On February 2nd we launched the first of our Field Labs nested in the Snohomish County agriculture industry. Almost 30 weeks later to the day both of our Field Labs are humming with activity and exposing us to new learning everyday.
One of our greatest joys is seeing innovative products from 5G OI Lab companies put to work in real world challenges through our Ag Field Labs. Our Ag Field Labs were enabled by the Snohomish County Food Resiliency Project, an economic development initiative funded by a grant through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES). We’ve brought together farmers, distributers, our enterprise partners, Snohomish County and Washington State University to collaboratively develop a CBRS & edge computing platform at both Swans Trail (Snohomish) and Andrew’s Hay (Arlington). We are believers that wireless networks (5G and CBRS) have significant potential beyond connectivity when combined with edge computing capabilities. Frankly speaking, we think it’s the future of empowering new solutions fueling the enterprise move to digital (Industry 4.0). Our Ag Field Labs are already demonstrating how these networks are improving the resiliency of Snohomish County’s agriculture sector, ensuring the sustainability of our critical food supply and minimizing future food service disruptions for consumers and regional agribusiness.
While the agricultural Field Labs are still in their early stages, we had the opportunity and privilege this week to visit one of our partner farms’ and see firsthand some significant benefits already being realized by our partner Nate Krause, the owner of Swans Trail Farms in Snohomish.
We were joined by U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers, Washington State Senator June Robinson, Washington State Rep. Carolyn Eslick, our great partner Linda Neunzig, the Snohomish County Agriculture Coordinator, Snohomish County Director of Conservation & Natural Resources Tom Teigen, Snohomish County Council Members Megan Dunn and Sam Lo, along with representatives from many of our partners, all of whom have been instrumental in the creation and success of the project.
Nate detailed, and demonstrated, how our 5G-capable, CBRS LTE-based network and edge computing platform has enabled him to work directly with our agricultural technology provider Innov8.ag and Washington State University to gain unprecedented insights into his apple orchard.
As Nate would say, “We’ve learned so much about our water — how much we were using, where it’s going and where we need it. That’s a huge expense that directly affects our production and our expenses. We’ve gained visibility into our soil, what nutrients our crops need and where to focus our resources and labor, all sorts of things we never knew before.”
Steve Mantle, CEO and Founder of Innov8.ag has been working closely with Swans Trail in the fields to implement new technologies and agricultural practices. Innov8.ag and WSU are working to develop actionable guidance for growers by empowering them with data insights derived from a variety of sources — in ground water sensors, the WSU AgWeatherNet, soil nutrient mapping, and high-resolution imagery captured via drone and LiDAR. The data is analyzed to help growers improve their practices on irrigation, chemical application, pruning, harvesting and labor management. As Nate wrote about in a recent blog, after just one season Swans Trail is using approximately 75% less water on their apple orchards this year as a direct result of these insights.
Data helped Nate understand that more water and chemicals were actually hurting his orchard health. Smart watering and chemical approaches this summer will result in one of his best crop seasons. Exciting to us is bringing innovation (our companies), platforms (our Partners), and industry together to cut through the hype by focusing on practical, and applied, innovation. As Steve from Innov8.Ag says, “If you look at all the other industries, technology has advanced so much, these big companies have invested so much. But agriculture has been left behind. So bringing these big companies and all of these other partners is huge, and it’s just the very beginning,”
What’s also exciting to us is using these networks as a testing ground for the CSP industry to evaluate, learn, and get hands on experience in addition to facilitating industry and innovation to collaborate. Future 5G networks have the unprecedented potential to evolve their value beyond mobile into a platform for software based innovation natively embedded in connectivity. The opportunity is truly unreal in the enterprise sector.
Our Managing Partner Kurt Steck often says driving innovation is a complex process and a team sport. What makes the 5G Open Innovation Lab unique is it creates a truly collaborative ecosystem bringing together leading technology companies, entrepreneurs, and industry expertise to build real solutions that solve real problems.
Our Ag Field Labs at Swans Trail Farm and nearby Andrew’s Hay are just the start. We are chipping away at future opportunities for similar Field Labs in other industries. It’s thrilling to be a part of this ecosystem and enabling application development for the Edge, where modern software applications built using AI, ML, VR, Robotics, IoT and more are supported by the confluence of cloud computing platforms and 5G connectivity.
Thanks for reading!