Growing beyond agricultural network complications

Networking obstacles can often keep farms from adopting automation, or relegate them to a low level of automation without the ability to scale their operations.
Read time 3min 30sec

In my last Industry Insight, I discussed automation and how introducing autonomy to agricultural processes is important in creating a full industrial Internet of things (IIOT) environment. In this article, I will look at the agricultural network requirements and obstacles.

Automation encompasses a wide spectrum of capabilities, making it an accessible option for farming operations of any size or background. Autonomy will help to give farmers a place from which to continue building their automation goals in a steady, controlled process.

No matter the level of automation at which a farm begins, precision farming techniques and IIOT connectivity power solutions help to mitigate agriculture’s biggest challenges, allowing operations to be more accurate, efficient and scalable.

These improvements include:

  • Tilling, seeding and harvesting fields faster than ever before in order to meet growing food demands.
  • Co-ordinating crop rotation with ease in order to promote healthier soil and help restore a natural balance to the land.
  • Planting precisely to utilise every available centimetre of existing farmland, avoiding further deforestation.
  • Monitoring the ground as well as auto-spraying safe bio-pesticides to decrease instances of transboundary pests and diseases.
  • Removing the risk of human error in irrigation calculations, design and build, which lessens water waste.
  • Allowing farmers to meet regulatory standards with less effort, while documenting their compliance.
  • Remaining fully secure and monitored at all times to protect valuable livestock and equipment.

It is clear that automated precision farming techniques offer a holistic answer to many of the agriculture industry’s challenges.

It is clear that automated precision farming techniques offer a holistic answer to many of the agriculture industry’s challenges.

Networking obstacles, however, can often keep traditional farms from adopting automation, or relegate them to a low level of automation without the ability to scale their operations.

Some of the most common agricultural networking and equipment issues are:

Lack of connectivity: The majority of farms are located in remote, rural areas that lack a strong signal. These farming operations rely on cell towers – spread few and far between – to power their network. Unfortunately, these networks often fall short. With an average signal reach of only 35-72km, distant cell towers cannot provide the coverage to power agricultural automation over sprawling hectares of land.

Rugged terrain: In an agricultural environment, networking and automation equipment must withstand extreme temperatures, countless weather events and damaging chemical sprays. In fact, for those reasons, many farmers view autonomous equipment as a liability rather than as an investment. For some technologies, simply existing outdoors can be a challenge.

Industrial interference: Between silos, buildings and heavy machinery, signal reflection and refraction are common in agricultural environments. Any large pieces of metal, glass or bodies of water can interrupt a signal.

Legacy infrastructure: Farmers with traditional or outdated wired infrastructures often struggle with new network elements that require a higher level of flexibility in order to scale. To effectively support new mobile-driven IIOT applications, farms with wired infrastructure must integrate some type of wireless mobile connectivity.

Agricultural networks must overcome these common obstacles in order to successfully utilise autonomous precision farming applications and enable the IIOT at varying levels.

That makes installing a network which addresses these challenges a top priority for farming operations that wish to move up the levels of autonomy and precision farming best practices.

It’s important to deploy a network solution that is powered by a fully mobile and ruggedised private wireless network, and which integrates with legacy infrastructure to drive precision farming automation at every level.

Such a network becomes more valuable as automation becomes more complex, delivering long-term ROI through its ability to seamlessly scale to support increasingly automated operations. No matter where a farming operation begins, or which level of automation it wishes to achieve, this network needs to power better, more dynamic connectivity than traditional network alternatives.

Teresa Huysamen

Head of the wireless and surveillance business unit, Duxbury Networking.

Teresa Huysamen is head of the wireless and surveillance business unit at Duxbury Networking. She has been part of the IT sector for the past 26 years – 15 of which have been at Duxbury – and is passionate about her role in the industry. As part of the product, marketing and sales cycle, she is focused on meeting customer needs with innovative technology.

See also