IT’S raining cats and dogs at Coldstream, Victoria, but not in the way you’d expect.
Since making weather forecasting his full time gig, strawberry farmer Anthony Violi has been inundated with new customers seeking location-specific climate information.
“My client base has doubled since Christmas,” said Mr Violi, owner of AV Weather.
“I now have 1600 subscribers around the country.”
He’s recently hired a casual so he can keep up with the one-on-one messaging and call back service he offers.
Mr Violi began selling subscriptions to his weather forecasts last March after attracting a large group of followers to his weekly weather blog.
“I’ve since created a level of service which no one else provides.”
He offers daily updates; four week forecasts and a five month seasonal outlook.
He also pens weekly blog posts focusing on the next fortnight’s weather.
His services range from $20 a month to $45/month.
He said his forecasts are usually closer to the Bureau of Meteorology’s than Elders Weather.
Last year, he said, rival forecasters initially predicted extremely low winter rainfall for NSW, Victoria and South Australia. He forecast the opposite.
“People were asking me if there was any point planting. I said it would definitely be a wet season. All my customers then had their biggest harvest ever.”
In general, long-range forecasting services are falling short, he said.
“Right now, climate models are showing an El Nino for the end of the year. I’m saying the El Nino won’t happen – instead it will be a ‘warm-neutral’.”
A warm-neutral is where temperatures in the Pacific Ocean don’t reach the threshold required to be called El Nino.
Most of his clients are clustered in Central West NSW, with the remainder spread throughout the agricultural districts of South Australia, Victoria and Queensland.
Mr Violi is a self-taught forecaster.
Until recently he farmed strawberries with his brother and father in the Yarra Valley of Victoria.
“When the internet took off in the late 1990s there was so much information online which I had never been able to read in a book, I learnt so much. From there I was able to put together what I was seeing and how to communicate it.”