Using IoT and Cellular to Control Agricultural Pests
Imagine being a farmer in a constant war with pests that can destroy crops. For years, farmers have tried to keep track of the type and number of pests in their fields using a basic trap that has to be manually checked. Image processing, IoT, cellular data, and solar power have now come together to automate that process.
Figure 1. Can technology make it easier to automate pest inspections? Image used courtesy of Pixabay
Bayer's Crop Protection Innovation Lab (Bayer) has developed the MagicTrap, a smart insect trap that facilitates sustainable crop protection with IoT technology. Designed with Atlantik Elektronik and Thundercomm Technology, MagicTrap uses the Qualcomm® QCM2290 system on chip (SoC) to automate inspections in fields where rapeseed, commonly known as canola, is harvested. Figure 1 shows an example of a canola field.
The Traditional Pest Trap
Farmers are vigilant in monitoring the presence of pests in their fields. Canola plants can withstand low levels of infestation, but farmers must intervene to protect the crop yield if the number of pests increases. Farmers have long placed colored pest traps alongside plants like canola to mitigate crop issues.
Why a Better Pest Trap is Needed
Even the most effective traps of this nature still need to be checked and maintained manually, which adds to the farmers' daily chores. The most common pests that attack canola are pollen beetles, flea beetles, and weevils — and a large infestation can result in a total crop failure.
Bayer recognized the need for a more effective solution that is not only smart and automated (reducing the workload on farmers), but utilizes IoT technology to enable farmers to check their traps on a smartphone rather than manually multiple times a day. That is why Bayer turned to Atlantik Elektronik.
The Better Pest Trap
The MagicTrap, shown in Figure 2, is similar in shape and function to typical traps. The yellow color of the trap body attracts the pests, and the bowl contains water with a little drop of dishwashing liquid to make the insects immobile. The grid prevents larger beneficial insects like bees from entering the trap.
Figure 2. The MagicTrap by Bayer's Crop Protection Innovation Lab. Image courtesy of Atlantik Elektronik
What Makes the MagicTrap Different?
Unlike traditional traps, the MagicTrap counts and detects the insects automatically and adds important improvements to traditional designs, such as a water tank that always replenishes fresh water and protects the trap from drying out.
Also added to this innovative pest trap is a golf ball-like ground structure that deposits insects separately and simplifies image recognition. The MagicTrap includes a high-resolution camera that continuously takes images of the inside of the trap.
The MagicTrap sends the captured images to the cloud over the cellular network for evaluation by an AI (Artificial Intelligence) model to determine the quantity and the species of pests detected in the trap. Farmers access the results on smartphones with the MagicScout mobile app, as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3. Farmers can monitor the MagicTrap functions with the MagicScout mobile app. Image courtesy of Atlantik Elektronik
Figure 3 shows how smart image processing enables farmers to not only get a count of the number of pests in the trap, but to also find out what kinds of pests are present and to view previous analysis results.
With MagicTrap, farmers no longer have to drive around the fields every day to check pest traps, receiving instead, images of the interior of the traps on their mobile device. In addition, farmers can identify the intensity and location of any infestation, applying crop protection products when appropriate.
Besides saving farmers time and effort, MagicTrap introduces sustainability and low environmental impact to pest detection. After an initial charge each season from an AC source, a small solar panel on the trap continues to charge the battery and powers the SoC.
Another innovation includes the trap’s ability to automatically choose the cellular network with the strongest signal to send images and data. Finally, the trap has a special reservoir that minimizes evaporation in hot weather, allowing it to release water for up to two weeks.
MagicTrap and Qualcomm QCM2290 SoC
The MagicTrap is built around the Qualcomm QCM2290 System-on-Chip (SoC), which combines advanced camera features, fast LTE connectivity, and enhanced GPS — all of which have been crucial to the success of the MagicTrap.
The Qualcomm QCM2290
The Qualcomm QCM2290 is a reliable, lower-power SoC solution in a compact 752 NSP, 12.0 × 12.4 × 0.91 mm package. Its block diagram, shown in Figure 4, lists key features including four CPUs, two ISP camera systems, LTE modem, and Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and location functionality.
Figure 4. Simplified block diagram of the Qualcomm QCM2290. Image courtesy of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc
Some key features’ details for the Qualcomm QCM2290 include the following:
- 64-bit, 2.0GHz processor core (Quad-core Arm® Cortex®-A53 processor)
- Qualcomm® Hexagon™ QDSP6 v66
- Dual channel, non-PoP high-speed memory: LPDDR4x SDRAM @ 1804 MHz clock (2 x 16 bit); LPDDR3 SDRAM @ 933 MHz clock (1 x 32 bit)
- Communication interfaces that include LTE (Cat4 DL/Cat5 UL), Wi-Fi 4 and Wi-Fi 5, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WLAN, Bluetooth 5.0, and GNSS (QZSS, Galileo, Beidou, SBAS, GLONASS, NavIC, GPS)
The camera systems take high-resolution images of pests within the trap. These images are processed and analyzed via computer vision algorithms on the SoC, to provide numerical and visual reports. The LTE modem allows each MagicTrap to transmit data and analyses to the cloud, so farmers can access it wherever they have a smartphone connection.
Location data ensures farmers know where each trap is, allowing them to check specific fields or problematic locations. Finally, Bluetooth allows farmers to quickly configure the traps as they are installed in the field.
What are the Benefits of Using the Qualcomm QCM2290?
There were several benefits to using the Qualcomm QCM2290 in the MagicTrap. Because of its pre-integrated platform, the design and testing costs savings are significant, reducing the time to market. The PCB (or baseboard) cost is lower and the bill of materials (BOM) is shorter than using a non-SoC solution.
With LTE connectivity, the Qualcomm QCM2290 is compatible with virtually any LTE frequency band supported by global cellular operators and enables devices to stay connected from almost anywhere.
In addition, because they can be integrated into many different embedded computer applications, SoCs enable highly flexible designs and are easy to integrate into different types of projects (including improvements to existing designs).
MagicTrap represents a collaborative effort between Bayer, Atlantik Elektronik, and Qualcomm Technologies, with connectivity provided by 1NCE. Atlantik Elektronik provided local project management, sales, and technical support and drew upon global expertise in IoT solutions from Qualcomm Technologies.
For more information, visit the Qualcomm QCM2290 product page.
Note: Qualcomm branded products are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries. Arm and Cortex are registered trademarks of Arm Limited (or its subsidiaries or affiliates) in the US and/or elsewhere.