Crowdfarming - anyone online can adopt a tree or beehive on the farm
A family farm in Valencia have created a crowdfarming model for their bees and oranges. This means that people from across Europe can 'plant' an orange tree on the Valencia farm at 80€ (or adopt a beehive) for the year, follow it’s progress throughout the year and then receive the oranges from the tree when they are ripe - you do still have to pay harvesting and shipping costs (about 30€).
This idea has similar benefits to a CSA model as the risk is shared between the farmer and tree-owner, although obviously the community aspect isn’t quite the same. It also allows people far away to be involved in the growing process and understand better what it takes to make delicious oranges from Spain. The technology to make this happen could be very simple, you could probably make it work with an online shop and maybe an instagram account for each tree, or some way of easily sharing progress of the tree someone has 'planted'.
Beekeeping the future - easy-to-build hives & honey that just flows
The team at open source beehives have two templates for building your own beehives that don’t require any drills, saws etc to construct and allow you to build sturdy natural beehives that allow bees to build ‘free’ comb. This is in line with natural beekeeping ideas and is thought to be better and easier for the bees. You can purchase the parts pre-cut directly from them here for $295, or download the template and have it cut locally. A nice addition to the project is that the beehive comes with some simple sensors that monitor honeybee-health indicating factors inside a beehive, and then share the collected data online using the Smart Citizen platform. They aim to make it easy for anyone to gather data on honeybee collapse disorder and then share that data publicly so we can better understand the causes and effects of the bee's plight and hopefully how we can prevent it.
Another very interesting beehive project is that of HoneyFlow. With this beehive, to harvest the honey you just need to turn on a tap and the honey drains seamlessly out of the hive, hardly disturbing the bees at all. Many beekeepers attest to the brilliance of this innovation, and if you are using conventional hives, or just want one hive in your backyard then this does seem a good solution. On our farm we have opted to verge towards natural beekeeping methods which is not possible with HoneyFlow. However, we definitely think the HoneyFlow team are out to help the bees, you can read a UK Natural beekeeper's perspective on the HoneyFlow hives here.
Agricology - practical, sustainable farming resource
A new online resource that aims to be a one-stop shop for practical information about sustainable farming. Everything on the site clearly communicates the latest science and on-farm innovations/experiments in a practical way. We like that it is a collaborative venture between leading UK organisations working together to support farming based on agro-ecological principles, this makes it seem like it's truly there to support farmers. They are clear they don’t want to tell farmers what to do, but provide a reliable and good information source.
They have some good low-tech soil structure tips, advice on livestock husbandry and our favourite bit is the farmer profiles, giving an insight into how different farmers in the UK are creating successful sustainable farm businesses. This profile of Stephen Briggs, an agroforestry and organic grain pioneer in the UK, is a great place to start. We visited his farm earlier this month and were very impressed with what he has created. Agricology is still in its early days, so we look forward to many more resources being added over time.