Whether its connecting with suppliers and buyers, researching new tools or market opportunities, finding land, learning about new techniques and workshops via list serves, or using social media to connect with customers, many of today's successful farmers are more connected than ever to networks which support them. Managing this stream of information and communication can be a challenge on top of all the other things they need to keep track of. In many cases they simply don't have the time or resources to do a lot of research before a decision must be made. Imagine convenient, affordable and up-to-date access to a variety of information and expertise was more readily available, when and where it was needed it, presented in a ready to use format supporting informed decision making and innovation throughout the day or season, year after year...
A number of tech companies have begun to cater to these needs, developing online tools providing valuable services to farmers. But much of this is based on proprietary software that is disconnected from other information resources and platforms, and too costly for small farmers.
The Northeast Food Knowledge Ecosystem (see our Open Shop for more info), in partnership with Farm Hack and others, seeks to support open, collaborative approaches to development of these tools, and the underlying data sharing networks which might support them. That includes data from Farm Hack incubated projects like Apitronics. Together, we are creating information and communications infrastructure that will allow a broad range of people and organizations to freely and easily share expertise and resources.
For such a network to be relevant and usable to farmers, we need to know: - What kinds of information and communication are most helpful? Financial, business, crop, pest, customer communications... - Where is (or would) information accessed/shared (e.g. field, vehicle, home, market; desktop computer, tablet, mobile phone, print, in person meetings)? - When is it needed -at a moments notice in real time, or months in advance as plans are made for the season ahead? -How does the information need to be presented? Graphs, spreadsheets, maps, reports?
A design charrette session is proposed for getting feedback from growers on these questions. As we work through these, we hope to develop several mock-ups of an online "farmer dashboard", accessible from a variety of devices. Its hoped that we can draw a wide range of participants, including not only farmers but folks from Extension, Higher Ed, government agencies, NGOs, businesses, tech entrepreneurs and developers. Information gathered will be used for future NEFKE development work , and possible hackathon design challenge.
Please note: This idea was first presented as a potential Ithaca Farm Hack event. See background comments/discussion there.