São Martinho teams up with Ericsson and Vivo for “smart farm” project

From precision to ultra-precision agriculture. This is the leap that sugar-and-ethanol group São Martinho intends to take with the installation of 5G internet in its units, in a “smart farm” project that has been developed with Ericsson since last year and, now, is reinforced with Vivo for the network operation and development of new solutions.

With Ericsson’s support, some locations of the group’s plant located in Pradópolis (SP) have already started to have 5G installed. The sugar-and-ethanol mill is the largest in the world, with capacity to crush around 10 million tonnes of sugarcane per harvest. In early July, the 5g signal was activated in the industrial plant, in the plant’s equipment maintenance unit and at one portion of the agricultural area.

Now, the expansion of the network to more areas of the unit – and even to other plants in the group – will be carried out with Vivo´s support. “The actor who will allow the operation of this network was missing. This ecosystem will need all actors – from industry, operation and demand – to ensure that the technology is used in the most efficient way possible,” said Vinícius Dalben, CEO of Ericsson for the Southern Cone of Latin America.

With the expansion of 5G in the crop fields, which increases the speed of data traffic and offers low latency and variation time, activities will be able to be controlled remotely in real time and with high precision.

This can allow, for example, the operation of fully autonomous agricultural machines in the crops. “The machine that would operate totally autonomously already exists. But today the operator maneuvers it and manages the indicators. Now he no longer needs to be inside the machine, he can operate it from a distance,” said Fabio Venturelli, CEO of São Martinho.

With 5G coverage recently activated, São Martinho has already conducted a test with a XMobots drone, which identifies failures in planting lines. With the new signal, the Agricultural Operations Center (COA), which controls remote operations, received video transmissions and was able to control activities in real time, besides downloading all images.

The use of 5G in the drone was one of the 24 applications listed by the group with Ericsson and that could be developed with the new connection technology. The group is already considering using 5G to guarantee the automation of industrial processes through sensors on the machines and even cardiac monitoring of the company’s 12,000 workers with sensors on badges.

São Martinho’s plan, with Vivo’s support, is to expand the 5G coverage in stages, taking advantage of the current company’s own 4G infrastructure. “As we have proximity with São Martinho and Ericsson, we were able to design the appropriate infrastructure to meet today’s and future demand,” said Alex Salgado, vice president of B2B business at Vivo.

The first signals were installed with the fiber optic network that already exists in the unit and with a microwave solution from Ericsson, which guarantees transport to strategic remote areas without cables. The signal is occupying the 700 megahertz and 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) frequencies. The 700 MHz band reaches wider areas, covering 130,000 hectares, while the higher band is used to meet the demand for critical use and very high connection capacity.

To expand coverage, Vivo is considering not only the alternatives of 4G and 5G, but also high-capacity microwave radios with regulated frequency, besides satellite, Mr. Salgado said. But the advance of coverage will depend primarily on the development of technological applications in the first areas that receive 5G coverage and on the need to expand it to more areas of the sugarcane fields.

For this task, São Martinho will have the collaboration of startups selected by Cubo Agro, a hub that it launched with Itaú BBA and Corteva.

São Martinho does not reveal the value of the investment in installing the 5G, but the CEO, Fabio Venturelli, pointed out that the cost “will end up being small given all the potential for generating business”.

Source: Valor international

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