Crowdsourcing Down on the Farm
Members of the public, some with no previous farming experience help to manage a large UK farm via a crowdsourcing project.
The National Trust, United Kingdom
Crowdsourcing is becoming part of the innovation fabric of more and more businesses and brands. It is not only being used to create new products and services, but also to determine research focus and direction, to reinforce brand values, to help with marketing, to create new video content, and much much more.
In an ingenious twist, the National Trust, an organization that preserves cultural and environmental treasures in the UK is using crowdsourcing to handover the running of one of its farms to people all over the world.
The MyFarm project is an ambitious initiative involving up to 10, 000 participants who are joining forces on the web to make decisions about every aspect of Home Farm, part of the Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire. The farm produces wheat, eggs, meat and oil seed rape and is home to rare breeds of poultry, horses, goats, sheep and cattle.
This online crowdsourcing experiment is not a game or sim world mock up; the crowd is making real life decisions about the crops, machinery, breeds of animals and new facilities to be invested in.
"I will put in here whatever the online farmers want to grow," said Richard Morris, Wimpole's manager, in an interview with the UK’s Guardian newspaper. “Farming is always a compromise – there is never a right or a wrong answer”.
Each member of the community (known as Farmers) has to pay a one-off fee of £30 (approx. USD $50) and for that they are given access to a constant stream of information via webcams, radio, podcasts and videos to keep them up to date with events. And they are reminded that the farm has to profitable and adhere to high standards of sustainability and welfare.
At the beginning of every month, the community is presented with a question and for the following three weeks it is discussed and debated. Farmers can ask the farm manager and his team any questions they like and then there is a vote to decide what to do. Several options are presented and Farmers have a week to make their choice.
For example, one vote was on what to grow in the 21-hectare Pond Field. Several options were listed and then discussed and the crowd decided to opt for wheat. A subsequent vote was on which type of wheat to sow and two options were presented. Other votes that could be held in the future include whether to reinstate an old pond to encourage wildlife and one based around selecting a new bull for a rare breed herd.
One of the inspirations for the MyFarm project came from Farmville, the virtual farming game that has more than 45 million players and is one of Facebook’s most popular games. Another was the desire to get people more connected with the food they eat.
As well as using the web, the MyFarm project is hoping that a smartphone app can be developed to give those who physically work on the farm even more access to the crowd.
The MyFarm website is at: http://www.my-farm.org.uk
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