A Delegation from Colombia Visits the UK to Learn About Connectivity and Agriculture Technology

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We are thrilled to share the latest achievement of the ‘Rural Connected Colombia’ project, which marks another significant milestone in the project’s progress. The project partners, including Satellite Applications Catapult (‘Catapult’), AgriTIERRA, Fundación Grupo Bancolombia, and OXI Consultoria, have successfully completed the final key milestones and deliverables of the project, concluding Phase 1 of the project.

Following a visit to the region in February (read about the visit here) where project partners gained a first-hand experience of the local context for improved connectivity in rural Colombia, Satellite Applications Catapult has now welcomed a delegation from Colombia to the UK for further collaboration and knowledge exchange. This delegation’s visit to the UK is a crucial step in the project’s development, and it promises to bring exciting opportunities for both the UK and Colombian partners. In this blog post, we will delve deeper into the significance of this visit and what it means for the future of the ‘Rural Connected Colombia’ project.

Purpose of the visit:

As part of the UK Government-funded project ‘Rural Connected Colombia,’ we were pleased to welcome a delegation from the Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications, Colombia (MinTIC), Bancolombia, Bancolombia Fundacion, Colombian National Spectrum Agency (ANE) and Government of Antioquia to the UK for a 5-day visit. (Referred as ‘Delegation’ in the article). They were joined by representatives from project partners Satellite Applications Catapult and AgriTIERRA. This visit was an important milestone in the project’s first phase, which aims to foster knowledge exchange and collaboration between the UK and Colombia.

The delegation’s visit is another important milestone for the Rural Connected Colombia project and has provided an opportunity for both countries to learn from each other’s experiences and best practices in rural connectivity. As a part of the visit, the delegation has participated in a series of meetings and site visits, enabling them to gain a deeper understanding of the UK’s approach to rural connectivity.

Rural Connected Colombia project:

The project’s primary objective is to support the Colombian government in achieving its rural connectivity goals and bridging the digital divide between urban and rural areas. By sharing knowledge and expertise, we hope to create a sustainable and inclusive digital rural ecosystem that will benefit both countries. For more information about the project click here

Insights from the visit

One of the crucial elements of the Colombian delegation’s visit was to ensure the alignment of the arranged meetings with the delegates organisations and the global aim of the project, assuring a strong linkage between the stakeholders of both countries, and to help establish channels of collaboration that can be leveraged in the future.

Day 1 – Visit to Dorset, the home of the ground-breaking 5GRural Dorset project

The first day of the Colombia delegation’s visit to the UK began with a warm reception in Dorset, where we introduced them to the area. The location was specifically selected to showcase the challenges and delivery learnings from our landing project, 5G t. The delegation was given a brief tour of the area, followed by a detailed history of the 5G RuralDorset project, which included partner identification, rural connectivity obstacles, successful bids, delivery, and outcomes.

During the visit, the delegation was taken to the Battlelab at the Dorset Innovation Park in Winfrith, which is home to 5G RuralDorset’s innovation accelerator and outdoor and indoor 5G networks. Here, the councillor responsible for Corporate Development and Transformation provided an overview of why the council was interested in doing the 5G RuralDorset project, and how they are aiming to established themselves as a digital council. The presentations continued, with representatives from Dorset Council delivery programme office showcasing how the Rural Dorset project was delivered, and the key actions and lessons learnt from the project.

Finally, a representative from the Ranston Estate in North Dorset, the family who also own and operate visited the delegation to highlight how they got into agricultural connectivity. The family noted that fibre for farmers was not being provided and began their own company to provide the connectivity.

The delegation then visited Lulworth Cove, a small coastal area where they showcased a clever rollout of connectivity. A small 5G base station is hidden behind a cafe chimney, which is , but it provides full connection for the coastal region. In an emergency, there is now a connection that previously would not have existed.

The day concluded with a visit to Kingston Maurward, an agriculture college near Dorchester, where Wessex Internet had installed IoT (Internet of things) devices and a 5G network to support monitoring of conditions in the dairy shed and provide video for AI (Artificial Intelligence) cow monitoring.

