Tuesday, April 29, 2014

3 Melbourne-based Open Source, Fair Food Projects - @300acres, @OpenFoodNet, @growstufforg

It might just be me but it seems there is something exciting happening around food systems and open source software development here in Melbourne.

The groundswell of local food activity in Melbourne (and elsewhere) isn't really news (although it's still exciting). However it's worth looking more closely at the confluence of fair food and open source software. The open source philosophy (a community sharing knowledge and skills, collaborating to build a viable alternative to established proprietors for sound, socially good reasons) meshes very well with the fair food movement which can sometimes use an open source approach to improving our food systems.

Given their core aim of facilitating fairer food systems, it makes a lot of sense that these projects would also take an open source approach to developing the tools that underpin their projects.

Here are 3 notable efforts that are working to do this, described using their own words*. Do you know of any more?

(*because they've already put a lot of effort into explaining what they're doing and why)

The Open Food Foundation was established "to accumulate and protect a commons (“the open food web”) of open source knowledge, code, applications and platforms to support the proliferation of fair and sustainable food systems.

"The Open Food Network is a community of people working together to build...a free, open source, scalable e-commerce marketplace and logistics platform that enables communities and producers to connect, trade and co-ordinate movement of food. It’s like a network of online farmers markets that enables everyone to participate. Through peer-to-peer product traceability and transparency, it helps put control over food into the hands of farmers, eaters and local enterprises."

Their other project, Open Food Hub, is software to "run a stand-alone food hub (of any scale). It enables you to manage online ordering, multiple suppliers and products, and a range of distribution points. It is designed to facilitate the viability of ethical and sustainable food enterprises."

Watch the Open Food Foundation. They're building something sound, substantial and ambitious.

3000 Acres want our help to change Melbourne's food landscape by "building a platform to connect people to land, resources and each other so that more people can grow more food in more places. [They] want to build holistic and sustainable cities for generations to come by changing how we use vacant land, establishing strong relationships between community, business, and government."

Their website "provides a map of actual and potential places to grow food. A team including representatives from local government review potential sites and help make suitable land easier to find. [They] provide ways for people to get in touch and organise around their plot, as well as resources to help get started and make connections with land owners, local councils, and a whole range of resources."

One way people can support their project is by helping to develop their open source platform.

It's early but there's much interest and excitement around what 3000 Acres might deliver. The idea has caught people's imagination.

Growstuff "helps people learn about how to grow food and track and share the results of their work, whether in their backyards or community gardens, through a web and mobile based app and community.

"Growstuff values openness, transparency, and community involvement [and] operate as an open source project, with over 100 volunteers either participating in or following every stage of our development. The data gathered by Growstuff is also released under an open license, and anyone can use it...

"[They're] trying to build a diverse community of food growers, from all backgrounds and skill levels, and from all parts of the world. So far our membership encompasses at least 5 continents, and includes everyone from those aspiring to plant their first windowsill herbs, to experienced permaculturists and self-sufficient homesteaders."

The Grow Stuff community is significant (nearly 900 members), their open source database of plants is growing bigger and their platform is improving (although not much since January). Hopefully it has reached a critical mass of users and developers that will see it go the distance.

Give these projects your support and tell others about them.

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