LoRa system-on-chip boosts rubber-tapping robot

September 17, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
LoRa system-on-chip boosts rubber-tapping robot
A LoRa Long-Range Low-Power Wide-Area Networking (LPWAN) chip is automating rubber-tapping at a plantation in Hainan, China, in a key smart farming design win

A wireless system on chip from STMicroelectronics is being used for a smart farming application in China

The STM32WLE5, launched in January 2020, is being used by Cihevea in China to manage the extraction of latex from over 200,000 rubber trees.

The ST LoRa 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 STM32WLE5 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 pre-set conditions are met, the SoC triggers the rubber tapping motors to perform autonomous cutting, which usually happens very early in the morning.

The robot increases latex yield by 2-3x while minimizing 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 shortages, as tree tapping can be difficult and dangerous for human workers. The STM32WLE5 is an ultra-low 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 with a range of ST-designed peripherals in a 5mm x 5mm UFBGA package. The STM32WLEx microcontroller is also an open platform supporting LoRa, (G)FSK, (G)MSK, and BPSK modulations

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“The fully-automatic, intelligent, rubber-tapping system is a revolution for the rubber industry. With the increased use of platform technology and the ability to communicate via the low-power LoRa network technology provided by

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