Smartphone App Helps Florida Farmers Maintain Crops

By on September 24th, 2013
The “My Florida Farm Weather” map provides weather related data for growers. The University of Florida’s, Florida Automated Weather Network team recently released a smartphone app in collaboration with Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Beatrice Dupuy / WUFT News

The “My Florida Farm Weather” map provides weather-related data for growers. The University of Florida’s Florida Automated Weather Network team recently released a smartphone app in collaboration with Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

A new  smartphone app may bring ease to farmers concerned with weather fluctuations impacting their crops.

The “My Florida Farm Weather” app and website provides on-site weather data including temperature, humidity, total rainfall, wind speed and wind direction to farmers, allowing them to manually submit their field temperatures to the app.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the University of Florida’s Florida Automated Weather Network (FAWN) formed the free app. The iPhone version, available in the iTunes store, was released Monday.

The Android version of the app, which has had about 170 downloads, was released in early September.

Rick Lusher, director of FAWN, said the network collects data from installed weather stations throughout Florida and uses the data for the website and app, which will help growers get weather data from their specific field.

“When you look at any weather app, you are looking at data from your local airport, not from your own house,” he said. “Farmers will be able to make much more informed decisions because they have site-specific data.”

Graphing capabilities, a satellite image map and historical weather data will be added to the website, Lusher said.

The new app will also help growers conserve water, which becomes an issue during Florida’s colder months, according to Darrell Smith, assistant director of the office of agricultural water policy for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“Working with FAWN allows them to have real-time weather data, so they know more precisely when critical temperatures are occurring and when they need to turn on the irrigation system and when they need to turn it off,” Smith said.

With the app, farmers can also cut down on the time they spend on their farms.

David Royal, vice president of land management for Clear Springs Farms in Polk County, said if blueberry farmers use the app, they can simply check their smartphones instead of wasting extra time on the farm.

“If you’re not right there on the farm constantly, you can still keep a lookout and see what’s going on,” Royal said.

This past year, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked on a pilot program to install more than 75 weather stations from different companies to provide data to FAWN. Data for the app also comes from the 41 weather stations around Florida owned directly by FAWN.

The department provides growers with a 75 percent cost share of funding for one weather station per 300 acres.

Growers are not the only ones using FAWN data. The Florida Division of Emergency Management uses the data to monitor cold temperatures and hurricane wind speeds. The Florida Division of Forestry also heavily relies on FAWN data to fight forest fires and monitor smoke plumes.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will continue to provide cost-sharing services to producers for weather stations across Florida, Smith said.

“Our hope is to continue working with University of Florida to build on and enhance these smartphone apps and essentially improve those tools so producers can continue to make good decisions related to irrigation scheduling,” he said.

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