The idea came from Thomas Barton and David Robidoux, two California entrepreneurs with unique backgrounds: while Barton worked in chemistry creating products for the agricultural business along with other initiatives, Robidoux worked in the agricultural business for some two decades. “And Dave always talked about the fluctuation in the weather, how it was affecting prices he was getting for his products which were tomatoes, and how he wished he could stay ahead of the weather to stay ahead of the pricing,” Barton says.
Variety of commodities
The iOS app, which will be available for Android devices in the fall, costs $1.99 a month and covers the top 30 consumed fresh produce items in the US. Alerts are sent daily by 8 a.m. EST for the growing regions for that commodity. “When we started this, we looked to see if someone had done this before and they really hadn’t,” says Barton. “A lot of people were doing large cities or counties or states or hiring companies for long-term weather forecasts for a region. You could hire large firms to do analysis for you but there was nothing for the day-to-day worker or grower at an affordable level.”
To create the app, the pair spent more than a year analyzing and consolidating FDA shipping reports, industry web sites, newsletters and more to build the information. Weathermelon tracks weather data for regions spanning from Canada in the north to Chile in the south.
Honing in on information
And, like any project, it came with its share of development challenges. “Getting data from some of the South American countries was difficult,” Barton says. “Also we had to isolate regions that only grew fresh produce. So we had to eliminate regions that grew for frozen or for contract. Also we had to eliminate some produce types that weren’t affected by the weather so much, such as potatoes and onions.”