Overall, the first day of the delegation’s visit provided an excellent opportunity to highlight the practical applications of rural connectivity solutions in Dorset. By highlighting the challenges and successes of the 5G RuralDorset project, we were able to set the scene for the rest of the visit,

Day 2 – Visit to Westcott Venture Park

In the morning of day 2, the Colombian delegation was welcomed by representatives from Satellite Application Catapult to view their facilities at Westcott Venture Park. The group had the opportunity to visit the Future Networks Development Centre (FDNC) facility and the newly built Drone Test and Development Centre (DTDC), while also learning about the Westcott Venture Park and the role that Catapult plays in building out the innovation hub together with Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

Experts from the Ubiquitous Connectivity Team of Catapult gave a presentation on the different of projects their team is working on. The tour demonstrated the options available in terms of connectivity and how they are used for different projects. The morning was finalised with a visit to the DTDC which is being developed by the Catapult, showcasing the next generation innovations in drone development.

In the afternoon, the team headed to Milton Keynes where they met with two representatives from Milton Keynes Council who explained how the town is leading the way in terms of innovation and forward-thinking connectivity applications. Milton Keynes has already rolled out technology such as autonomous buses and autonomous delivery robots called Starships. Although the trip to Milton Keynes was not focused on agriculture, it demonstrated the positive impact that good connectivity can have on cities and people. This was an important part of the visit and exciting for the delegates as it showcased applications which can result from providing connectivity to an innovative and forward-thinking council.

Day 3 – Insights into rural connectivity projects

The third day of the delegation’s visit, they travelled to London. , they visited representatives from Ofcom and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT). Representatives from Bancolombia were also introduced to Barclays to discuss common interests around climate fintech and business acceleration programmes.

DSIT has funded both the 5G RuralDorset project and another programme called 5G RuralFirst, which is based in the Orkney Islands in Scotland. These two projects share the same challenges, such as challenging terrain and sparsely populated areas. The discussion was centred around how connectivity was rolled out into these regions, and provided another opportunity to show a project which has overcome similar challenges to those faced by the Rural Connected Colombia team.

The day continued with a meeting with Ofcom. The delegation was very interested to learn more about spectrum policy. The discussion was focused on how spectrum is divided in UK, how spectrum auctions are run in the UK and how they plan to roll it out in the future. The meeting with OFCOM provided them an opportunity to learn how OFCOM manage the spectrum in the UK, and a channel for ANE and other delegates to establish relationships that can leverage in the future.

Overall, the visit to London provided valuable insights into 5G connectivity and regulatory processes that could benefit Colombia’s own efforts in rolling out 5G technology.

Day 4 – ‘Autonomous Agriculture’

On the 4th day of the delegation’s visit, they had the opportunity to visit the Department of Engineering & Agri-Living Lab of Harper Adams University, which is one of the leading agricultural universities in the UK.

The visit proved to be a unique and exciting experience for the delegation, as they were introduced to some of the most cutting-edge agricultural technology available today. They were able to witness first-hand the potential of autonomous drones that spray crops, as well as learning about other innovations such as using lasers for weed removal… The delegation also learnt about drones that herd sheep from one field to another. The visit also included a tour of the fields where autonomous tractors are tested, providing the delegation with a glimpse of how technology is being integrated into farming practices. This visit highlighted the importance of technology in agriculture and how it can significantly improve efficiency and productivity. The visit was truly inspiring, demonstrating to the delegation the innovations which are possible in the agricultural sector.

In addition to showcasing the latest agricultural technology, the delegation also visited the Agri-Epi Centre, which has the potential to help work on an international scale.

Overall, the visit to Harper Adams University and the Agri-Epi Centre was a crucial part of the delegation’s visit, as it demonstrated the vast potential for the application of technology in agriculture. The delegation gained valuable insights into the latest agricultural practices and how they can be applied in Colombia. The visit proved to be a highly informative and inspiring experience for the delegation, providing them with the necessary knowledge and inspiration to drive innovation in the Colombian agricultural sector.

