March 4, 2015

USING WEATHER DATA Technology Allows for Capture and Use of Vital Info

It is the era of “Big Data” and everyone is trying to harness available information to make better decisions in all facets of business.  Possibly nowhere does that make more sense than when dealing with the weather and agriculture.  After all, the two are interconnected and the amount of weather-related information now available has grown leaps and bounds over the past several years.

Spectrum Technologies, a leader in plant and turf measurement technology, has introduced SpecConnect, an advanced web portal cloud solution for crop environmental monitoring using wireless networks.  Alicia Gilman, a longtime executive in the agricultural irrigation space, recently joined Spectrum Technologies as its director of global marketing.  She said that, simply put, SpecConnect is a web-based software program designed to affordably monitor and capture weather, temperature, plant health and soil moisture data across various microclimates anytime—anywhere.

She added that what sets it apart from its competition is that SpecConnect can be pre-configured or customized to a user’s preference using the web portal or smartphone applications.  The program is easy to use and works with Spectrum’s WatchDog weather stations and the in-field WatchDog Retriever & Pups wireless sensor network to provide real-time information to monitor and optimize weather and temperature, plant health, and soil moisture data.  The entire network of crop sensors work together by communicating data via cellular modem or Wi-Fi, where information is then accessible on SpecConnect’s cloud-based web portal.

The intuitive software works by producing maps using rolling topography from the wireless WatchDog Retriever & Pups, which have the ability to monitor and log information on crop and soil microclimates.  Multiple sensors provide information about temperature, soil moisture for irrigation scheduling and insect and disease information.  In addition, SpecConnect makes decisions actionable for the customer at a touch of a button.  Users can remotely configure weather stations, sensors, set alerts and change logging intervals and use advanced reporting capabilities to better understand evapotranspiration, degree days and daily light integral to make more-effective decisions about things like improved yield and quality and conservation of resources.

“SpecConnect is a powerful, real-time crop, landscape, and turf-monitoring solution based on site-specific wireless sensor networks,” said Mike Thurow, president and CEO of the three-decades-old company.  “The user experience and ability to wirelessly monitor a combination of important variables like weather and soil moisture is what makes our technology solution stand out. This solution is the future of agriculture, landscape and turf.”

Gilman said the ability to customize the software makes it a viable solution for both large and small agricultural operations.  She explained that most of the similar systems now being sold in this space are user friendly and allow the customer to log on to the web portal and download proprietary reports that are prepared using the specific data provided by each user’s weather, soil and plant sensors.  While the data is specific to each client, the reports are fairly generic.  For example, there are reports that facilitate irrigation scheduling based on the information from the sensors.

However, Gilman said there are very large growers with their own IT (information technology) departments looking for something more.  “They want to take the data and create their own reports and manipulate it in their own specific ways.”

A program that allows the user to effectively control the machine from the human end is called User Interface (UI).  For most growers looking for weather data, this will suffice and SpecConnect can deliver.  The more complicated program is called Application Programming Interface (API).  Simply put, it gives the user the building blocks to create their own programs and reports.  Gilman said this option sets SpecConnect apart from its competition.

Whether a grower wants a more customized version or an off-the-shelf solution, Gilman said SpecConnect is very affordable.  She noted that a grower with 100 acres could find it very useful and economically feasible.  “We can cater to the entire spectrum of growers from big to small.”

She added that the use of this type of technology has expanded tremendously within the ag community.  “We have moved passed the ‘innovators’ and ‘techies’ and are moving through the ‘early adopters’. ”

She added that having some type of temperature and moisture sensor on farm is becoming commonplace.  The next step is to harvest all of that information that is now available and use it to help make many different agronomic decisions.  Because of its more widespread use, Spectrum Technologies is now bundling many different services in this arena to increase their affordability.  SpecConnect is being sold through dealers and others in the company’s distribution channels.

Gilman said a purchase typically requires an installation so the agricultural supply network is the best method to reach the grower and assure proper installation.

Spectrum Technologies was founded in 1987 by Thurow and is headquartered in Aurora, IL.  The company prides itself on providing advanced agriculture, landscape, and turf technologies to customers worldwide.  For more information about the firm, visit its website at