Connectivity

Exploring and showcasing better communication and the ability to access computer networks and the Internet, Agri-EPI supports better and faster connectivity.

Helping today’s farmers, retailers, researchers, scientists and agronomists access and use data to deliver precision farming engineering, technology and innovation in the UK agriculture across soil, crops and livestock.

Ericsson recognises Agri-EPI CEO Dave Ross as 5G Trailblazer and pioneer

Agri-EPI CEO Dave Ross has been chosen as a 5G Trailblazer and connectivity pioneer by Ericsson.

With 5G Trailblazers, Ericsson is shedding a light on important projects that are gaining momentum and to inspire people about what 5G can do to change their lives and businesses. The Pioneers are those working at the forefront of their industries, harnessing the power of 5G to drive crucial projects and show the full potential of 5G connectivity.

5G rural innovation

Agri-EPI is playing a leading role in a number of exciting projects exploring how 5G can support sustainable and productive farming. This includes evaluating collars worn by cows to monitor their health, welfare and productivity and using 5G-connected drones to asses the volume and quality of grass for livestock grazing.

Agri-EPI Centre is strategic partner and starting its involvement to 5G New Thinking, a programme aiming to make next generation connectivity an achievable reality for rural communities across the UK.

Dave Ross about 5G connectivity in the UK:

“The UK agricultural community is under pressure to produce more food, with less labour and less impact on the environment. Drones, autonomous vehicles, robotics and remote sensing and diagnostics will significantly change how we farm in the UK, but this innovation will only be possible if network connectivity in our rural areas is dramatically improved.”

Many belief Britain has never needed 5G more. They argue it has the potential to transform the way we live and work for the better, fast-tracking the UK’s economic recovery and enabling the use of game-changing technology in every field.

Accreditation badge PIONEER | Ericssons 5G Trailblazers | Dave Ross Agri-EPI | 5G New Thinking | ConnectivityMeet other 5G Trailblazers

Ericsson is championing the top 25 people and teams working at the forefront of 5G innovation. Learn here more about other pioneers, catalysts and conversation starters and their cutting-edge work, changing lives and businesses across the UK.

5G connectivity projects

5G New Thinking is a natural evolution of the 5G RuralFirst project, a co-innovation project to create rural test-beds and trials for 5G wireless and mobile connectivity across the Orkney Islands, Shropshire, and Somerset.

South West Dairy Development Centre in new 5G connectivity film

Reinvigorating businesses and industries driving rural economies

A new film produced by Cisco in conjunction with BBC StoryWorks describes how 5G-connected technology is being tested at Agri-EPI Centre’s South West Dairy Development Centre in Somerset.

The film, which is being broadcast internationally, highlights how 5G technology has the potential to bridge the connectivity gap between urban and rural areas, helping to ‘reinvigorate the businesses and industries that drive rural economies”.

The purpose of the recent 5G RuralFirst project, led by Cisco and involving Agri-EPI, explored how 5G may be used successfully in rural environments, including on the Somerset dairy farm.

As a cow steps into a robotic milkers at the dairy, sensors recognise the animal, record her health and fertility status and know how much milk she is expected to give. The strong, consistent connectivity that 5G can provide has the power to ensure farmers can get the most out of this real-time data.

In the film, Duncan Forbes, Head of Dairy at Agri-EPI Centre, talks about the great potential of 5G technology to support farming and wider rural communities, saying:

Over the next few years there is going to be an explosion of the technology and there’s an opportunity with this improved connectivity to keep the population in rural area and attract others.”

 

View here the video ‘Connected cows: bridging the urban-rural divide’:

5G no leafy country lane

Duncan Forbes, Manager of our South West Dairy Development Centre in Somerset has been blogging about this 5G Farm, as part of the 5G RuralFirst project. In his latest post he writes:

Rural 5G is no leafy country lane – it’s a data super highway set to put farming in the fast lane!

Sensors are go!

We’ve been busy at the Agri-EPI Centre’s South West Dairy Development Centre equipping our 180-strong herd with Afimilk Silent Herdsman sensors – a key element in our activities as one of the three 5G RuralFirst testbeds. The sensors are fitted to the cows’ collars to measure health parameters including rumination, eating, fertility and health.

