologies come together to realize both concrete business and sustainability values. These solutions are now rapidly becoming ready for real deployments at scale.”

In Sustainable Development Goal number 9, Infrastructure, Innovation and Industry is addressed, which includes ICT infrastructure. In this testbed we will see the societal benefits of using ICT with a purpose to enhance food production and bring autonomous fossil-free vehicles to the agriculture sector.

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