Using Weather Data to Support Decisions in the Field
April 21, 2015
Name: Valliappa “Lak” Lakshmanan
Title: Director of Quantitative Meteorology at The Climate Corporation
Education: PhD, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Oklahoma
Background: Lak spent 20 years working at the University of Oklahoma National Severe Storms Laboratory, where he helped develop many of the weather radar algorithms currently used by the National Weather Service to track storms and issue hail and tornado warnings.
Weather influences every aspect of farming, which is why farmers look to advances in precision agriculture to better measure the impact weather has in each field. Valliappa “Lak” Lakshmanan leads The Climate Corporation’s team of scientists and engineers who aim to help farmers better manage the risk factors they cannot control, namely weather. Lak answers questions about Climate’s approach to delivering better measurements and models to farmers in the field.
Q: What makes you interested in agricultural industry?
A: When I grew up in West Africa, I learned how important food security is. Cassava is the staple food in Liberia; and if you don’t know what cassava is, count yourself lucky. The raw plant contains cyanide, and it needs to be leached many times to remove the poison before it can be eaten. The world needs more friendly foods like corn and soybeans. And, the more food we can grow here in the U.S., the more we can supply to people in these countries.
Q: What do you do at The Climate Corporation?
A: As leader of the meteorology team, I am privileged to work with a group of dedicated scientists and engineers who are passionate about helping farmers manage the impact of weather. Our primary focus is building hyperlocalized weather estimates to be quickly delivered to farmers through our free online and mobile service, Climate Basic™. It provides weather information at the field level, including historical weather data, rainfall estimates over a 24-hour and 72-hour period, and additional features like scouting and notifications.
Q: How do you build precipitation estimates?
A: Every hour, The Climate Corporation uses radar, satellites and more than 10,000 automated weather stations to calculate the average rainfall on grids that are matched to a farmer’s fields. This allows us to estimate rainfall totals across the entire field. Over the next three days, these rainfall estimates are further refined using data from roughly 20,000 additional weather stations and our advanced analytics, so that we may provide farmers with the most comprehensive information possible.
Q: What makes Climate’s weather tools unique?
A: We are unique because we use a multi-sensor approach that offers the advantage of widespread radar coverage, plus the pinpoint accuracy of weather stations to feed our weather models. We use both sources of data together as a unique way to reduce inaccuracies caused by a variety of environmental factors. Bird activity, wind and debris can all affect the accuracy of the data reported by radar and rain gauges. Because we use both weather radar and rain gauges, our approach is more advanced than a single-sensor approach. We are able to cover all of a farmer’s fields, ultimately processing 800 million data points to create our rainfall estimates. Using both sensors allows us to build a deeper understanding of the atmospheric conditions that affect a farm, enabling growers to make management decisions with confidence.
Q: How can farmers benefit from using these tools?
A: Our weather tools are driven by our philosophy of providing farmers with the best available information as quickly as possible, and then further refining that information as we gather more data over time. Farmers receive hourly precipitation estimates to help them make daily management decisions on their operation. The data we collect over three days also supports farmers’ longer- term planning decisions by understanding the total precipitation accumulated within each field.
Q: How can farmers get more information about Climate services?
A: Farmers can talk to dealers and advisors who can help them learn more about using Climate services. There is a dealer locator tool at www.climatepro2015.com.