1 December 2011

Augmented Reality and Open Source Farming

Hi All,
I've been working on a few of the concepts in book 2 which will largely be about agriculture. Some of the interesting topics (well, I think so) I've been thinking about include:

  • Open source farming (open source in terms of design of farming technologies and fertility)
  • Augmented reality farming and anomalies
  • Local food production and some practical projects

Augmented Reality Farming
In terms of Augmented reality farming let me explain. I vividly remember my year 8 agriculture teacher (yes, I went to a school that was also a farm) explaining that the holy grail of agriculture was to identify and explain positive anomalies in production and husbandry. Sounds a bit dull?

What he meant was that if you are walking through a paddock and notice that a certain area of crops grow better than the others then you should attempt to find out why and then use that knowledge. One simple example is a greener stretch of grasses in a dip of land (i.e. the dip gets more access to water than the areas around the dip) so the grass truly is greener on the other side so to speak. Of course we can get much more sophisticated than that.

I used the creative process that I outlined in book 1 to find new ideas - one of the ones that jumped out was a fusion of agriculture and emerging technology - maybe you can think of a way to use this better than me but I'll outline the basics.

Augmented reality tools would give a farmer or land husband the ability to overlay sensor data, previous crop imagery or some other information over his or her visual reality in an attempt to support finding positive anomalies (and potential ways to improve production or some other positive characteristics of husbandry).

Think of a set of glasses that could superimpose another image or computer generated image on top of reality. Perhaps refer to my earlier post on Augmented reality to get an overview.

From www.seeinginvideo.com. Example just shows a really basic example of what AR could do.
In terms of crop rotation, pest management, planning land development or any other number of actions, this could be a valuable tool that doesn't divorce the farmer from the land itself (i.e., it isn't "book farming", it is innately practical).

Some other examples:
Viewing the trends of an orchard (which ways are the trees growing, which way is best? why are they doing this? View this years tress with overlays of previous year, 2 years ago, 3 years ago etc, forecast next year?)

Viewing augmented reality rainfall patterns historically to support sensible planting or land development to manage run-off or other detrimental events. i.e., the see a model of where water will flow and how much can be accessed by each part of land.

Viewing augmented reality nutrient content (from sensors or static test equipment) over a plot of land to decide upon the best companion planting, best crops to plant or the needs of the land in terms of husbandry based on some future planting plan.

You can probably think of many more.

Open Source Farming
I'm still working with this idea but just imagine that a 4 hectare (40,000 square metre) farm could be found within a city. I know urban farming concepts are not new and I've been keenly reading up on some of the developments in cities around the world. Do a search for:

  • Urban farming, or
  • Window farming

Then you might get an idea of what I mean.

From just thinking.us. An example of an urban farm by design of new construction/development. I think we could have urban farming without changing a thing but of course, new development could contribute as well.

My concept relates to 4 facets of agriculture (I made that up, but these seem reasonable enough "facets"):

  • The land,
  • The labour,
  • The fertility, and
  • The market.
All of these things exist in a city and, in some cases, exist in more abundance or availability than they do in rural areas. An open source farm doesn't imply a free for all but it might imply that we could find some interesting models of production, consumption and value distribution by imagining a distributed farm within a city. In any case - if the economics are workable, perhaps you could even find a business idea in here somewhere.

I'll keep working on it - look for the result in book 2 (sometime next year?)

Thanks for reading.

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