Smart agriculture proves a natural use of NB-IoT

Agriculture is core to Norwegian culture, but the sector faces increasingly serious challenges. Of the 46,620 farms in Norway, by the end of the last decade only 125,270 agricultural labourers were left to maintain them – little over 5 per farm, which is markedly lower than in neighbouring Sweden and Finland. The labour shortage is a long-term problem, and makes herding especially difficult. At the best of times, the extreme Norwegian weather routinely traps livestock in snowdrifts and makes it dangerous for herders to work – now, with fewer and fewer hands on the job, keeping track of livestock is more challenging than ever for many Norwegian farms.

Sheep, too, can now be connected
Even aside from the natural interest they have in doing so, farmers in Norway are legally obliged to track and recapture lost livestock. For farmers like Bjørn Høyland – whose 12 herders are often able only to track only around 90 percent of his livestock, even using helicopters – there is now, thankfully, a solution.  Collaboration between Telia Company, Norwegian Agricultural Electronics and Nortrace has yielded a Mobile IoT device for tracking and monitoring livestock remotely, called Shiip. NB-IoT, the licensed LPWA technology around which the tracker is based, provides not only the wide cellular network access herd farmers need, but enables device battery lives of up to 14 years from a single charge – yet can be produced and sold for very low prices per unit.

The world’s largest NB-IoT agricultural pilot test was undertaken in Stavanger last year – tracking over 1,000 sheep across various locations – and Director of Business Development at Norwegian Agricultural Electronics/Shiip Eric Macody Lund described the successes of the pilot at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona last month. With some lessons learned from the technical challenges encountered, Norwegian Agricultural Electronics is now in a position to launch their unique product “Shiip” into the market from May/June of this year.

Smart agricultural devices are now emerging in various forms. Sierra Wireless for instance demonstrated the Bosch Greenhouse Plantation Monitoring and Control Sensor System at this year’s Mobile World Congress, showcasing Bosch’s Deepfield Robotics systems. These monitor the humidity, temperature and luminosity of various plants, maintaining the right moisture levels automatically when the soil gets dry. Similar applications have already been made in Japan by Ericsson, whose e-Kakashi platform combines Softbank’s NB-IoT network with AI and cloud technology to help farm maintain an ideal crop growing environment. NHR’s NB-IoT Smart Greenhouse system achieves similar effects in Taiwan.