Virgin Media O2 trials farm of the future

Virgin Media O2
Virgin Media O2
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
22 September 2023

Virgin Media O2 has teamed up with Cannon Hall Farm and Springtime on the Farm presenter Jules Hudson to create the ‘Connnected Farm of the Future’ to demonstrate how better mobile connectivity could transform rural agriculture.

Virgin Media O2 is bringing connectivity to every corner of Cannon Hall Farm’s 126-acre estate, including historic blackspots and not-spots to show how a network of sensors and monitors can work together to transform the arm, saving time and money. The trial creates a blueprint for the future of farming that could help unlock an additional £2.5 billion for the UK economy and create 30,390 additional rural jobs according to new economic modelling by Cebr for Virgin Media O2.

Virgin Media O2
Virgin Media O2

The last few years have seen the agricultural industry face some of the toughest challenges – from extreme weather changes to labour shortages. In DEFRA’s latest Farmer Opinion Tracker, farmers on more than half of holdings in the UK do not feel positive about their own future in farmer.

Countryman and TV Presenter for Springtime on The Farm and Escape to the Country, Jules Hudson commented: “Agriculture and farming is the largest rural industry in the UK and sits at the heart of many communities across the country. The last few years have been extremely challenging for farmers, and the research from Virgin Media O2 coupled with this trial, highlight the potential for rural farming and agriculture to be transformed with ever more useful technologies. British agriculture faces great uncertainties, but without it the foundation of our rural communities would disappear. If Virgin Media O2 and other leading industry partners can develop ways of further supporting our farmers, it will play a crucial role in the fight to keep Britain farming and thriving.”

Virgin Media O2
Virgin Media O2

Virgin Media O2 has boosted its network across Cannon Hall Farm to enable tests of different technology across the farm, including:

  • Protecting valuable assets

Equipment and livestock theft cost the rural agriculture industry a combined £49.5 million in 2022. Additionally, gates left open on public footpaths that run around and through many farms can lead to livestock escaping fields and being lost or injured.

Cannon Hall Farm has installed trackers, sensors and switches across its equipment, livestock and gates as part of this trial to enable the farmers to monitor in real time the location of high-value items or receive alerts about gates left open. This means farmers get instant alerts if equipment moves unexpectedly or leaves the farm, helping minimise the risk of loss and freeing up time previously spent doing manual checks.

  • Enhancing safety

With farmers often working alone across big areas and remote locations with little to no signal, access to connectivity can be a game changer, and in the most extreme instances be the difference between life and death. The trial improves safety by removing not-spots, providing reliable mobile signal across the farm and giving workers the ability to get help should they need it.

  • Optimising yields

Over the past 30 years, major crop yields have decreased globally by 4-10% due to climate change. To combat the impact of increasingly extreme and unpredictable weather events such as floods and droughts on crop viability and yield, part of the trial sees the installation of connected soil moisture, atmospheric temperature and humidity sensors. These sensors show the potential to monitor the health of crops and assess irrigation needs, reduce water use, improve crop quality and allow for targeted interventions based on real-time conditions.

Virgin Media O2
Virgin Media O2

Rob Nicholson, Owner of Cannon Hall Farm said, “We are thrilled to be partnering with Virgin Media O2 to trial the Connected Farm of the Future. Rural connectivity opens the door to a range of new technologies than could completely change farming as we know it. Being able to monitor in real-time soil and atmospheric conditions, provide remote support and have round-the-clock monitoring of livestock, machinery and equipment is a total game-changer. The potential for this technology to help create a more efficient, profitable and sustainable future for not only our family farm but many other farms across the UK is huge.”

Virgin Media O2’s commitment to rural connectivity

Virgin Media O2 remains committed to investing to boost connectivity in rural communities and tackling signal not-spots. As part of the UK Government’s Shared Rural Network (SRN), this year the company further expanded its reliable 4G network to an additional 50 sites and secured planning consent for work at a further 100 sites.

While SRN upgrades continue to be delivered at pace, Virgin Media O2 is calling on policy makers, planning authorities and landlords to remove obstacles and ensure rural communities fulfil their potential. Specifically, the company wants rules in place making it faster, easier and lower-cost to provide the infrastructure that is required to deliver the connectivity customers rely on.

Visit Virgin Media O2 to find out more.