How ‘techies’ are helping flood-hit farmers

Developers, programmers and data specialists from big technology companies including Microsoft, Google and Facebook recently gathered together to see how government data could be used to help those affected by the floods.

Following an emergency meeting by the Cabinet Office, the Government opened up its flood level data and invited teams of developers to make pitches for how the data could be used to devise a better flood response system.

The flooding data held by the Environment Agency was previously only available for a hefty license fee but has now been released for public use for a trial period of three months. Teams spent a day using the data to develop new digital products and services that could assist those affected in flood-hit areas.

Over 20 ideas were presented to a panel of judges from the Cabinet Office.

Some of the shortlisted ideas included:

  • a system for centralising requests for help, while recording data for real-time response planning.
  • A system of SMS alerts which lets people set up alerts for specific issues like power loss, flooded roads or burst river banks and then be notified by text message.
  • An automated mechanism of asking people from flood-hot areas to post photos and other descriptive information

Resource mapping for farmers

One of the ideas pitched was for an online resource mapping system for the farming community. The system is part of FoodTrade, an online matching service for farmers and small retailers.

“The idea was to help small farms and businesses enjoy some of the advantages of big agri-businesses and exist whilst in competition with big supermarkets,” says FoodTrade founder Ed Dowding.

Mr Dowding describes Food Trade as “like Google, but for carrots and things”.

Mr Dowding demonstrated how FoodTrade could be used to support the long term recovery of farm businesses affected by the flooding.

As well as linking wholesale buyers and suppliers of farm produce the site could also be used to map the needs and resources of farmers and volunteers, showing quickly and easily who has what, where and when.

For more on this: How you can help flood-hit farmers

The FoodTrade site allows farmers and volunteers to register with their service through a tweet.

All farmers need to do is include @foodtradeHQ in the tweet and state whether they are volunteering an #offer of assistance or #want some assistance. Or they can just register direct through the FoodTrade site.

FoodTrade will then map all #offers and #wants and allow people providing them to contact each other directly.
You can see the full list of ideas developed during the hack day here

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