In June and July this summer, GODAN supported a series of on-farm hackathons in the Netherlands. Three dedicated teams consisting of coders, hackers and designers worked for 32 hours on specific challenges of individual farmers. In a series of blog posts we present the challenges and results of the four FarmHacks. First up: a FarmHack dedicated to datavisualisation (the visual representation of data), and data automation (the process of automatically recording, communicating, and processing data). The aim was to help a large potato farmer to get the most out of all his precision agriculture data.
FarmHack.NL: on-farm hackathons in the Netherlands
FarmHack.NL is a Dutch partnership that is building a rich and divers ecosystem around farmers consisting of tech savvy coders, creative designers and committed business developers. We want to take an open, agile and farmer-centric approach to problem solving and innovation in agriculture. We also aim to make food and agriculture attractive for a wide range of creative tech minded entrepreneurs and help farmers gain more actionable insights from their data by sharing it with others.
GODAN supports the proactive sharing of open data to make information about agriculture and nutrition available, accessible and usable. GODAN also shares FarmHack.NL’s mission to encourage collaboration and cooperation between stakeholders for data and tech-driven innovation in agriculture. As one of the strategic partner of the initiative, they provided some funds to document the proceedings of the hackathons.
We organised the on-farm hackathons as competitions where three dedicated and interdisciplinary teams were invited to tackle challenges of individual farmers and to come up with data and tech driven solutions. The participants were given a short amount of time to design, combine and implement data-driven hard- and software solutions. Hackathons make for a highly energetic and effective pressure cooker setting, as teams go beyond idea generation and actually build working prototypes. The energy and commitment of the smart and creative participants to the future of food production was amazing. It was also useful to have prototypes that can bring tangible and smart solutions to our fingertips.
The first FarmHack took place at the farm of Jacob van den Borne, a potato farmer in the south who produces large amounts of high quality precision agricultural data. He made 40GB of hyper accurate (geo) data available for the FarmHack. The main challenge was twofold. Firstly, Jacob was looking for ways to visualize his data, in order to make data more actionable on-farm and in the field, because most of his precision agriculture data was stored and locked in static databases on desktop computers. Secondly, data generation and the consequent data handling costs him and his fellow farmers a lot of time and effort. So there was an urgent need for data automation.
The winning team worked on software to program an on-machine camera to take automated pictures of points of interest in the field. The application allows a farmer to take pictures of problem areas in the field, by simply pushing a button in his tractor while driving through the field. From that moment on, every time the farmers passes that problem area, a picture is taken and automatically transported and stored. The farmer ends up with a visual documentation for personal records that can also be shared with third parties (advisors, colleagues) as well. The second team worked on statistical analysis of farm data and an application with an easy interface to visualise the results and allow Jacob to have access to the results while working in the field. The third team explored the possibilities of virtual reality, to allow Jacob share data in a very intuitive and attractive manner with other stakeholders such as neighbours, local government and NGO’s. This sharing of data would allow for interactive and data driven collaboration. The team managed to demonstrate the possibilities of presenting farm data in Unity 3D. They used the HTC Vive SDK to walk on Jacobs' field without physically being on the field.
Farmer Jacob: “I hope to continue working on all three solutions that have been programmed today. The camera is a great idea, and the visualization is very practical. The virtual reality solution, that will allow me to involve society at large is definitely going to make a difference, I’m convinced of that”
We have developed Farm Hack as an open source project, urging teams to make everything open, online and distributed from the “get go” through GitHub. We also have a Gitter channel which others (you!) can use to follow our progress. Our ambition is to develop this into a permanent force of "open change for good" in the Dutch Agri world. FarmHack.NL also supports FarmHack.org, a worldwide community of farmers that build and modify their own tools. They share their hacks online and at meet ups because ‘we become better farmers when we work together’
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