Friday, September 22, 2023

This South Australian 5G tech startup is transforming the grapes that go into your wine

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Precision farming is about to get a lot more accurate with a wave of 5G technology showing economic and productivity benefits for the winegrowing sector.

Growers are increasingly interested in the benefits 5G can bring to the industry by saving money, time and maximizing yield.

Platfarm is a spatially based task and GPS tracking app for the winegrowing industry, developed at Lot Fourteen in Adelaide, South Australia, that allows growers and farmers to manage their land through a smart device.

Platfarm CEO and co-founder Lyndsey Jackson said that with a cell phone and a good antenna, you can get an accuracy of 1 cm.

“In order to know very accurately where the machine is or to fence the rows of vines, things like that become very important,” Jackson said.

This precision is important in the viticulture industry by keeping track of which vines have been worked on to avoid complications.

“If you’re spraying for pests and diseases, but have to go fill up your tank…if you come back and you’re out of a fight, that can dramatically increase the likelihood of pests and mold — that’s how outbreaks happen,” Jackson said.

“But with 5G, if you get an accuracy of 1cm, you really start to be precise about where the location is.”

Last month, Platfarm attended a demonstration day supported by Wine Australia in the Mornington Peninsula to be part of a 5G/GPS trial with Frontier SI and Position Partners to evaluate its economic benefits.

The trial was funded by the Australian government as part of the Australian 5G Innovation Initiative to demonstrate the benefit of 5G on precision farming.

Position Partners used drone flyovers for Near Real-Time Image Processing, while Platfarm investigated the accuracy of GPS tracking in the vineyard using the capabilities of 5G.

“You can get really accurate movement of data and location,” Jackson said.

“Then you build a tool that really helps growers analyze and direct the work for their team while they’re in the vineyard.”

Jackson said farmers have responded positively to this AgTech innovation as it grows in popularity among growers.

“We’re really reaching a point where our farmers are really positive about applying technology to their properties,” she said.

“We can definitely see things changing — the climate is changing, fertilizers are getting more expensive, customers are demanding more sustainable growing methods that improve soil quality.”

In general, Jackson said they can afford to have a lot of technology — especially expensive technology — because the machines and the scale are already so big.

“They have really good receivers and they use satellite for that GPS location,” she said.

But in viticulture and horticulture they have smaller blocks and tractors, where they don’t have the technology in them that is priceless.

5G technology will provide farmers with a more affordable option through their smart device.

“As 5G improves, the accuracy of just a cell phone will improve,” Jackson said.

“You see that then you start to make things really affordable and technology becomes really cheap and accessible at that level.”

Jackson said that in the future, technologies will increase productivity, such as robots and autosteer, where GPS precision is essential.

“If you’re a farmer and you’re on your self-steering tractor… you still have to sit on it, but your hands are free to do other things, you don’t just have to have your hands on the wheel,” she said .

“So growers are really excited about that because it means they can do more with what they have.”

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