Weatherquest advice is sought to reduce winter veg shortage

Norwich Research Park company helps drivers and growers with weather advice

As the cold weather continues, Weatherquest, based at Norwich Research Park is experiencing one of its peak periods.  The company provides detailed and application-specific weather forecasts, which allow business and the travelling public to manage the risks presented by the worst of the weather.  Its data is also being used in research to help find cold resilient brassicas, such as cauliflowers, to extend the cropping season.

The company was established by locally-based experienced forecasters when the Norwich Weather Centre closed in 2000.  The team saw an opportunity for a consultancy service and with their links to the University of East Anglia (UEA) Environmental Sciences department they have incorporated the latest research into their weather prediction service. Jim Bacon, Managing Director of Weatherquest explains, “We give accurate and detailed weather information which is simply not available elsewhere. Most industrial practices are weather dependent, and often the weather forecasts on the TV are not detailed enough to make business decisions, so we fine-tune this service based on our individual client’s needs”.

Jim recalls, “One of my colleagues, Steve Dorling, was himself based at UEA on the Norwich Research Park. So setting up business on the research park seemed a natural location, it is well known for its ground breaking research and expertise, so we felt it was a good environment to be a part of.  More recently we have started working with the John Innes Centre in support of their work on plant research.”

Prolonged cold weather can also create shortages of winter vegetables.  Data from Weatherquest is currently being used by Judith Irwin, researcher in Crop Genetics at the John Innes Centre, in a research project aimed at improving resilience within the horticultural industry. The main focus of the research is helping crops adapt to climate change, but the science can help build resistance to temperature variations too.

“For brassicas such as cauliflower and broccoli we eat the flower buds of the plant and they require a period of cold known as vernalization to trigger the flowering mechanism.  This varies between species and by examining the temperatures required by different varieties to vernalize, you can select those that need different periods of cold to flower.”

Additionally by comparing mean winter temperatures from 1961 – 2006 the researchers have found that Cornwall on average enjoys winter temperatures 2°C higher than Lincolnshire, and that this influences how varieties mature in these areas.  This information can be used to prolong the flowering period by selecting varieties that vernalize at different temperatures.  This would be desirable for supermarkets and also for farmers who would see an increase in the crop’s profitability, as they would crop for longer.

Jim explains that at some stage all food is dependent on a weather forecast. “This doesn’t just mean in terms of growing a crop, but also the shipping, transportation and freshness of that crop,” he says.

“For example, one of our clients is the Port of Felixstowe. For them, wind and visibility information is vital. Ships are unable to enter or leave the docks if the wind is too high or visibility too low. Likewise, cranes are unable to unload cargo, such as food, off the ships if the weather conditions are not just right.”

Jim concludes, “Winter is usually a busy period for us as people worry about travelling up and down the country to visit friends and family. For the companies we work with, busy periods usually come when the weather is significantly different from the ‘norm’. We are able to predict when this is going to happen and communicate how it will affect our clients, before it has a detrimental result on their business.”

For a personal weather forecast call Weatherquest on 09065 77 76 75 (nb.calls charged at £1.50 per min-network charges)

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Notes for editors

Media contacts: Rachel Holdsworth / Victoria Ellis, PR consultants, Holdsworth Associates, Tel: 01954 202789, email: Victoria@holdsworth-associates.co.uk, www.holdsworth-associates.co.uk

Dr Jane Heavens, Projects & Communications Manager Tel: 01603 274442 email: jane.heavens@norwichresearchpark.com

University of East Anglia Media Relations: press@uea.ac.uk / 01603 593496

Weatherquest – http://www.weatherquest.co.uk/

About Norwich Research Park

www.norwichresearchpark.com

Norwich Research Park is a partnership between University of East Anglia, the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, four independent world-renowned research institutes namely the John Innes Centre, Institute of Food Research and The Genome Analysis Centre (all strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)) and The Sainsbury Laboratory linked to the Gatsby Charitable Foundation. The BBSRC is itself a partner as is the John Innes Foundation.

The vision of Norwich Research Park partners and local government stakeholders is to develop a thriving science and innovation business park over the next decade by supporting spin-out and start-up companies and through attracting inward investment from large corporate organisations involved in science and technology. Norwich Research Park is home to around 30 science and IT based businesses.

With over 11,000 people including 2,700 scientists, Norwich Research Park has one of Europe’s largest single-site concentrations of research in Health, Food and Environmental Sciences.

In 2011, the Government awarded BBSRC £26M to invest in Norwich Research Park to deliver innovation from the research base and generate economic growth and job creation. The investment will help to create and support new companies and jobs based on world-leading bioscience.

About the John Innes Centre:

The John Innes Centre, www.jic.ac.uk, is a world-leading research centre based on the Norwich Research Park http://www.norwichresearchpark.com. The JIC’s mission is to generate knowledge of plants and microbes through innovative research, to train scientists for the future, and to apply its knowledge to benefit agriculture, human health and well-being, and the environment. JIC delivers world class bioscience outcomes leading to wealth and job creation, and generating high returns for the UK economy. JIC is one of eight institutes that receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and received a total of £27.5M investment in 2011-12.

About the University of East Anglia

www.uea.ac.uk

The University of East Anglia (UEA) is ranked in the top one per cent of universities in the world and is consistently in the top ten for student satisfaction. It is a leading member of the Norwich Research Park, one of Europe’s biggest concentrations of researchers in the fields of environment, health and plant science. www.uea.ac.uk.

 

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