As a cow steps into one of the robotic milkers, sensors recognise the animal, record her health and fertility status and know how much milk she is expected to give. The rapid growth in wearable technology, data analytics and automation has the potential to revolutionise how dairy cows are milked and cared for.

It’s important to acknowledge that amongst all this exciting tech, we must never lose sight of the two essential elements of any dairy farm – the cows and the people who care for them. As we develop new technology, we must ensure that the advances benefit one or both of these constants.

Technology such as the Afimilk sensors and robotic milkers are giving us more and more information about the animals which means we can keep an even closer eye on their health and welfare. That’s good from an animal welfare point of view but it is also important in an economic sense – farmers need to get a good return on their investment in order to keep on producing good, healthy food.

Why called a 5G farm?

The rapidly growing number of sensors in farming are generating huge quantities of data. The strong, consistent connectivity that 5G can provide will ensure farmers can get the most out of this data. While farming technology is being adopted at a very fast rate, at present most of that technology connects by one means or another to a PC in the farm office.

It then connects through to the internet which is notoriously slow in most rural areas. 5G offers an opportunity to bypass a series of those steps along the way with the potential to pick up data directly from the sensors on the cows, bypass any need for a PC on the farm, get the data onto the cloud, combine it with other relevant data and deliver management support information directly back to farm staff. This data “round trip” could take only milliseconds allowing staff to make instant, informed decisions about livestock welfare and management.

The 5G Rural First project is going to explore the benefits of achieving this massively accelerated connectivity from sensors such as the Afimilk Silent Herdsman and other emerging technology on the dairy farm.

Farmers have suffered from very poor connectivity which limits the amount of data that can be transmitted.  This hasn’t stopped the development of agricultural technology and the industry has found many clever ways to get around the issue, but imagine if we can remove those barriers by having a fantastic highway for data that is 5G – the potential is enormous to transform data into useful information that can help revolutionise the management of livestock and the productivity of UK farming.

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Source: 5GRuralFirst

Project 5G RuralFirst results in whitepaper about high capacity rural 5G networks

5G RuralFirst is the UK’s most ambitious testbed for connectivity in rural areas, demonstrating 5G’s gamechanging potential and identifying practical use cases that will benefit businesses and communities right across the United Kingdom. Through its three testbeds in the Orkney Islands, Somerset, and Shropshire, 5G RuralFirst is identifying and exploring new business models and use cases for connectivity deployment in rural areas and showcasing the potential of 5G in rural environments.

Whitepaper

A recent whitepaper focuses specifically on the spectrum problem to be solved for high capacity rural 5G networks at 3.6 GHz and represents the views of the individual authors on the spectrum lessons that have emerged from the 5G RuralFirst project.

The importance of the 5G pioneer band 3.4-3.8 GHz to the rural community is examined in some detail. The case is made as to why a traditional approach to the release of 5G spectrum will leave rural Britain out in the cold in terms of the transformative benefits of 5G. Some alternative options are looked at and the conclusion is reached that the ‘market expansion model’ set out in the Government’s Future Telecommunications Infrastructure Report is the best option. Some use cases are presented that show opportunistic dynamic spectrum access offers more than enough bandwidth to meet the rural use cases but a small amount of anchor spectrum, to be lightly licenses on a first come first served basis, is essential to create viable investment conditions for the market expansion model.

The paper shows why an amount as little as 20 MHz is sufficient when coupled with opportunistic dynamic spectrum access rights. Such an amount is 5% of the 5G pioneer band at 3.6 GHz and would be a sound national investment likely to offer a good return from a more productive rural economy.

Download the full whitepaper >>

About 5G RuralFirst

The consortium comprises world-leading expertise from 29 partners from across the technology, broadcasting, academic, agricultural and public sectors, including Cisco, the University of Strathclyde, the BBC, the Agri-EPI Centre, Orkney Islands Council and Scottish Futures Trust. For more information, please visit www.5gruralfirst.org

Launch of South West Dairy Development Centre

Agri-EPI Centre has launched its state-of-the-art South West Dairy Development Centre in Somerset, which aims to offer a fresh vision for sustainable UK milk production.

