Maurice Smiley wants his clients to be able to get accurate, detailed weather information instantly.
His company recently developed software that provides updated forecasts every hour and detailed weather reports for up to 72 hours. It also can be customized for any locations a user wants to monitor.
The WeatherLabs Pro software can help farmers, ranchers and outdoor enthusiasts plan and prepare for any weather conditions, said Smiley, vice president of Richland's Orion Network Solutions.
"It's highly accurate data," said Smiley, whose company has worked with the National Weather Service for years to deve-lop programs to present complex weather information in an easy to understand online format. WeatherLabs Pro also provides data on wind speed, rainfall and river levels.
An example of how the service can be useful is farmers, who can schedule watering, spraying or drying of their crops using information from real-time weather information and forecasts, he said.
The subscription-based service allows users to add maps of the areas they want monitored. The software can even integrate information from sensors farmers may have installed on their land and issue alerts if temperature falls or rises beyond a specified limit, Smiley said.
Monthly subscriptions start at $29.95. The company also is about to develop an iPhone application for the software.
Most free weather services provide data for a city or ZIP code, Smiley said. But that data ignores terrain variations within an area.
Weather conditions may be different a half-mile up a mountain than at the base, he said. For farmers monitoring field temperatures, a slight variation can be a big deal, Smiley added.
Alan Schreiber, owner of Schreiber & Sons Farm, said he would be interested in checking out the new software. He checks weather all the time on his smart phone.
The more accurate the forecast the better for growers, he said, adding, "We are ruled by weather."
The Eltopia farmer said he also likes Rufus La Lone's free long-range weather forecasts for the Northwest that are available at The Weather Caf on the internet, and The Weather Channel.
Other area farmers agree that weather information is vital to their businesses, but say a lot of information already is available. It may take more convincing before they decide to buy a service like WeatherLabs Pro.
Jeff Gordon of Gordon Brothers in Franklin County has installed temperature sensors on his farm to provide him emergency alerts. He relies on Washington State University's AgWeatherNet for the latest weather information.
AgWeatherNet provides raw weather data and decision aids to farmers. The AWN network relies on more than 130 weather stations, mostly in the irrigated regions of Eastern Washington.
The service is inexpensive and has served him well, said Gordon, who grows a variety of vegetables, grapes and sweet cherries. In spring, growers are worried about frost so they compare data from different sites on AgWeatherNet before heading to the farm if needed.
"What we've got works well for us," he said.
Denny Hayden, who grows cherries and apples in Franklin County, said analyzing and forecasting weather can be tricky. Weather reports reflect a trend, and absolute accuracy is hard to get because factors affecting weather are dynamic, he said.
"Fast-moving systems are harder to predict," he said.
Hayden visits three or four weather-related websites a day. They are free and their weather forecasts often are good for 24 to 48 hours, he said.
He said farmers must make an intelligent guess and hope for the best while taking care of the crop. But, "If anybody develops a crystal ball, I'll buy it."
Smiley's challenge is to convince potential customers that's exactly what WeatherLabs Pro will do.