State-of-the-art equipment and machinery, modern irrigation systems, innovative processes and investment in research and development make the Coruripe Mill one of the largest producers in the sugar and energy sector in Brazil – with a processing capacity of 15 million tons of sugarcane per year. To further advance towards Agriculture 4.0, the mill identified the need for connectivity and, with this objective, sought Furukawa’s private LTE solution, which allows the implementation of multiservice wireless networks in rural areas – and large areas in general – using LTE technology at a frequency of 250 MHz.
“We assessed several connectivity alternatives until we learned about Furukawa’s solution”, says Ledir Antunes Malaquias, coordinator in the infrastructure area of the Coruripe Mill. “We started by doing a proof of concept (PoC) at the Iturama unit in Minas Gerais and we had very good results, which motivated us to expand the experience to other units”, he adds.
The PoC was carried out at two of the four units of the mill in Minas Gerais, between February and July 2021, using agricultural control applications. In April, the experience began in Coruripe, in the municipality of Alagoas, where the group’s headquarters are located. In this case, an irrigation control application was used that involves the remote activation and monitoring of systems and pumps.
“Real-time data transmission has led to faster decisions by providing more efficient monitoring of what is happening in the field”, said Dumont Freitas Dutra Júnior, agricultural control supervisor at the Coruripe Mill. “It is possible, for example, to perform dynamics to improve the supply of sugarcane in industries, optimizing the performance of equipment in the field. With this connection, we can reduce maintenance time, monitor the status of the machines and whatever else is necessary in real time, if there is indication that a piece of equipment is down. This speed in decisions is reflected in greater productivity, better production planning and in the reduction of people having to go out to the field to seek information or check for any problems”, he explains.
This year, the sugarcane harvest at the Coruripe Polo MG Mill – which is scheduled to start in April – will be supported by Furukawa’s private LTE solution. According to Ledir Malaquias, the network is already implemented at three mills located in the Minas Gerais Triangle – Iturama, Limeira d’Oeste and Carneirinho -, serving an area of 55 thousand hectares. This March, it will be the Coruripe mill´s turn to implement its private broadband network, which will serve 35 thousand hectares of area. The entire project is being implemented in partnership with the Ferrante Group.
“There are 80 access points in Minas Gerais and 30 points in Alagoas”, adds Malachi. “These points are equipment such as laptops, tablets, on-board computers on agricultural machines, Android phones, among others, connected to the network and transmitting a series of field information”, he emphasizes. Connectivity also allows personnel to access corporate systems in the field, as well as updating maps of planting lines or direct harvesting by autonomous tractors or other agricultural equipment.
To meet the 55 thousand hectares of area in Minas Gerais, Furukawa installed three towers (one per unit of the mill) with sets of equipment that include antenna and eNodeB. “Furukawa’s 250 MHz LTE solution is easy to install, low maintenance and, under ideal conditions, offers coverage of up to a 100 km radius and up to 15 Mbps at the endpoint, which allows multiple services on the network”, says Daniel Blanco, Furukawa’s Innovation Engineering Manager. He explains that the software responsible for controlling the solution (EPC) can be embedded in eNodeB, which has the capacity to support up to 10 thousand registered terminals and one hundred in simultaneous communication.
The user terminals (UEs) of the Furukawa solution have built-in Wi-Fi and GPS, two RS232 serial ports and RJ-45 Ethernet port. As well as eNodeB – with which they communicate -, they are multiservice equipment with a robust design and can be used in tractors, agricultural machinery and various vehicles, integrated with sensors, meters and IoT gateways for data collection in the field. “The goal is to meet the connectivity needs in large areas with mobility and ensure adequate bandwidth for the simultaneous transmission of data, voice and video in real time”, Blanco concludes.