The Edge

Missouri farm makes hay with edge computing, private LTE

A family-owned farming operation in rural Missouri is about to get a major upgrade.

Thanks to the efforts of Trilogy Networks and its new Rural Cloud Initiative (RCI), the Hurst Greenery farm in Westboro, Missouri, is scheduled to become the nation's first "farm of the future," complete with edge computing-powered machine vision technologies running on a private wireless LTE network.

The effort is the first of what Trilogy executives hope will be several demonstrations of the types of technological solutions RCI participants can bring to rural areas.

The effort lines up with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai's interest in precision agriculture, highlighted by his formation of the Precision Agriculture Task Force and his proposal to allocate up to $1 billion toward 5G in agricultural settings.

Thus, it's likely no surprise that Blake Hurst, the owner of Hurst Greenery in Westboro, is also vice chair of one of the working groups within Pai's Precision Agriculture Task Force. (Trilogy's CEO George Woodward is in the same working group.)

"Automating energy, water and yield management with such transformative technologies are critical for family farms to protect future agriculture production," Hurst said in a release issued by Trilogy Tuesday.

Trilogy's CTO Venky Swaminathan explained that the company's "farm of the future" demo with Hurst Greenery will ultimately cover 16 greenhouses and 600 acres of farmland (mostly corn and soybean) and will include the installation of a private wireless LTE network that can support applications including temperature and humidity monitoring as well as real-time video surveillance for crop tracking and inventory monitoring using machine vision. The project involves the installation of Trilogy's ConEx edge computing platform at the Hurst Greenery as well as at a Chat Mobility cell site, a IAMO Communications central office and a Farmers Mutual Telephone Company switching office. It also includes applications developed by RCI partners Pluribus Networks, ClearBlade and Lanner.

The companies explained that the offering is being developed so that it can scale up to cover the 2,300 farms in RCI's coverage area in the region.

"We are delighted with the progress we made," said Nancy Shemwell, Trilogy's chief operating officer, adding that the RCI has grown from just a handful of participants earlier this year to 26 rural wireless network operators and roughly a dozen technology partners ranging from Intel to Altiostar. As a result, the RCI now covers 230,000 square miles in rural areas of the US with technologies that can be used for all kinds of high-tech services, ranging from precision agriculture to distance learning, telehealth, industrial automation and energy efficiency.

Swaminathan, Trilogy's CTO, said RCI is focusing on three main areas: 5G networks; machine vision applications such as drone operations or pipeline monitoring; and the collection of IoT sensor data.

RCI participants hope to tie together a number of hot trends in the wireless industry including edge computing, private wireless networks and 5G, albeit in a rural setting.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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