The 5G Open Innovation Lab (5G OI Lab), a global ecosystem of developers, corporate enterprises, academia and government institutions, has launched its first application development field lab for the agricultural industry, providing dedicated access to a 5G-capable, CBRS LTE-based network and edge computing platform, fuelled by technology provided by the partners of the 5G OI Lab.
The Food Resiliency Project, an economic development initiative funded by a grant through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), establishes a virtual and physical space for Snohomish County (Everett, Washington, USA) to bring together food growers, and distributors with technology companies to collaboratively develop new capabilities that will improve the resiliency of Snohomish County’s agriculture sector and minimise future food service disruptions for consumers and regional agribusiness.
“Every modern industry benefits from data and analytics,” explained Jim Brisimitzis, general partner of the 5G Open Innovation Lab. “Agricultural sites typically lack the high-speed Internet access necessary for connecting devices and generating the data growers and industry suppliers need to make real-time decisions for optimal impact. With the support of Snohomish County and our partners, we’ve proudly built an application development field lab with two dedicated sites through which our ecosystem members, partners, academia, and industry can collaborate to experiment, test, and learn. The outcome is the development of commercial use cases by way of research and innovation that agricultural vendors like John Deere and Cargill, for example, can use today.”
“Agriculture has always been a key sector in Snohomish County – this last year has taught us how vital it is it to ensure we have a steady, local supply of food,” added Snohomish County executive, Dave Somers. “Our partnership with 5G Open Innovation Lab can help safeguard our agriculture industry by providing farmers the tools they need for success, while securing fresh food for our community. We will continue to support innovation to strengthen and diversify our economy.”
Two agriculture sites
The field lab is a dynamic testing platform with dedicated access to a 5G-capable, CBRS LTE private network through co-development access points. The two agriculture sites operating in Snohomish County are: Swans Trail Farms, a retail farm and event venue featuring apple orchards, strawberry fields, and a pumpkin patch; and Andrew’s Hay, Inc, a commercial grower and supplier of premium feed for horses, cattle, livestock and seed crops.
Each site will connect to an edge computing environment allowing developers to tap into cloud computing capabilities essential for latency-sensitive and compute-intensive applications. IoT applications include soil sensors measuring temperature, volumetric water content, oxygen levels and photosynthetic radiation, as well as supply chain and logistics tracking of food from farm-to-table to ensure safety and security.
The dynamic testing environment enables edge computing by using Dell servers based on Intel Xeon processors, VMware’s Telco Cloud Platform operating system for 5G applications and the Intel Smart Edge multi-access edge computing platform. Wireless access is provided by T-Mobile with live radios connected to T-Mobile’s broadband network for Internet backhaul and access to Microsoft’s Azure hyperscale cloud infrastructure, and the Microsoft 5G-capable network core. Expeto, an alum of the 5G Open Innovation Lab program, was selected to provide the wireless network core orchestration and end device (SIM) management platform. Two of the initial partners leveraging the field lab to drive learnings and solution development with the installation of IoT sensors and advanced research are Washington State University and innova8.ag, another alum of the 5G Lab’s program.
“The Food Resiliency Project is an example of what can be accomplished using 5G technology, virtualized, cloud-native solutions, and the ecosystem of partners created by the 5G Open Innovation Lab,” said Sue Boyd, Microsoft assistant general Counsel and 5G OI Lab board member. “The combined solution includes a Microsoft 5G-capable network core, which has been deployed in record time, and represents an invaluable collaboration between private and public domains that benefits the farmers, consumers and the environment.”
“T-Mobile is America’s 5G leader and we’re building a network to serve all Americans, including rural farmers, giving them the tools they needs to transform their businesses – for farmers that means producing more food using fewer resources,” said John Saw, EVP of Advanced & Emerging Technologies at T-Mobile. “We can’t wait to see the 5G innovation that occurs as we work together to build the next big thing in agritech.”
The Amdocs next-generation OSS and service management platform will make automating and managing the multi-vendor environment more efficient. With Amdocs network policy and converged charging systems, farmers will be able to investigate the monetization elements and business models for planned commercial use cases. F5 will provide security software for the private networks and the applications running on them.
“Effective commercialization of innovative services based on 5G requires automation systems to manage the end-to-end service lifecycle that covers design, deployment, orchestration and monetization across a hybrid and multi-vendor network,” explained Angela Logothetis, CTO, Amdocs Open Network. “We are excited to have Amdocs OSS and BSS solutions be part of this agricultural field lab to support the planned use cases and demonstrate the practical aspects that need to be considered in launching and supporting new services.”
The Lab selected the Nokia AirScale Radio for ultra-low latency and the ability to adapt to evolving architectures with a future-proof solution for 5G networks. A simple unpack and deploy model was used to enable farmers to utilize the network to homeschool young children, automate planning and harvesting, and measure soil conditions.
The Expeto Nextworking platform enables network managers to set and manage application policies over a unified framework across private and public mobile networks and control all core network functions within one interface. Expeto will be responsible for the ongoing management over the coming year.
The Expeto platform delivers what smart farming applications and field devices need: highly reliable, outdoor wireless networking with the low latency, full end-to-end data path control and security. Within the Nextworking platform, farmers can be confident they can both scale their operations and protect their wireless network data across both public and private networks. Lab participants and farmers will be able to manage these hybrid networks as easily as traditional Wi-Fi but with all the security and robustness of a stand-alone private LTE solution.
“The field lab is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate practical applications which can make a meaningful difference in the overall efficiency and yield of these farms,” explained Michael Anderson, CEO of Expeto. “According to the United Nations, food production will have to double in the very near future in order to meet growing population demand. We will have to leverage innovations, like we see in the field lab, to help farmers, and for that matter, participants from all verticals, to scale existing supply chains to support our growing population.”
The Lab selected Seattle-based Ballast Networks to design, manage and deploy the hardware, switching infrastructure and networking gear at both sites. The development environment and access points at both sites are designed to be operational for ten years.
Finally, innov8.ag, a leading partner of the Food Resiliency Project, will provide data analytics and artificial intelligence sensors through its partnership with Washington State University. “We enable leading-edge insights for progressive farms like Swans Trail Farm and Andrew’s Hay,” noted Steve Mantle, founder and CEO of innov8.ag. “We start with foundational insights that bring together environmental, soil, chemical, nutrient, labor, water, and imaging data which enables efficiencies and better outcomes in yield and quality. Growers are equipped to further enable food resiliency, while also having a baseline dataset to leverage the coming wave of equipment automation.”
“There are test beds across the United States and around the world, but they tend to be academic in nature. While they serve an important purpose, we wanted to design a dynamic, development platform that facilitates collaborative experimentation for commercially viable use cases. It is a true collaborative public-private environment for startups, with best-of-breed solutions delivering all the capabilities of a real enterprise platform,” concluded Brisimitzis. “This co-development platform is the first of many we plan to deploy in the future serving other industries. We believe that better connectivity and edge computing are the future and are working with our partners and ecosystem companies to make that vision a reality.”