In the latest edition of small-scale farm tech solutions we look at one way to keep customers coming back for more, an alternative model for buying food and the best way to measure/plot field areas.
Farm Fan – for a great turnout when you head to the Farmer’s Market
If you regularly sell your produce at the Farmer’s Market then Farm Fan might be worth investing in. What’s interesting about their service is that it sends a text message to each of your ‘Farm fans’ a few hours before the farmers market. You can also use it as a loyalty system and if you have too much spinach one week then you can do a special offer for Farm fans in advance, to give them all the more reason to turn up. Of course you can do all of this by email or on social media as well…but of course emails are easily ignored and social media messages are passive (i.e not usually directly sent to the customer, just posted on your account), so for some people the text message service Farm Fan offers could be a much better option.
It costs $25/month when using it for up to 100 farm fans, and they charge a $10/month retainer fee for non-sale months so you don’t lose your list of ‘fans’….
Wholeshare – feel like you shop individually but get group benefits
Wholeshare allows anyone to get together a group of people, each person in the group orders individually food they want. When the minimum order is reached for that item, Wholeshare delivers the order from the wholesaler to your home/church/school and each person pays individually. The Wholeshare website makes it easy to shop as part of a group, with the group leader being compensated for their organising role. Shopping as a group gives people more purchasing power and means they can meet the order minimums for wholesalers. In certain areas local produce, meats etc are also part of the offering.
The potential advantage of this system for growers is very similar to that of Food Assembly as they don’t have to deal with many individual deliveries and everything is pre-bought. It differs from Food Assembly because the community groups can be much smaller and self-formed and the food is delivered – however of course it misses out on the chance of meeting the people eating your food which is half the fun for some of us! Sadly Wholeshare is currently only based in the U.S but we wanted to include this because it’s an interesting model for people to setup in other countries. Of course it’s not too disimilar from food co-ops but the use of technology to make it a very similar experience to shopping online for yourself makes a big difference, as it means more people are likely to use this.
Agriplot/Planimeter – area calculator by foot or from above
There is often the need to know exact areas of the land you are working with. There are many resources for this out there, but here are two that seem to be super simple and effective.
Agriplot is a tool for calculating the area of your field, you walk around (phone in hand) and it will calculate the area you enclosed as well as the distance between each point. You can even take pictures associated with any landmarks or interest points you flag up en route for a visual representation. This tool is great for when you are out in the field and want to calculate the area of a smaller part of a field or something that couldn’t easily be identified on satellite images from google maps. It costs £0.79 – iPhone only at the moment.
If the area you want to calculate is easily visible from satellite imagery then this Acme Planimeter is a super simple online google maps based area calculator, totally free and great!
That’s all for this month. Hope those resources were interesting and if you have any feedback please do let us know! Or if you want to know more about tools we create and use then check out tech.vidacycle.com and find out more about our farm here. You can read about how we got started in our first post.