HomeCoinsHelium (HNT)M3 Delivers Sustainable AgTech to The People’s Network Using Drones | by...

M3 Delivers Sustainable AgTech to The People’s Network Using Drones | by McKenna Boen | Oct, 2021

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McKenna Boen

M3 Agriculture Technologies combines drones with Helium-compatible sensors to improve the economics of sustainable agriculture production in the air and on the ground.

How often do you think about where your food comes from before you consume it? Whether you consider it or not, every item in the grocery store requires labor, transportation, and technology to ultimately reach you. While the process of agriculture production and consumption is not standardized, it is a requirement of every global economy. Unfortunately, agriculture production also faces serious challenges.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals list “Zero Hunger” as Goal 2, noting that “135 million globally suffer from acute hunger largely due to man-made conflicts, climate change, and economic downturns. The COVID-19 pandemic could now double that number, putting an additional 130 million people at risk of suffering acute hunger by the end of 2020.”

M3 Delivers Sustainable AgTech to The Peoples Network Using Drones

Working closely with rural farmers makes M3 acutely aware of these challenges and others, including the escalation of pesticide resistance in crops, lack of digital agriculture, and increase in farm consolidation. As food insecurity threatens millions of individuals, M3 provides drones with sensors to improve the economics of sustainable agriculture production in the air and on the ground while also addressing the aforementioned threats to our food system.

Founded in 2012 with the objective of reducing chemicals in fields through an innovative technology referred to as Sterile Insect Technique, M3 combines entomology and logistics using drones that release infertile insects into fruit and nut orchards. Over time, the sterile bugs drive the insect population down without increasing the reliance on pesticides — a win for the environment and for consumers.

In addition to services such as the Sterile Insect Technique, M3 customers displayed interest in digital, autonomous, and cloud-based technologies. In 2019, M3 responded by looking to LoRaWAN as a means of collecting diverse data to improve orchard management.

M3’s first LoRaWAN network was established in early 2019 with The Things Network (TTN). While TTN was very useful and did a fantastic job of translating LoRaWAN signals to the M3 dashboard, M3 found that it lacks the incentive to create a robust network. Consequently, M3 quickly switched to Helium, which offered an expanded Network able to provide ample coverage thanks to mining incentives.

Furthermore, M3 itself uses open-source hardware and software applications in order to operate on a daily basis. Helium compliments these initiatives with value propositions rooted in decentralization, blockchain technology, and crypto incentives.

Today, M3 works with grower communities producing the fruits and vegetables that we find down our produce aisles. In doing so, M3 strives to combat the chicken and egg problem with digital agriculture: On one hand, there are many problems that developers have addressed through new, data-driven solutions. On the other hand, there are no lost-cost networks for developers to deploy sensors on in order to communicate from the field to the cloud. As a result, developers are faced with high upfront costs to test solutions prior to deployment, while growers have little to no demonstrations at scale before committing to a rollout.

Economies of scale drive agriculture innovation and, without a preexisting network that supports LoRaWAN, many approaches are not demonstrated and adopted on the scales necessary to make economic sense for developers and growers alike.

Helium helps solve this chicken and egg dilemma by incentivizing the deployment of a LoRaWAN network that scales independent of use cases and is accessible to all. As Hotspots fill out Network blindspots, Helium provides a robust, open-access Network that may finally catalyze the desperately needed digital agriculture revolution.

The People’s Network also enables M3 to roll out LoRaWAN networks in rural agricultural areas. Unlike urban deployments, where users simply tap into existing networks, rural communities often lack reliable internet access. M3 creates the communications tool suite to effectively transfer data from the field and to the cloud, with the goal of providing ubiquitous coverage and access to The People’s Network for communities throughout the US and the world.

One | Lack of Rural Broadband

Rural broadband is a massive challenge and one that requires a new frame of reference, not only in terms of rollout strategies but also in terms of data consumption and bandwidth. Telcos classically see individual cell phone users as the criteria for network creation. As a result, the majority of sales and marketing efforts are focused on attracting urban customers. This leaves rural communities without reliable access to consistent wireless communications.

Two | Excessive Time & Cost Requirements

Additionally, agricultural communities spend large amounts of time traveling to and from field sites to physically observe variables (such as temperatures at weather stations or growth indicators in field sites) as they change over time. This translates directly to significant time in vehicles and on-site.

Developing Ag IoT will help growers reduce the time in transit, lessen the cost to monitor operations, and standardize data. Growers will benefit immediately from objective data and long-term, robust ML models deployed in fields to aid in decision support. Helium can enable this intelligence explosion in rural growing communities by providing the backbone translational services in the field for a number of rural users and operations.

Three | Farm Consolidation

Helium also empowers M3 and its clients to challenge consolidation efforts through increased grower-to-grower coordination. Small growers lack the acres to reach the economies of scale large growers can achieve by virtue of the disparity in landholdings. Through technologies such as The People’s Network, grower communities can join forces by sharing data in order to better coordinate purchases of materials and services. This process directly and incrementally impacts the economics of large growers.

With 58 Hotspots deployed currently, M3 is looking to rapidly expand contributions to The People’s Network. The company has partnerships with large industries for widespread deployment and anticipates supporting several commodities in 2022 throughout growing regions in the Western United States. In the future, M3 looks forward to placing one sensor per acre as an initial foray into Helium-compatible services.

Above all, The People’s Network has opened the door to many great collaborations and partnerships as citizens and suppliers learn more about their food and the challenges of agricultural production.

To learn more about M3 and its mission to improve the economics of sustainable agriculture production, please visit www.m3agriculture.com.


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