Will this smartphone app make farmers lives easier?

A new smartphone app that provides farmers with on-farm alerts directly relevant to agricultural activities has been developed by part-time farmer from Co. Clare.

FarmHedge is a free weather app tailored for Irish farmers. Dr John Garvey, Senior Lecturer in Risk Management and Insurance at the University of Limerick (UL), created the app to help farmers better plan their work.

“The weather alerts are specific to the farm location and they relate short-term forecasts to the ten-year normal for that location to provide information on grass growth, animal health risks and other farm activities,” he said.

Garvey’s experience on the family farm outside Ennis in Co. Clare encouraged him to think about how farmers could use improved weather data to help them plan their work.

The cold Spring in 2013 and subsequent fodder crisis led Garvey to think about better risk-management systems that could be made available to farmers, he began developing the app in UL with funding from Enterprise Ireland.

I wanted farmers to have highly local and accurate weather information that gives them a snapshot of what will happen over the coming days.

“We’re using the best forecasting model available (called the ECMWF model) and we relate that forecast to the ten-year normal weather for that location,” the UL lecturer said.

The app converts relative weather conditions into a set of alerts on things like expected grass growth or upcoming conditions for silage harvesting and other activities. FarmHedge could also help improve health and safety on farms.

HedgeWatch App
Farmhedge App

“The information on the app relating to local wind speeds can warn the farmers when working in yards or even signal the risks around agitating slurry on calm days,” Garvey said.

Meanwhile, the part-time farmer is also in the process of developing additional features for the app which will help save farmers money during periods of extreme weather.

We are exploring ways in which feed can be booked via the app with farmers benefiting from deep discounts on their feed bill if weather conditions are worse than average.

“The idea of transferring the costs associated with adverse weather is common in other weather-sensitive industries like energy and marine transport, I am looking to bring these benefits to Irish farmers to help stabilise farm incomes,” he said.

FarmHedge is available to download for on the App Store and Google Play.