That information includes temperature taken at three heights, wind speed and direction, rainfall, barometric pressure, humidity, soil temperature, soil radiation, dew point and wet bulb temperature, which is similar to dew point but takes evaporation into account.

The network does not forecast the weather, Lusher said. But growers can take measurements from any given 15-minute interval and, using a weather forecast, can make more informed farming decisions.

Growers don’t have to be sitting at their computers to get this information, either. They can use their smartphones to access the system, Lusher said. 

Jim Shine, vice-president of the Belle Glade-based Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, said he uses his FAWN station to keep tabs on approaching rain. That way, he and other sugar growers can know whether to pump the wells and whether to harvest.

FAWN stations are located in rural areas, he said, as compared to the weather service, which primarily builds its sites in more urban areas. The rural readings are generally colder than the data gathered in cities because concrete and asphalt can increase temperatures 10 degrees.

Even with three new weather stations, growers invariably ask: “When are you going to put a station near their farm?’” Lusher said.

He said he jokingly answers: “Show me the money.”

That’s because it costs $15,000 to build a new station, he said, and another $10,000 a year for maintenance on each station.

FAWN gets about 30 percent of its funding from UF and 70 percent from grants and sponsorships, Lusher said. That money might come from the Florida Department of Agriculture, various water management districts and occasional gifts from a dozen or so trade associations, private companies and individuals, he said.

Lusher said IFAS has no immediate plans to add more FAWN stations, but that can change, depending on funding.