AI-enhanced weather forecasts for farms

Farmer on phone in field. | Newsreel
New AI-enhanced weather forecasts will provide farm-specific info. | Photo: DRS Producers (iStock)

Weather forecasts, boosted by artificial intelligence, are being developed which will provide farmers with information specific to their area of land.

Hort Innovation and Jane’s Weather are combining traditional weather forecasting techniques with the cutting-edge capabilities of artificial intelligence and machine learning to develop tailored local weather forecasts, which are currently being trialled in Queensland.

Hort Innovation chief executive Brett Fifield said the $1.3m initiative was tailored to meet the specific needs of individual growers, considering their farming block, unique terrain and operational requirements.

“Horticulture growers face the challenge of making crucial farming decisions based on generic weather forecasts that may not accurately reflect their specific location,” Mr Fifield said.

“Recognising this gap, this innovative project seeks to provide local weather predictions, empowering growers with the ability to make more informed decisions regarding frost management, spraying, irrigation, and pest and disease control, among other critical agricultural activities.

“Machine learning and artificial intelligence are the missing ingredient in solving the problem of what the weather will do next and will give growers the power of being even more accurate, more often,” he said.

Jane’s Weather Chief Executive and meteorologist Jane Bunn said traditional weather models were not accurate enough for the majority of production sites due to their distance from official weather stations.

“By applying machine learning and artificial intelligence to the data from current weather prediction models and local farm weather stations, we can significantly reduce forecasting error,” Ms Bunn said.

“This approach delivers more accuracy, more often, by learning from observations directly from the site, delivering superior results and therefore, superior business outcomes for our clients.”

Ms Bunn said the collaboration between Jane’s Weather and Hort Innovation would involve identifying and selecting a cohort of farming enterprises to build and test the functionality of the platform.

“This targeted approach ensures that the developed solutions are practical and meet the real-world needs of growers,” she said.

The Mulgowie Farming Company, based in the Lockyer Valley, west of Brisbane, sees the benefits of the platform.

Mulgowie Fresh Agronomy Manager Andrew Johanson said having access to accurate, site-specific weather information would enable growers to make timely decisions that could positively impact crop yield and quality.

“This is a major advancement for the horticulture industry, and it is exciting to be a part of it,” Mr Johanson said.