- 3 min
Agriculture: sunny days ahead for predictive weather data
The vagaries of the climate caused almost €820 million of insured damage to French farms in 2016 1. Using predictive weather data to improve the prediction of these events is one of the ways ahead, using climate-smart technologies and services to protect the agricultural sector.
Meeting real needs
In May 2016, farmers in the Libourne area found themselves counting the cost of a very severe hailstorm that wiped out their crops. Many of them complained bitterly of Météo-France's failure to issue a warning, which would have enabled them to use their hail cannons and possibly avoid the disaster. When challenged, several weather forecasters protested that certain phenomena like this supercell storm are unpredictable.
Although farmers have always had to integrate the vagaries of the weather into their production processes, the emergence of new technologies is now leading them to try and anticipate them better. Even if it means doing without the services of Météo-France. In Lourdes (43), the official weather forecasting service closed down its local station in 2013. Farmers turned to the internet and learned how to juggle between the forecasts issued by meteociel.fr or pleinchamp.com (Crédit Agricole's publisher of online services for farmers).
A proliferation of operators
The burgeoning agricultural weather forecasting market has seen the emergence of a new generation of operators offering new services presented as highly advanced decision support tools. One start-up, Sencrop, markets an agri-weather station whose sensors collect and send data using narrowband communication. Advantage: low volumes of data quickly reach the farmer, who can then share them with the farmers of neighbouring fields.
As for Meteus, it places the emphasis on the rain gauge in its weather station. Positioned as close as possible to the field, it communicates with the devices of other similarly equipped farmers, thereby making it possible to compare weather data on several sites. Météo-France is also in on the act with Taméo, its service that combines weather forecasts and expertise in agronomy with the aim of better
"predicting growth stages, preventing disease and optimising the use of pesticides, weedkillers and fertilisers."
Farmers are being won over
Wind gauges, weather vanes, rain gauges, hygrometers and suchlike - will they be the solution farmers are hoping for? If we look at the figures, it is all still rather unclear: the IRSTEA (National Research Institute for Science and Technology for the Environment and Agriculture) tells us that there are
"a few hundred farmers [equipped in 2017] and several thousand expected to be next year ."2
Although reports in the press seem to suggest that farmers recognise and welcome the potential usefulness of these technologies using predictive weather data, they are still waiting to see the proof of the reliability of the different operators' services. This expectation is understood by those in charge of the Meteus project at Isagri, who willingly admit that
"the next challenge is to ensure that all the data, those from the weather stations and the different sensors present on farms, are compatible with each other. That everyone is talking the same language" 3.
Tomorrow, comprehensive solutions
Heralding the advent of fully connected agriculture, the growing use of predictive weather data is mapping out the future and promises comprehensive solutions for farmers. Starting from simple meteorological readings taken near farmers' fields, this is a whole new ecosystem of services that is beginning to emerge, combining decision support tools and agronomic advice, and even extending to insurance… Enough to be able say that Mother Nature is losing her monopoly over the weather, fair or foul.
1 Source: Year in Review 2016, French Insurance Federation (FFA).
2 The personalized agricultural weather, au bonheur des champs, AFP, March 1, 2017
3 Weather stations become decision support tools, Terre-Net, April 25, 2017.