Steve Robbs has spent the bulk of his career developing systems for indoor crop storage ventilation systems. He spends a lot of time listening to farmers and meeting their needs.
When he was asked to help set up weather monitoring stations in farm fields — with the attending problems of lack of electricity, lack of internet/wi-fi service and continuing maintenance — he was struck with a better idea.
Why not develop a simple phone app farmers could use to monitor field weather conditions?
He enlisted the help of co-worker Mike Machurek who asked his farm clients in the potato and corn industry if it was something they could use. After an enthusiastic response, the pair brought in Rupert farmer Randy Bauscher as a partner and enlisted Machurek’s daughter Candace Rose as project manager.
The result is SetPoint Agriculture, a customizable weather application designed specifically for the agriculture industry.
Robbs’ key idea was to tap into the same weather towers used by sites weather.com and wunderground.com. The information from the towers allows app users to get forecasts and set alerts for a variety of weather conditions. The towers are all certified and because major weather forecasters use the data from the towers, the information is highly accurate.
SetPoint allows the tracking of temperature, wind speed, barometric pressure, dew point, humidity and rain accumulation data for five to 10 locations.
Flexibility has been built in, so it is easy to change locations and parameters as needed. When the weather triggers an alert, users are notified by push notifications sent directly to their phone.
Robbs said alfalfa farmers have found the dew point information particularly helpful. A high dew point can lead to condensation and mold in baled hay. A custom weather alert allows farmers to avoid baling on days when the dew point exceeds a predetermined level.
The home screen shows all locations, location radar and has indicators to let the user know if a location is within or outside of selected parameters.
The app was released about 18 months ago and Robbs said the response from users has been good.
“It took a long time to get people to believe in us ... that we had a good app,” he said.
While the app was initially designed for agriculture, Robbs notes there are a variety of other possible uses including by crop dusters, kite flyers, pilots or outdoor event organizers. Anyone who needs to monitor weather information for a specific location could utilize SetPoint.
The app is set up on a monthly subscription basis. It costs $6.99 a month for five locations and $11.99 a month for 10 locations. There are no ads or pop-ups and a three-day trial is available.
The cost is a bargain compared to setting up a monitoring station in the field. Robbs said wi-fi can cost about $20 a month for one station, not including equipment and maintenance.