The 5G Open Innovation Lab (5G OI Lab), a global applied innovation ecosystem of developers, corporate enterprises, academia and government institutions, this week launched its first application development field lab for the agricultural industry with dedicated access to a 5G-capable, CBRS LTE-based network and edge computing platform fueled by technology provided by the lab’s partners.

“Every modern industry benefits from data and analytics,” said Jim Brisimitzis, general partner of the 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.”

Known as the Food Resiliency Project, the economic development initiative is funded by a grant through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), and establishes a virtual and physical space for Snohomish County to bring together food growers, and distributors with technology companies.

The goal is to collaboratively develop new capabilities that will improve the resiliency of the county’s agriculture sector and minimize future food service disruptions for consumers and regional agribusiness. 

As part of the initiative, an application development field lab has been built in Snohomish County in the state of Washington. Within it are contained the following: 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.

“Agriculture has always been a key sector in Snohomish,” said county executive Dave Somers. “This last year has taught us how vital it is it to ensure we have a steady, local supply of food.

“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.”

According to a release 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,” the release stated.

“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, another alum of the 5G Lab's program.”

Caroline Chan, vice president of Intel’s data centre group and general manager of its network business incubator division, said the “first-of-its-kind field lab is showcasing the benefits of 5G-to-farm-to-table, and is a strong example of how industry collaboration can drive innovations.

Paul Barker