Farmers set to benefit from new high-tech weather stations

Fonterra farmers will come together to trial innovative technology that will allow them to take insights from the weather and bring greater precision to New Zealand dairy farms.

Fonterra is playing its part in fuelling the revolution of on-farm weather forecasting by working with MetService and BloomSky – a smart weather camera station that delivers hyperlocal weather information in real-time to any laptop, tablet or smartphone.

More than 70 BloomSky weather stations will be installed by farmers across the country in the coming months. MetService will use observations from the devices to provide forecasting and greater seasonal insights through data analytics to all users of Agrigate – the online dashboard developed by Fonterra Farm Source and LIC to give farmers the data they need to make faster and smarter decisions.

Fonterra farmer Kevin Argyle is trialling the solar-powered ‘SKY2’ device as well as the wireless add-on called ‘Storm’, and has seen first-hand how the BloomSky system measures temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed, wind direction, UV and barometric pressure to give him a detailed view of his farm’s climate.

“It really personalises it and enables us to make optimal on-farm decisions,” says Argyle.

“People often underestimate the variability within relatively small geographical areas. The other day we had 29 millimetres of rain and a few kilometres down the road they had five. That’s a big difference when you’re thinking about the best time to cultivate a paddock or move stock.

“Weather is one of the more significant risks that impacts a farming operation so to have a real-time app that provides insights in terms of what has happened, what the current weather is and what it’s forecast to be for your property has huge potential value.”

BloomSky, which is an Internet of Things (IoT) start-up that became the most-funded weather project on global crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter in 2014, aims to make microclimate data more accessible to everyone.

Looking ahead, the integration of new weather technologies with other gadgets offers up exciting possibilities. Already, BloomSky’s tech can work in with smart devices such as thermostats or irrigation systems to control them based on the weather outside.

“By working with MetService and BloomSky we’re able to offer our farmers the latest technology while also looking for ways to innovate further in the future,” says Tim Cutfield, Fonterra Head of Agrigate.

“We know that the weather stations will be popular because of the positive feedback we’ve already had from those trialling the system, and also because our farmers are amongst the best in the world when it comes to the adoption of technologies that enhance animal health and wellbeing, environmental sustainability, and efficient farm management.”

A BloomSky weather station is on display at the LIC Innovation Farm in South Waikato this week as part of the Farming2020 event.