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31 May 2022
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5G technology is increasingly on the precision farming radar as growers seek to save time and money – and improve productivity.

A trial project aims to demonstrate the potential economic and productivity benefits of 5G to growers and the broader wine sector in the future as part of the Australian 5G Innovation Initiative, funded by the Australian Government.

The Spatial Information Systems Research project is trialling a 5G Precise Positioning Testbed. While precise positioning of consumer devices to within 10cm is now possible through 5G, in the past users have been unable to access the technology due to infrastructure and device interoperability barriers.

Frontier SI, a not-for-profit geospatial organisation, has been tasked with administering the grant to test different applications of 5G GPS capabilities across industries and to produce a business case to inform future 5G investment decisions.

SA-based precision agriculture start-up Platfarm, worked with Position Partners on one aspect of the project.

“In this arm of the project, we used the hardware and satellite positioning available currently, and compared that to the 5G GPS technology running on a trial site,” said Lyndsey Jackson, Co-founder and Chief Technical Officer of Platfarm. “We tested how the Platfarm system can improve GPS tracking when it runs on a smart phone attached to a good antenna”.

Lyndsey said a future application could be for growers to capture images and analysis using drones and quickly have that integrated into and displayed by the Platfarm smartphone app.

Lyndsey said 5G technology could provide many benefits for growers.

“5G is going to give really fast internet upload and download capabilities. 

“The GPS results we were seeing are 2–3cm accuracy rather than, say, a 2–3 metres on a smart phone. So over the next few years as smart phone antennas get better and positioning improves, smart phones and positioning technologies are very much going to become viable and affordable in horticulture and viticulture.”

A recent demonstration day held in the Mornington Peninsula supported by Wine Australia looked at the use of 5G in a vineyard scenario — and Lyndsey said there was interest from growers who attended.

“Growers want technologies that will work and will save them time or money on an actual problem, not dreams. You need the pieces to come together for growers to be in a position to say, ‘right let's get started’. 

“But we are at the point now with precision agriculture where what we’re hearing from growers is ‘I know it's time, how do I get started?’. 

Lyndsey said it was important to start adoption, education, and building of fundamentals now because in a few years the barriers are going to be fewer and Australia does not want to be left behind.

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This content is restricted to wine exporters and levy-payers. Some reports are available for purchase to non-levy payers/exporters.