Trilogy Networks is heading up a partnership that plans to build a private wireless LTE network running in the 3.5GHz CBRS spectrum band in an agricultural testbed in North Dakota. The group's goal is to use edge computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and other technologies to remotely and automatically remove weeds from a farm.
"It's really quite a fascinating set of technology apps," said Nancy Shemwell, Trilogy's chief operating officer.
Trilogy's efforts build on several high-profile trends within the wireless and 5G industry: private wireless networking, edge computing, AI and spectrum sharing in the CBRS band, to name a few. The company's new program is one small step – it currently involves just one cell tower – in a much broader push toward precision agriculture.
The new pairing between Trilogy Networks' Rural Cloud Initiative and Emerging Prairie's Grand Farm near Fargo, North Dakota, highlights the potential for technology to improve agricultural operations worldwide. The goal of Grand Farm is to create a fully autonomous farming operation by 2025.
Shemwell calls it a "living lab."
The Grand Farm lab traces its origins through the likes of the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation and the North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station (the agricultural research arm of North Dakota State University) as well as the $1.5 million Microsoft put toward the operation last year. Microsoft, for its part, has long touted its FarmBeat technology for agriculture, and recently unveiled its newly refreshed private networking capabilities.
Stepping into the lab is Trilogy's RCI, which has grown from just a handful of participants earlier this year to dozens and dozens of rural wireless network operators and technology partners ranging from Intel to Altiostar. The company's RCI program is designed to bring high-end services like edge computing to rural locations like Grand Farm.
Trilogy isn't the only company investing in precision agriculture; nor is the company focusing exclusively on North Dakota. Trilogy's CEO sits on the FCC's Precision Agriculture Task Force with several other companies involved in the space.
For example, tractor maker John Deere also counts an executive on the FCC's Precision Agriculture Task Force. The company also recently purchased around half a million dollars worth of CBRS spectrum licenses in a handful of locations. Dan Leibfried, director of advanced technology at John Deere's Intelligent Solutions Group, recently spoke at Light Reading's Big 5G Event, but he declined to provide specifics around the company's plans for its new CBRS spectrum holdings.