You likely have heard of Kiva.org, a micro-lending site that lends to the entrepreneurial projects of individuals in developing countries through crowdsourced financing.
A year-old project of Kiva is Kiva Zip, which flips the tables. Through Kiva Zip, individuals in the United States (and Kenya) can apply for an interest-free loan up to $5,000 for their project. This tool could be great for farmer-entrepreneurs with a well-developed innovation idea that want to market their innovation to others, and that need startup capital to bring this project online.
One Farm Hacker has already used Kiva Zip to do this – Louis Thiery, co-developer of the FIDO greenhouse monitor, applied for and received a $5000 loan through the service to produce 100 initial units of the Fido monitor. This loan allowed him to build the original FIDO unit, and also develop a second improved iteration, now called the Sentinel Bee, through his new business Apitronics.
To receive a Kiva zip loan, you must apply through a Kiva Zip Trustee, whom you can locate on the site. You also need to prove your business plan is viable, and be vouched for.
If you are applying for a loan, let us know at info [at] farm hack [dot] net, and we can vouch for your project! Once you are approved, your project is then posted to the site, where users (hopefully) crowd fund your project. The great thing about the Farm Hack community is that we can use our network to get out the word about projects, and ensure they get fully funded. Use that farm hack community capital!
Find more info about Kiva Zip on their website.
Within the past year smartphone app developers have been creating and experimenting with both iPhone and Android platforms for farm-use applications.
Seed to Harvest is an iPhone app geared toward the organic farmer, designed as an intensive record-keeping tool. Farmers can use it to keep track of transplant and harvest dates, soil amendments, and sales records by cultivar and location. Information is stored on the device itself in the case of limited internet access in the field.
The USDA has also initiated a suite of agricultural apps this year, including the Save Our Citrus app, designed to identify and share relevant information to deter the spread of citrus diseases.
Researchers at Penn State University have created an app for dairy farmers to assist in financial planning and calculate feed costs and other expenses. Called DairyCents, the app may be a good tool in the future for sourcing better priced feed, and referencing calculations from other farmers around the country.
The Government of South Australia’s AgExcellence Alliance has compiled a list of farm-pertinent apps, which includes many that provide US-based information. Currently, many apps are designed exclusively for Apple platforms, though this will likely expand to include more Android-OS based software as such technology gains an audience.
As Farm Hackers Louis, RJ and Ben work on the Wireless Greenhouse Monitor project, which is powered by an open-source Arduino circuit board, we have come across yet another great use for the Arduino on the farm:
Check out this Instructable for an programmable, self-locking chicken coop door, whose Arduino microcontroller tells the unit under what conditions to open and close the coop. It’s just one of many possibilities for open source electronics project on the farm.