September 21, 2023
UK operator VMO2 has launched a trial with Cannon Hall Farm in Barnsley, throwing out some ideas of how connectivity could improve rural agriculture in the future.
Connecting up the entire 126-acre estate to wipe out historic blackspots and not-spots allowed the distribution of a network of sensors and monitors around the farm, which laid the ground work for some tests of teched-up farming concepts such as monitoring soil conditions, machinery, livestock, and land boundaries.
Trackers, sensors and switches have been installed across equipment, livestock and gates enabling farmers to monitor in real time the location of these high-value items or receive alerts about gates being left open. Equipment and livestock theft apparently cost the agriculture industry £49.5 million last year, and this means alerts can be sent instantly if equipment moves unexpectedly or leaves the farm.
Connected soil moisture, atmospheric temperature and humidity sensors can monitor the health of crops and assess irrigation needs, reduce water use, improve crop quality and allow for targeted interventions based on real-time conditions, all of which is supposed to help mitigate damage floods and droughts have on crop viability and yield.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with Virgin Media O2 to trial the “Connected Farm of the Future”,” said Rob Nicholson, Owner of Cannon Hall Farm. “Rural connectivity opens the door to a range of new technologies than could completely change farming as we know it. Being able to monitor in real-time soil and atmospheric conditions, provide remote support and have round-the-clock monitoring of livestock, machinery and equipment is a total game-changer. The potential for this technology to help create a more efficient, profitable and sustainable future for not only our family farm but many other farms across the UK is huge.”
Jeanie York, Chief Technology Officer at Virgin Media O2 added: “This trial is an example of the transformational power of connectivity and how it’s being used to power a Great Rural Revival. Through this innovative trial with Cannon Hall Farm, we have demonstrated how a network of sensors, underpinned by excellent connectivity, can make a real impact and transform the way we live and work in rural areas.
“We will continue to work with industry partners, the UK Government, planning authorities and landowners to deliver the network upgrades to provide faster and more reliable coverage that is essential for rural communities to thrive both now and in the future.”
The release includes some economic modelling by the Cebr which claims ‘access to excellent digital connectivity’ in rural areas could increase turnover for rural agriculture businesses by nearly 10%, add £2.5 billion to the UK economy, and generate more than thirty thousand new jobs.
Who knows about that, but if it can stop cows getting nicked and help farms become more productive, then this can be classified as one of the more practical and useful trials the telecoms industry generates, as opposed to another incremental speed milestone.
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