LoRA SoC helps automate rubber-tapping plantation

Friday, 24 September, 2021 | Supplied by: STMicroelectronics Pty Ltd

Semiconductor company STMicroelectronics (ST) has announced that its STM32WLE5, claimed to be the world’s first LoRa system-on-chip (SoC), has been deployed to automate the extraction of latex from rubber trees. Automated rubber-tapping specialist CIHEVEA has equipped more than 200,000 rubber trees within its Hainan rubber-tree plantation with its innovative solution to improve rubber-tapping productivity and output capacity.

The STM32WLE5 is an ultralow-power, multi-modulation wireless SoC microcontroller that combines an Arm Cortex‐M4 core running at 48 MHz, a sub-GHz radio allowing long-range connectivity and a collection of ST-designed peripherals. Delivering high performance while operating from a package as small as 5 x 5 mm, the product meets the robustness and performance requirements of the agriculture industry. The microcontroller is also an open platform supporting LoRa, (G)FSK, (G)MSK and BPSK modulations.

The SoC acts as a highly efficient, low-power communication hub and control centre for the Rubber Tapping Robot from CIHEVEA. The robot also includes two precision motors and a series of environmental sensors that monitor weather conditions, including temperature, air pressure and humidity. Clamped to the tree, the SoC transmits the sensors’ data to a mesh gateway via a dedicated LoRa application network server, where the server can monitor, test and debug, and coordinate the robots in the field. Once all preset conditions are met, the SoC triggers the rubber tapping motors to perform autonomous cutting, which usually happens very early in the morning.

Leveraging the high-efficiency SoC and LoRa networking, CIHEVEA’s novel solution is said to increase latex yield by two to three times while minimising damage to trees, prolonging the trees’ productive lifespan. In addition to improving yields and extending asset lifetimes, the rubber-tapping robot also resolves chronic labour challenges, as tree tapping can be difficult and dangerous for human workers.

“The fully automatic, intelligent, rubber-tapping system is a revolution for the rubber industry,” said XU Zhen Kun, Vice Chairman of CIHEVEA.” With the increased use of platform technology and the ability to communicate via the low-power LoRa network technology provided by the STM32WLE5, the smart rubber-plantation platform system is creating a new rubber-plantation ecosystem, moving away from traditional high-intensity, heavy-pollution, inefficient production methods, and is ushering in a new era of green environmental-protection, high-efficiency, digital transformation.”

“While rubber trees are a sustainable source of an important material widely used in industrial, transport and agriculture sectors, improving rubber-tapping efficiency and increasing latex yield has long been a goal of rubber producers, and using the STM32WL5 and its LoRa networking is a natural fit,” added Arnaud Julienne, Vice President, Microcontrollers and Digital ICs Group, AI/IoT Competence Center and Digital Marketing, Asia Pacific Region, STMicroelectronics. “Moreover, our unique and broad portfolio of products and solutions in connectivity [and] sensing, and large portfolio of power-management and motor-control solutions, is well suited to the full range of smart farming domains, including tracking, irrigation systems, tractors, and livestock position and health monitoring.”

Top image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Thicha

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