The CWB and WeatherBug started their network in 2007. The goal was to set up 600 weather stations across the West over three years. The program has exceeded expectations, White said.
The CWB has had a weather and crop surveillance department for more than 30 years, but a widespread killing frost Aug. 20, 2004 drove home the need for a better way to gather weather data, Ash said.
The data collected from 120 stations across the West indicated the frost wasn’t that bad, with temperatures of 0C to -3C in pockets in Saskatchewan. But in fact temperatures went as low as -8 causing more yield loss and damage to crop quality than the CWB expected.
“This translates in the farm economy into tens of millions of dollars of lost income,” Ash said. “Farmers need to know weather information for their individual crop management plans, but certainly the CWB benefits from this type of information because we would adjust our marketing strategy if we had known the severity of the frost at that point.”
The potential benefit to the CWB from better weather data is why the CWB has invested around $1 million in setting up WeatherFarm, White said. The CWB is well on the way to recouping that money through sponsorships. The goal is to continue expanding the weather network and make it pay for itself, White said.
It costs farmers $1,750 to get their own weather station through WeatherFarm. The cost includes installation and a five-year warranty.
A high-speed Internet connection is required to connect to the network. [email protected]