From manual rain gauge to connected rain gauge

From manual rain gauge to connected rain gauge
1. An indispensable tool for rain measurement2. How to choose your connected rain gauge?3. Where to place your rain gauge?4. Why switch from manual to connected rain gauges?

The weather is THE key data for farmers. It impacts all their decisions and sets the pace for their operations throughout the season. However, until now, farmers were often content with simple data, obtained by manual means. Today, precise meteorological tools exist to help farmers make informed decisions.

An indispensable tool for measuring rain

Just like the thermometer for temperature, the anemometer for wind or the hygrometer for humidity, there is also a measuring device designed specifically to find out how much water has fallen during rainfall: the rain gauge.

How does a rain gauge work?

The rain gauge is a meteorological measuring instrument that indicates the amount of rainfall at a given location. The measurement is expressed in mm of water falling per square metre, over a defined time interval.

Why use a rain gauge?

Measuring rainfall is fundamental for agricultural professionals. It enables them to anticipate the risks that crops may face (diseases, pests, leaching, water requirements, etc.) and thus plan the various interventions (treatments, irrigation, sowing, harvesting, etc.).

Its objective? To enable you to establish average rainfall levels, monitor growth, better organise your work and plan your irrigation according to the water deficit or surplus.

The different types of rain gauges

There are 2 main types of rain gauges:

  • Manual rain gauge: the rainfall reading is done on paper, on a daily basis
  • Connected raingauge (to an application or recorder): readings are taken automatically, linked to a connected tool

How to choose a connected rain gauge?

The quality of the rainfall measurement depends on the environmental conditions (clouds, wind, temperature...), the design of the device and its position in relation to surrounding obstacles. The installation site and the wind are the parameters that have the greatest impact on this measurement.

Regarding the design of the rain gauge, here are some elements to consider in order to correctly choose your connected weather station:

  • Easy maintenance: you should be able to easily access the elements to be cleaned (drain grate, spider webs, etc.) and easily change the batteries if the sensor is connected
  • Reliable and well-positioned sensors: Today, the trough sensor (single or double) is the most reliable. At Sencrop, our stations are equipped with a trough with a triple sensor to eliminate outliers. This means that you get true-to-life data.
  • Waterproof electronic box: The station must be designed to stay outside all day long and collect rain, while being subjected to the various external climatic hazards. It is obviously important to find out about the waterproofness of the electronic box, but also about other elements that could protect the interference of the readings (temperature shelters, bird spikes...)
  • Diameter of the rain collector: the diameter is important to correctly collect the mm of rain. Too big, the trough would not have time to tip over during heavy rainfall. Too small, the rain would not flow properly.
  • Shape of the rain gauge: a rain gauge with an aerodynamic profile will have a more realistic result
  • Connection to a sufficient network: the weather data should be sent even in white areas, which are rarely the best covered in terms of connectivity. This way, the station will have no trouble transmitting your data to the application. At Sencrop, we use Sigfox and LoRa broadband networks.
  • Application: Beyond the station itself, which guarantees the quality of the data, it is the application that will be your daily professional tool. It must be easy to use and give you the tools for your daily decision making, according to your readings. You can ask the company for a demo, or a trial to make up your mind. Click on the Sencrop trial link to try the application for 15 days, free of charge and without obligation.

Where to place your rain gauge?

In order to get the best measurement quality, it is necessary to anticipate possible errors due to external conditions such as wind, obstacles or temperature.

Once you have your connected rain gauge in your hands, the installation will play an important role in obtaining reliable data!

  • The station must be level: a good installation implies a good anchoring (the station must be level). At Sencrop, each station has a built-in level bubble to ensure that it is properly installed.
  • The station must be placed at the right height: the placement height and distance to obstacles is particularly important to avoid drift. At Sencrop we recommend that the station is placed with a minimum distance of 2 times the height of the first obstacle that is nearby (hedges, farm building, silo, high voltage mast, wind turbine).
  • Rain and wind data must be separated: even if you use precision tools, there is no question of compromising on the quality of the data. Each measurement should be taken at the best location. To avoid interference from obstacles, it is important to place the rain gauge and the anemometer separately in your fields. Especially since the wind measurement will certainly be more important to you if it comes from the windiest hillside.
  • The station should be placed in the middle of the field: placing your rain gauge in the farmhouse is not representative of the conditions in each field. Indeed, differences in rainfall can be observed even a few kilometres away (see articles "Why can my Sencrop data differ from my manual rain gauge?"). Placing your station on your field allows you to avoid major obstacles and to collect data at the place of greatest risk, i.e. your crops.

Why switch from manual to connected rain gauges?

Get up before dawn, go out and visit each plot, check each manual rain gauge and empty it, not forgetting the notes in the notebook. Once this is done, you still have to plan the day. This is still the daily routine for many farmers.

The manual rain gauge nowadays tends to be used mainly for personal use because it has many disadvantages for precision use:

Manual rain gauge

Connected rain gauge
(in this example: Sencrop brand)

Only measures rain

The connected rain gauge is a complete weather station. It also measures temperature and humidity.

Need to consult weather forecasting sites in addition, to anticipate rainfall

The professional weather application collects all useful weather data, in addition to your own live readings. The professional weather application gathers all useful weather data, in addition to your own live readings, so you can find the most reliable weather forecasts on the market.

Regular on-site readings: almost daily trips.

Continuous and remote reading, with an update every 15 minutes in the application.

Maintenance: the device needs to be emptied almost daily.

Maintenance twice a year to clean up any blockages caused by external elements that may have clogged the grid.

Manual readings, often on paper and difficult to compare. Manual records, often on paper and difficult to compare.
> Probable errors when entering these records into software. History is difficult to keep / compare.

Automatic calculation of accumulations and history of readings. 

Application designed to draw quick conclusions from weather data.

Graduation is sometimes inaccurate.

Triple sensor to exclude outliers (any drift is immediately detected).

Longevity: many years.

Long battery life: the stations are guaranteed for 2 years, and an alert is sent directly to the application when the battery needs to be changed."

In conclusion, modernising the management of your farm with tools dedicated to precision weather monitoring allows for better organisation and more serene decision-making. But it also allows you to reason out your interventions and save on inputs.

If you would like more information, please visit our website or call us on 07723 580941. Our team will be happy to answer all your questions.

Measure ultra-local rainfall with precision

The Raincrop connected rain gauge is an ag-weather station that gives you real-time weather updates straight from your fields.

Learn more about the Raincrop