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Published June 10, 2013, 10:27 AM

Ag weather network goes wireless

NDDAWN stations undergoing updates

By: Kyle Potter, Forum News Service

FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota’s weather service for farmers is going wireless.

The North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network has begun updating its weather stations across the state, giving farmers instant access to weather updates from their computers or smartphones.

Wireless is up and running at 19 of the network’s 72 stations. Adnan Akyuz, North Dakota’s climatologist and the network’s director, guesses that all of the remaining stations will be updated within the next two years.

The switch to wireless allows North Dakota farmers to get weather updates every 10 minutes, from temperature and wind speeds to dew point and soil temperature.

Faster access

A web-based network means farmers can access the information faster, Akyuz says. And unlike the old call-in system, several people can get an update at the same time.

Between replacing the old phone lines at each station with wireless modems, updating data loggers and solar panels to power them, Akyuz estimates the project will cost about $100,000 over the next five years. He’s working on a proposal for the Legislature to foot the bill, he says.

“It is going to be quite an expensive investment,” Akyuz says, but one that will result in lower maintenance costs.

“The more information a person can get, the better off we are,” says Eric Aasmundstad, who farms small grains just west of Devils Lake, N.D. “It’s a good deal if they can get it done.”

Aasmundstad, former president of the North Dakota Farm Bureau, says he’s used the NDAWN call-in system sporadically through the years, but he typically relies on instant updates from his iPhone or iPad. Farming may be a traditional industry, but Aasmundstad guesses “a good percentage” of his fellow farmers also use smartphones or other technology in the fields.

“I’m sure the folks that run the weather network are just responding to that demand,” he says. “The increase in technology is what keeps the American farmer competitive.”