Vodafone Spain has teamed up with Spanish wireless infrastructure company Cellnex to conduct a new trial of 5G technology in the country’s Andalucia region, this time focusing on the use of commercial 5G networks in the field of agriculture. The operators have partnered with Sociedad Agraria de Transformacion Trops in Velez-Malaga to introduce smart harvesting and crop automation techniques via 5G networks and MEC (Multi-access Edge Computing) technology.
The agricultural company’s connected harvesting machines are now able to decide, in real time, whether or not fruit is ready for collection by analyzing the size, appearance and maturity of the product. Vodafone said it also installed a mobile 5G unit to provide temporary coverage in hard-to-reach areas, while Cellnex integrated AI technology at the edge to enable the machines to capture images of the fruit and improve the product selection process.
The trial is part of the Andalucia 5G initiative promoted by Spain’s ICT development agency Red.es. Vodafone launched the 30-month initiative at the end of last year, announcing a total investment of €25.4 million (US $29.7 million), including €6.3 million (US $7.4 million) from Red.es, for a total of 32 use cases covering the provinces of Seville, Jaen, Malaga, Cadiz and Huelva.
The ever-broadening scope of the Internet of Things betokens some thought-provoking confluences of cutting-edge and time-honored industries. This collaboration between a mobile operator, a technology partner and an agricultural organization aims to bring the benefits of the IoT, powered by 5G, to crop harvesting in a rich farming region of Spain.
This project goes well beyond the basics, with the 5G IoT providing not only automation control and monitoring, as is increasingly prevalent across many industries, but also some advanced functionalities, such as analyzing the ripeness of fruit and even AI-enabled imaging of fruit to assist farmers in selecting which ones to harvest at a given time. Vodafone’s network infrastructure, in addition to providing the connectivity, has the added benefit of a mobile 5G unit that can extend temporary coverage to relatively remote areas. The operator has appropriately tailored its offering to the specific needs of the region it is targeted to, and keeping connectivity continuous is critical in an undertaking of this sort.
The advent of 5G has, as we have written on a number of occasions, brought about a new era for the IoT, in which it can provide services that are at a higher level of complexity and responsiveness than before. While agriculture may sound like a very traditional and not particularly advanced industry, it is clearly amenable to assistance from cutting-edge 5G networks. For mobile operators like Vodafone, this sector is a promising source of revenue and opportunity now and in the future.