Please meet our newest contributor Bob Wall. Bob recently launched iTools: Urban Ag Technology, a weekly column on Grown In The City, that focuses on the intersection of urban agriculture and information technology. I am thrilled that he has agreed to cross-post his work on Food+Tech Connect. In Bob’s own words:
“I hope to provide a unique perspective on the green movement and urban planning, meshing the complex world of technology with the “simpler” world of sustainability, growing food, and just living a cleaner life, for yourself as well as society as a whole. Every Tuesday, I’ll be providing information about green technology: software that is being created to help lower carbon footprints, computer systems used for smarter growing, and many other things related to the union of computers with sustainable future cities.”
Please comment and let us know about your experiences exploring these tools!
Welcome to iTools, the weekly column where I help bridge the gap between computer technology and urban agriculture.
Since my last column (for earlier columns click here), I helped to build and launch the Interactive Food Sovereignty Map and Urban Agriculture Zoning Map, two exciting resources that use computer technology to further the urban ag movement.
Last week, I spoke about Wikinomics, the belief that the best ideas happen when many people collaborate on tasks, and the power of open-source data. The two maps are a great example of how both of these concepts came to the forefront to create a powerful tool that will potentially be of use to many – and it is built using completely open-source software and data!
The process of creating the map was interesting in itself: the collaboration began when John Reinhardt, the editor of Grown In The City, proposed the idea for an interactive map to track the spread of food sovereignty ordinances across the United States. Using an open-source tool from Google called the GeoMap, we were able to quickly and clearly show our data. The map was populated with those ordinances we knew about – in this case, only Sedgwick, Maine.
The second part of the process was the data storage. Again, John and I collaborated. He created a form that readers could use to enter other towns that had (or were considering) ordinances. I then created a spreadsheet using Google Docs, another open-source product, where we can share the data with everyone.
The open-source nature of these maps and reliance on community for their effectiveness is perhaps the hardest part for many to understand, but we think it comes naturally to those interested in urban agriculture.
In short, last week I spoke of idealogical philosophies on data sharing, open-source communities, and collaboration. One week later, by following these three philosophies, we were able to provide an important tool to fuel the movements that we believe in. If you are interested in implementing maps on your own site, I will be preparing a tutorial over the next few weeks. If you simply have an idea for a map that would be useful to you, please leave it in the comments and we will consider building it for the community at Grown in the City.
In the future, as part of my weekly column, I’ll be reviewing software specifically tailored to bridge the gap between technology and urban agriculture (which will, coincidentally, give me an excuse to purchase an iPad 2 and an iPod Touch!) I have a few in mind to review first, but would be more than happy to hear from you if you can point me to your favorite (or interesting) apps.
‘Till next week!
This post originally appeared on Grown In The City.