Sigfox’s 0G network assists Sencrop to deliver smart, connected agriculture solutions

(Case Study) — The agricultural industry is just one of many now recognising the benefits of the Internet of Things (IoT), as farmers turn to IoT for everything from improving field practices with connected irrigation for crops and silo monitoring to managing entire herds easily. At Sencrop, we are taking advantage of the benefits that IoT, and 0G, offers in terms of connectivity for agricultural success.

Sencrop’s mission is to empower all farmers to make better decisions and reduce their crop risks, with a positive agro-environmental footprint. In order to make precision agricultural monitoring technology available to everyone, we develop and implement connected, accessible and collaborative solutions based on agro-environmental data collection.

In this sense, when developing our ag-weather sensors, we required a reliable, steady and expansive data collection and transmission system that would have a low energy consumption, and broad coverage, especially  in rural areas, but which would be cost effective for the volume of data transmission of real-time weather measurements.

To connect Sencrop’s network of more than 12,000 farmers, all using our in-field ag-weather data platform, we needed a network that could transition and centralise information from widespread connected objects, which transmit very small amounts of data (less than 12 bytes, i.e. much less than an SMS).

Sigfox’s 0G network uses ISM (Industrial, scientific and medical) frequency bands and, because its ultra narrow band enables the range of radio frequency to be increased, it covers a larger area with less transponder antennas (25Km range in free space).

Thanks to radiated power being limited to 25mW (14dBm), our devices are low energy compared to solutions in GSM mode (2G, 3G), so they require less maintenance after in field installation. This allowed for both a cost-effective approach in terms of battery life but also enabled the final system to be frugal in terms of heat production.

The specificity of the band decreases the sensitivity to noise during transmission, generating more accurate data at the reception end. Sigfox manages all subscriptions, making the compatibility with local networks for descending the data to end users’ devices easier – so there is zero roaming or tricky subscription management at an international scale.

Sigfox’s 0G network provided us with the capacity to sustain an autonomous product for many years, thanks to the low electrical consumption of the technology. We can provide innovative new services to farmers at an affordable price point. Our 0G connected ag-weather station allows each farmer to measure data such as air temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed, etc., within an individual plot, and access the data via a smartphone or computer. Farmers benefit from ultra-local weather data 24 hours a day, helping them to decide the best course of action according to the circumstances: irrigation, spraying, sowing, organising day-to-day life activities and more.

Information is collected in the field sensors every 5 minutes and sent over to the end-users’ devices every 15 minutes. This rhythm of data complies with Sigfox usage limits in terms of data and, for the usage of an ISM band, it is restricted to regulations: For the European territory (called Radio Configuration Zone 1, or RC1), the maximum transmitted power is limited to 25 mW and the duty cycle cannot exceed 1 %. This limits the transmission range and the number of transmissions per day: for Sencrop, the amount of maximal transmissions is above its needs for data transmission, as its solution is not in a voice/video use case which needs huge bandwidth.

The UNB technology limits the bandwidth. While emitting, it is set to 100 bits/s in RC1. That is the reason why the technology is also called “0G”. On the other hand, Sigfox limits the data size down to 12 bytes. The message is sent 3 times using frequency hopping to avoid conflict between devices.

Considering all those constraints, the transmission of a 12 bits long message lasts 6.08 s. With the 1% duty cycle, that means only one message can be transmitted about every 10 minutes. However, meteorologically speaking, this period is not too long for the measured parameters, as we update the information for our network of farmers every 15 minutes (4 times per hour). Other players in the ag-weather data analysis send updated information only once every hour or less frequently to subscribers.

Our work with Sigfox is a collaborative expansion partnership. While we monitor the extension of the coverage constantly, and request new territories to be covered, whenever Sigfox increases its signal coverage, we are able to advance into new territories and, in return, offer Sigfox additional expansion opportunities.

Thanks to Sigfox’s IoT technology, we have developed a platform and ecosystem allowing farmers to be connected with their partners and peers through ultra-local in field data.

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