Day 5 – Satellite Applications Catapult Head Office

On the fifth and final day of the delegation’s visit, they were welcomed to the Satellite Applications Catapult head office in Harwell, Didcot. The visit was an excellent opportunity for the delegation to gain a more in-depth understanding of the broader projects the Catapult is involved in.

The delegation had several meetings with representatives from Catapult who provided presentations and networking sessions, showcasing various projects that Catapult works on. Additionally, the delegation had an opportunity to tour facilities at Catapult’s head office and learn more about how they are utilised. This included a demonstration of the Operations Room, which was used to demonstrate two previous Catapult projects; Hephaestus, using Geospatial Intelligence (GI) to monitor tailings from mines in Chile; and Eyes on the Sea, which also used GI to monitor active vessels across the globes. The delegates also had the opportunity to visit the This lab provided an immersive experience for the delegates, allowing them to interact with the technology and devices that underpin the projects that were introduced to them throughout the week.

The relaxed atmosphere of the final day provided an ideal opportunity for the delegation to share their feedback and learnings from the trip, as well as engage in an open discussion about the project.

The visit to Catapult provided the delegation with a better understanding of the potential of satellite technology applications and the several ways it can be used to solve challenges in different sectors.

The day concluded with a walking tour of Oxford City, providing an opportunity for the delegates to understand the history of Oxford and its beautiful landscape.

Next Steps

The visit to the UK by the Colombian delegation was a valuable and informative experience. The delegation was able to meet with various organisations and institutions, to learn about cutting-edge technology and best practices in areas such as 5G connectivity, agriculture, and satellite applications. These visits provided insights that the delegation can take back to Colombia to potentially implement in future projects.

The project itself is considered an investigative exercise that will lay the groundwork for a Phase 2 spin-off. The findings and reports from Phase 1 will be used to develop a business case and a connectivity blueprint that synthetizes how connectivity could be delivered to rural areas in Colombia. Discussions about next steps will continue during a workshop in Colombia, in April 2023. Overall, the trip was a success in terms of achieving its objectives and providing a platform for future collaboration between the UK and Colombia.

Tom Harling, the project manager of Rural Connected Colombia at Satellite Applications Catapult concluded “It was a pleasure to host the delegation from Colombia for the week. We are confident that this visit will strengthen the partnership between the UK and Colombia, leading to more innovative and impactful initiatives in the future. We look forward to continuing our collaboration with our project partners and the Colombian government, building a more connected and prosperous future for rural communities in Colombia.”

Angle Almeida, Senior Telecommunications Systems Engineer at Satellite applications Catapult added ‘‘This project exemplifies the effective internationalization of UK capabilities. Through collaboration with industry, government, and academia, we have gained a comprehensive understanding of the local connectivity supply chains, regulatory frameworks, and innovation landscape, which are crucial for delivering sustainable international connectivity projects. By leveraging this knowledge, we have successfully executed this project and demonstrated the importance of cross-sector partnerships in achieving long-term success.”

Mark Jarman, Founder and Managing Director at AgriTIERRA said “Establishing strong relationships are critical when working internationally as they enable trust and confidence. Through bringing key stakeholders from Colombia to the UK, these links have been exponentially strengthened creating the confidence that UK/Colombian collaboration can be a core enabler in delivering next generation connectivity services and solutions to rural areas of Colombia.”

María José Ramírez, Rural Development Manager in Bancolombia Foundation pointed “During this visit we achieved a better understanding on the context of connectivity that will contribute to next steps within the framework of this project: key concepts and terms, key actors in the value chain, trends, policies, and restrictions to consider. We also saw in practice several cases of satellite connectivity and technology being applied for agriculture, tourism, sustainable cities, and communities.  We could identify other opportunities for Bancolombia and UK partnerships such us Agri-Epi Centre and Barclay’s program for FinTech Rise.”