The £1.36 million, 180-cow dairy unit provides a truly innovative environment for the development, testing and demonstration of new technologies and techniques to support sustainable, efficient and high health and welfare milk production.

The centre combines innovative building design and management systems to create a highly efficient, low cost dairy system, with the capital cost of developing the dairy from scratch amounting to less that £8,000 per cow. The centre’s remit is to offer a platform for industry to trial and review new ideas for the benefit of dairy farmers throughout the UK.

Duncan Forbes, Agri-EPI project manager for the new centre said:

Our mantra here is, ‘measure it to manage it’. Sensor technology is being used to gather data to enable us to maximise precision in many aspects of feeding, production, health and welfare across the farm: indoors and outdoors, by satellite, and on and inside the cows. The automation of many processes within the dairy releases skilled staff to devote more of their time to cow health and welfare.

Precision grazing is at the top of the centre’s agenda. While the number of robotic dairies in the UK continues to increase, and it is recognised that grass can be a least-cost feed for dairy herds, successful grazing has been difficult to implement on many robotic units.

The new centre aims to tackle this by using emerging technology such as hyperspectral imaging and satellite data to monitor and predict grass growth in its surrounding paddocks, allowing the herd access to up to three fresh areas of grazing per day. A network of tracks and flexible paddocks encourage cow flow between the between the paddocks and the robot milkers.

A number of trials are already underway or planned for the centre. It is one of three UK ‘testbeds’ for the 5G RuralFirst project, the UK’s most ambitious connectivity project. Led by Cisco and involving a consortium of partners it aims to demonstrate how connectivity will benefit rural communities and business across the UK. A number of technologies utilising 5G data are to be trialled, including cow collars, monitoring health and welfare, digital systems to monitor cow fertility through milk analysis and, in the future, a ‘virtual vet’ system connecting stockpeople to a vet using augmented reality.

The South West Dairy Development Centre has been established in close partnership with independent dairy specialists Kingshay, who manage the facility. The Centre has been established by Agri-EPI using funding from Innovate UK and support from industry partners.

Welcoming the Centre’s launch today at an event attended by figures from industry, academia and government, Ian Cox, Innovate UK’s Agri-Tech Centres Innovation Lead, said:

The new South West Dairy Centre fits very well with Innovate UK’s vision to support the development and adoption of new technologies to help UK farming become more sustainable, efficient and profitable. It is good that the new centre is now operational and we hope it will become a central resource for use by the UK dairy industry.

Thought leadership: Innovation in Scottish Agriculture

In 2017, the IET’s Engineering Policy Group Scotland identified the potential application of the ‘Internet of Things’ in Farming as a strong topic for one of its Holyrood Briefings at the Scottish Parliament. The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) invited Agri-EPI Centre, the University of Strathclyde and Harbro to speak and explain how an ‘Internet of Agricultural Things’ could give the Scottish agri-food sector sector a new lease – representing academia, industry and government. The meeting, hosted by Edward Mountain MSP, took place on 27th February 2018.

Innovation in Scottish Agriculture – the Internet of Agricultural Things

At the event, speakers and attendees discussed how new technologies and opportunities such as precision livestock farming, autonomous agricultural machinery and remote crop mapping could help boost the efficiency and overall efficiency of the agri-food sector in Scotland significantly, while also addressing the more global problem of a rising world population and resulting food shortages.

However, several challenges will need to be overcome before these new approaches can be adopted at scale, such as an outdated communications infrastructure and convincing farmers to move away from more traditional methods.

With a global population expected to rise by 2-3 billion people by 2050, farming in Scotland and elsewhere, faces considerable challenges. A new awareness of the environmental concerns around the indiscriminate use of pesticides coupled with the need to promote animal welfare presents engineering with new opportunities. A mix of parliamentarians, industry professionals and academics attended the event.

Watch the mash-up video that came out after the event:

Source: IET

Stay informed

Keep up to date with the latest impact and results of our work, plus, news, innovation and approaches across the sector. Read our latest news and Agri-EPI blogs.