3 min reading
30 March 2023
30 March 2023
Providing the Agricultural Sector with Smart and Cost-Efficient Connectivity Options
Human ingenuity and scientific breakthroughs have given the world an unprecedented array of tools to transform the food system and mitigate its impact on available resources and food shortages. The advent of modern technology has reshaped the way farmers cultivate crops and livestock. Automation, remote sensing, and artificial intelligence have entirely changed the current farming industry, increasing productivity, reducing labor time, and allowing farmers to focus on more critical tasks.
Smart agriculture, for example, uses real-time weather forecasting and soil sensors to help farmers decide when and how much to irrigate, fertilize or apply pesticides to their crops. It allows them to avoid unnecessary water and resources waste to help reduce costs. The same goes for location tags, which allow tracking of the herd and making more informed decisions on livestock management. However, the challenge in incorporating smart technologies into existing agricultural systems is one of complexity, cost, and integrity. With these problems in mind, TEKTELIC and SaskTel have partnered to provide connectivity to enable a range of LoRaWAN-based agricultural solutions, which are designed to facilitate and optimize agricultural operations.
SaskTel provides a broad selection of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) items and services in Saskatchewan, helping local businesses and private users to improve wireless, Internet, and connectivity-related services. SaskTel has been around for over 100 years, delivering innovative technologies and following the goal to serve the people of Saskatchewan. With such an approach to providing services and connectivity, SaskTel has recently focused more on agriculture and ways of improving and optimizing operations for its customers.
As innovation in agriculture continues to grow, there are key hurdles the industry needs to overcome, including:
- Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
- Network Coverage
LoRaWAN technology has the potential to completely transform the operations in the agricultural industry and address these issues first-hand.
Cost of the Infrastructure
The process of technology adoption has been slow due to the lack of enabling infrastructure, as well as the cost of the necessary components. The cost of setting up and maintaining the necessary infrastructure has been prohibitive for many agriculture producers and small to mid-sized farms, preventing them from taking advantage of the opportunities that LoRaWAN offers.
Lack of Connection between Devices
In addition to the cost of the infrastructure, another major issue that has hindered the adoption of smart agriculture technologies is the lack of data correlation between the hundreds of devices companies deploy. Many farming companies are using multiple pieces of technology but are stuck with having to use multiple apps to manage the data. It results in confusion and additional difficulty, which revert people from using smart tech in daily activities. Users are looking for a consolidated view of their data, a so-called “single pane of glass”, which the market doesn’t offer for a fair price.
Taking into account the abovementioned challenges, SaskTel focused on enabling local farmers to use LoRaWAN technology to address their needs for remote data management and universal connectivity. SaskTel has partnered with TEKTELIC to introduce the LoRaWAN network to locals and create a consolidated view of all their data sources to simplify and enhance operations in agriculture.
Considering the need to make agricultural solutions both cost-efficient and available in different areas, SaskTel identified LoRaWAN as the primary IoT connectivity method and deployed TEKTELIC gateways to embrace this technology among the agricultural communities. SaskTel uses a “DNA” framework (data/devices, network, applications/analytics) to identify solutions to problems, which is extremely applicable for industries looking to leverage smart technologies. New developments in technology such as LoRaWAN are helping to drive down the costs of creating the necessary smart agricultural infrastructure, allowing more producers to take advantage of connected farming.
TEKTELIC and SaskTel leverage LoRaWAN connectivity in the smart farming industry with the TEKTELIC KONA Enterprise Gateway. It serves as the necessary communication hub and a connection point between the tracking devices on a farm and the end user. This gateway is designed for long-range and low-power LoRaWAN networks, making it great for rural areas with limited access to traditional network infrastructure. It also provides reliable, secure, and low-cost wide-area connectivity for remote locations.
With the KONA Enterprise, SaskTel helps farmers to improve how they manage not only crops and farm operations but also livestock. Using TEKTELIC gateways, farmers can track and monitor animal health and location. SaskTel together with TEKTELIC offer connectivity to provide farmers with real-time data, enabling them to make more informed decisions about the best ways to manage their livestock.
SaskTel believes it can help scale innovations developed on LoRaWAN, given its ability to leverage its current assets (e.g., cell towers, backhaul, partner structures, etc.).
Integrating the KONA Enterprise into smart agriculture, farmers can continuously collect data from agricultural sensors, environmental monitoring devices, and security devices to effectively manage the facility.
In fact, it can cover an area of 10 to 30 kilometers, depending on deployment conditions, making it a cost-effective solution for agricultural tech adoption. It can be used as both an indoor and outdoor gateway, making it a suitable gateway for all enterprise-size deployments.
An exciting example in the development of smart agriculture solutions is the partnership created between SaskTel, the University of Saskatchewan, and Olds College to create “living labs” in Saskatchewan, in which they are testing and validating an alternative “DNA” infrastructure and working to create a “single pane of glass”. LoRaWAN is a crucial component of this project. It is being used to connect thousands of sensors and devices to the internet. As LoRaWAN uses a low-power radio signal to transmit data across long distances, it is ideal for the remote rural areas that are common in the agricultural industry.
In addition to rural use cases, there are many similarities that can be applied to create smart communities. That is, to leverage LoRaWAN for things like smart building monitoring, asset tracking, smart parks, environmental monitoring, and many more.
For this purpose, TEKTELIC provides KONA Macro IoT outdoor gateways, which are designed for wide coverage and reliable data packet transmission. With its rugged enclosure and IP 67 protection, it is a perfect choice for agricultural fields and can withstand -40°C to +60°C of temperature changes. The KONA Macro can be easily deployed on towers, poles, or walls, so it can be easily mounted on farm premises.
What are the Expected Outcomes?
Such connectivity options provided for the farming industry have become possible thanks to TEKTELIC and SaskTel’s close collaboration to provide LoRaWAN connectivity. By leveraging its long-range, low-power wireless capabilities, LoRaWAN can be used to monitor and control a wide range of agricultural operations. This includes monitoring soil moisture and temperature, controlling irrigation systems, tracking livestock, and even providing early alert systems for a potential robbery. LoRaWAN also provides the opportunity to collect data from multiple sources, solving the problem of many apps and various access points.
The food demand in the agriculture industry is rising, which creates the need to implement innovative technology to organize the operations in the best way and meet even the highest requests of the market. With the LoRaWAN connectivity, farmers can utilize smart devices to make informed decisions about their crops, boost profits and maximize resource efficiency. To make this possible, SaskTel and TEKTELIC collaborated to help local farmers and farming organizations benefit from LoRaWAN’s scalable and cost-effective capabilities, as well as have continuous connectivity even in remote areas. Farmers can utilize it to effectively manage crops and herds, boost yields, and maximize farm productivity. This connectivity option provided by SaskTel will help the producers to simplify the management of multiple apps on their screens more effectively. It will make data to be easily accessed and correlated from one source, saving farmers time and money.
With all the potential benefits in mind, and if you want to enhance the management of the agricultural facility, try out LoRaWAN connectivity to find out if it is a fit for your business.