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Partnership To Improve Rural And Regional Forecasting In New Zealand

A partnership between New Zealand’s national weather service MetService and homegrown agri-tech experts HortPlus will improve the quality of rural weather forecasts and allow weather data to be used in new and innovative ways.

A HortPlus Weather Station in Canterbury

The partnership will see MetService and HortPlus sharing information from their respective weather station networks, providing more data points for forecasting. MetService utilises more than 400 weather stations across New Zealand and HortPlus has a network of close to 100 on orchards and farms around the country.

MetService Business Development Manager Peter Fisher said the sharing of weather station data was being introduced in tranches, with the first station data already being shared and the remainder being shared over the coming months.

He said the partnership would further enhance weather forecasting in New Zealand, particularly in some rural areas of regions such as Bay of Plenty, Wairarapa, and Northland where the distance between its existing weather stations was largest. As well as providing access to more weather stations, the agreement will see data sent to MetService by HortPlus every ten minutes.

“You can never have enough data points as a forecaster. Having finer spatial and temporal resolution means we can better verify our forecasts and identify any anomalies with our respective stations.”

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HortPlus director Mike Barley welcomed the partnership and said access to MetService’s vast high quality weather station network, along with stations of its partners, would “supercharge” the specialist pest, disease and water management tools HortPlus provided to orchardists and farmers via its MetWatch platform.

HortPlus’ MetWatch platform combines weather data with scientific models created by leading New Zealand researchers, helping growers in industries ranging from kiwifruit and apples to vegetables and arable crops to make decisions about water management, land use, and which pest and disease controls to apply.

“We are thrilled to partner with an organisation like MetService that possesses such a degree of integrity and technical expertise, as well as an impressive forecasting network,” Barley said.

“Access to data provided by MetService weather stations will instantly improve coverage for the tools we provide to our customers and may also give rise to exciting opportunities to serve up some of our specialist horticultural pest, disease and water management forecasting resources via MetService channels.”

MetService was established as a state-owned enterprise in 1992. Its forecasts are widely used by the public and private sectors, and it recently ranked second equal in the 2023 NZ Public Sector Reputation Index, which measures public perception of public sector organisations across categories of trust, social responsibility, leadership and fairness.

HortPlus is an agri-tech company founded in 1998. It operates out of offices in Wellington and Hawke’s Bay and is best known for the crop-specific pest, disease and water management tools it provides on its MetWatch platform.

MetWatch is available by subscription, as well as free of charge to registered growers and researchers via weather and disease portals on the websites of Zespri, New Zealand Apples & Pears, Summerfruit New Zealand, Onions New Zealand, Vegetables New Zealand, New Zealand Plant Producers Inc and Foundation for Arable Research.



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