A University of Limerick lecturer has developed a unique weather app tailored for Irish farmers. FarmHedge, a free smart-phone app, provides farmers with on-farm alerts directly relevant to agricultural activities.
Dr John Garvey, Senior Lecturer in Risk Management and Insurance at UL, created the app to help farmers better plan their work.
“The weather alerts are specific to the farm location and they relate short-term forecasts to the ten-year normal for that location to provide information on grass growth, animal health risks and other farm activities,” he explained.
John’s experience on the family farm outside Ennis in County Clare encouraged him to think about how farmers could use improved weather data to help them plan their work.
The very cold Spring of 2013 and subsequent fodder crisis led John to think about better risk-management systems that could be made available to farmers. He began developing the app in UL with funding from Enterprise Ireland who saw the value of the project for farmers.
“I wanted farmers to have highly local and accurate weather information that gives them a snapshot of what will happen over the coming days. We’re using the best forecasting model available (called the ECMWF model) and we relate that forecast to the ten-year normal weather for that location,” John explained.
“The code at the backend of the app converts relative weather conditions into a set of alerts on things like expected grass growth or upcoming conditions for silage harvesting and other activities,” he added.
The app could also help improve health and safety on farms.
“The information on the app relating to local wind speeds can warn the farmers when working in yards or even signal the risks around agitating slurry on calm days,” John outlined.
So far, the response from farmers across the country to FarmHedge has been very positive and John is already in the process of developing additional features for the app which will help save farmers money during periods of extreme weather.
“We will be introducing a system that helps farmers protect against the cost of bad weather. If your farm experiences wetter or colder conditions than are average for any period then you may have to use a higher volume of concentrate feed to supplement low dry matter production,” he said.
“We are exploring ways in which feed can be booked via the app with farmers benefiting from deep discounts on their feed bill if weather conditions are worse than average. The idea of transferring the costs associated with adverse weather is common in other weather-sensitive industries like energy and marine transport, I am looking to bring these benefits to Irish farmers to help stabilise farm incomes,” he said.
FarmHedge is available to download for free on the App Store and Google Play. More information on the app is available from www.farmhedge.io