Precision agriculture and smart farming incorporate automated technologies to make farm-to-market more productive, efficient and sustainable. To achieve this, soil, crops and pests are sensed, and this information is used to monitor systems from planting to harvest. Multifold data collected from various sensors, together with IoT devices mounted on drones, robots, and automatic guided vehicles (AGVs) can maximize resources, optimize yield and reduce costs when they are connected. Realizing precision agriculture’s true potential depends heavily on interconnectivity infrastructure that allows data flow seamlessly among field devices and cloud-based facilities for storage, processing and decision making.
Currently, connections of farm end points rely on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for short-range wireless communication, while remote applications use 4G cellular. While these provide low-cost connectivity solutions, emerging precision agriculture applications demand higher data rates, lower latency and high-density communication. For example, unmanned tractors autonomously manage crops with GPS and computer vision guidance; robots need to communicate with each other in real time in order to avoid collisions and plan for collaboration; drones and AGVs perform tasks in complicated environments and require real-time feedback control from operators; thousands of sensors need constant communication for data aggregation. All these use cases cannot be fulfilled by 4G or Wi-Fi alone.
We intend to build an intelligent connectivity solution for UGA smart farming and precision agriculture applications. The solution integrates several tiers of wireless technologies, from state-of-the-art 5G, to 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and LoRA (long-range radio). The goals are to: (1) provide optimized and always-on connectivity according to each sensor’s need; (2) build private networks in both controlled environments and fields, at a cost that will be orders of magnitude cheaper; and (3) integrate sensors from research in both Engineering and Crop and Soil Sciences, and systematically test their connection performance.