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Growstuff, a website for backyard vegetable gardeners created by Australian software developer Alex Bayley, has launched a campaign to provide open data for food growers worldwide.
With interest in home-grown food on the rise — a recent study found 52% of Australian households grow some of their own food and 13% more are planning to start, with similar growth reported in other countries — Growstuff looks set to become an important resource.
The open source website, founded by Bayley in 2012 and developed with a team of volunteer contributors, gathers information from vegetable gardeners worldwide and uses it to provide local planting advice. It was inspired by a conversation with a friend from Mexico who was looking for a free database of crop-planting times anywhere in the world. Realising that no such database existed, Bayley decided to crowdsource the information.
"Local growers know when to plant things and what grows best in the local environment," she points out. Coming from a dry climate in the southern hemisphere, she's often frustrated by websites that target gardeners half a world away. "What works in the US or Europe won't work here, and vice versa. The trick is to find out what people nearby are growing. If they're planting tomatoes this month, you want to do that too."
Growstuff's data is available for free under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (CC-BY-SA) license, and can be used by software developers to build apps and data mashups, or to perform research about food-growing practices and trends. A crowdfunding campaign, launched this week, is hoping to raise $20,000 (AUD) to improve the site's Application Programming Interface (API) and work closely with third-party app developers.
"A lot of food-growing information is locked up under restrictive licenses," Bayley says, "We want to see more innovation around food data, and that means sharing information freely." Bayley previously worked on Freebase (http://freebase.com), an opn database acquired by Google in 2010.