Our aim is that at least one of these tools will be interesting or useful to you in your smaller scale farming pursuits and if you have any suggestions of something we should put on here, then please do send it our way. You can also read more about our harvest helper app, our super simple way to track whats going on in your fields, our favourite weather station and our solar pumping solutions. Read more about who we are more generally on tech.vidacycle.com
Farmdrop - an online supermarket that connects farmers directly to consumers
Farmdrop is an online supermarket that is made specially for smaller scale growers and producers. Farmdrop provide the customer base, the online shop and deliver the goods - producers just need to upload information about what they have to offer this week, wait for orders to be placed by Farmdrop customers and bring the pre-ordered produce to the Farmdrop depot.
Farmdrop only take a 25-30% cut, so the farmer walks away with 70-75% of their selling price, plus all food is bought at least 2 days in advance so it's not as unpredictable as going to a farmer's market. However, there are some potential issues: for one, this service is currently only available in London. Also Farmdrop collect all the produce from producers in their warehouse and then deliver to customers in London 5 days a week - for small producers this could mean multiple trips to London to deliver small quantities of food that have been pre-purchased which could be expensive and inefficient.
We featured a similar company, Food Assembly, in an earlier post - in many ways their model is better for small producers because there is just one collection day, all food is pre-bought and the grower gets a larger cut. But, we all know that many people are driven by convenience, so the Food Assembly model may never reach the same number of people as Farmdrop's more conventional model.
Fido temperature alarm - build your own temp sensor that texts you when it's too hot or too cold
Have you ever returned to your greenhouse and found your beautiful lettuce overheated and wilted on the ground? Or have you ever wished you could keep track of the temperature of your chicken coop from afar or maybe the temperature of that fridge where you store your freshly made milk? Fido, created by R.J.Steinert, could be an easy answer to these issues. You put Fido, the temperature sensor in your greenhouse, and tell it to text you when the temperature drops below or above the temperatures you specify. So, you could set Fido so it texts you when its 26 degrees C in your greenhouse, just enough time to save your lettuce from an overheated demise.
The parts cost around £50 and no special equipment is required, they literally just snap together. You do have to load some information onto the memory card but thankfully that has all been pre-written for you and Steinert and his team seem to be very keen to help with any trouble along the way. (They do also build them for you on request). Do keep in mind though it does require a power source and a wifi signal, two things that may not be that accessible out in the field. The latest setup instructions and a video showing how it's used are here.
Tractor Tracker - an easy, searchable log of machine maintenance on the farm with reminders
Keeping track of maintenance records can be a real pain, especially if you have multiple machines. But it's so important because properly maintaining and inspecting equipment can result in a 25% decrease in maintenance costs over the machine's lifetime, not to mention costs saved due to less down time.
There are a few apps out there to help with this – if you only have one or two machines then Evernote could be the best solution for you. It's a very simple note-taking app that allows you to have multiple 'notebooks' on your phone. The phone app syncs seamlessly with your computer, so you can view the information online from any device, anytime, and it has great search functionality so you can find information you need quickly. It is free unless you want to access the notes offline, then you need Evernote Plus which costs just £20 per year. Of course Evernote is not specifically for farm machinery and can be used for anything, in fact we use it for keeping notes about all business stuff on the farm.
If you do want something a little more custom built then the Tractor Tracker App seems nice and simple and costs around £7 to buy on the iOS or Android app stores. It has the added advantage of being able to set reminders so it alerts you when things next need looking after. There is also an app called TractorPal but it hasn't been updated in over a year so it doesn't seem to have much of a future.
That's all for this month. Hope those resources were interesting and if you have any feedback please do let us know! Or if you want to know more about tools we use then check out tech.vidacycle.com and find out more about our farm here.
Til next month... Abby and team