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Kyle Potter, Published June 07 2013

ND’s weather service is going wireless, giving farmers instant access

FARGO - 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, guessed 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.

A Web-based network means farmers can access the information faster, Akyuz said. And unlike with 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 guessed 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 said.

“It is going to be quite an expensive investment,” Akyuz said, but one that will require less in maintenance costs in the future.

“The more information a person can get, the better off we are,” Eric Aasmundstad said from inside his tractor on his small grains farm, just west of Devils Lake. “It’s a good deal if they can get it done.”

Aasmundstad, former president of the North Dakota Farm Bureau, said he’s used the NDAWN call-in system sporadically over the years, but he typically relies on instant updates from his iPhone or iPad. Farming may be a traditional industry, but Aasmundstad guessed “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 said. “The increase in technology is what keeps the American farmer competitive.”

Stations already on wireless

Bowman, Britton, Dickinson, Edgeley, Ekre, Fargo, Forest River, Hettinger, Inkster, Jamestown, Kennedy, Lisbon, Marion, Michigan, Mott, Oakes, Plaza, Ross, Watford City


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kyle Potter at (701) 241-5502