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How a SoC Improved Rubber-Tree Farming Production


September 17, 2021

STMicroelectronics (STM), which develops semiconductors across the spectrum of electronics applications, has announced a design win for its STM32WLE5, a long-range (LoRa) system-on-chip (SoC). A customer application developed by rubber-tapping specialist CIHEVEA uses low-power networking to help automate the process of extracting latex from rubber trees. 

CIHEVEA has equipped more than 200,000 rubber trees within its Hainan, China, rubber-tree plantation with a solution that helps improve rubber-tapping productivity and output capacity. The STM LoRa SoC acts as an efficient, low-power communications hub and control center for CIHEVEA’s Rubber Tapping Robot. 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 a tree, the STM32WLE5 transmits the sensor’s data to a mesh gateway, via a dedicated LoRa application network server. THe server can monitor, test and debut, 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, STM said.

The solution increases latex yield by 2 to 3x, while minimizing damage to trees, prolonging their productive lifespan. In addition to improving yields and extending asset lifetimes, the rubber-tapping robot assists with chronic labor challenges, 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 48MHz, a sub-GHz radio allowing long-range connectivity, and a collection of STM-designed peripherals. The STM32WLEx microcontroller is also an open platform that supports LoRa, (G)FSK, (G)MSK, and BPSK modulations.

“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 smar rubber-plantation platform system is creating a new rubber-plantation ecosystem, moving away from traditional high-intensity, heavy-pollution, inefficient production methods, ushering in a new era of green environmental protection, high-efficiency digital transformation.”

You can read more about the rubber-tree project at this STM blog post. For more details on the STM32WLE5, visit its product page here.

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