New software for sustainable small farm management
Farmonic (farmonic.com) was developed by Kareem Shaya, who is convinced that farms can operate more efficiently, and not with a new tractor or improved seed, but through streamlined operations. Farmonic is a project aimed at making crop and harvest planning easier for small, sustainably-managed farms. While the notion of using software or on-line programs to help farmers with their field schedules is not new, Farmonic intends to simplify and even make enjoyable the creation of crop planning and to-do lists. In fact, says the site’s tour page, “if you say to people, ‘You know what I love about farming? Making spreadsheets’, then you’ll hate Farmonic.”
But what sets Shaya’s work apart more is its attention to sustainably-minded growers. When asked why he chose this segment of the agricultural population, he noted that big conventional farms already have plenty of software to help them lay out their fields and keep track of spraying and harvesting schedules. In speaking with farmer friends who were trying to manage small, organic farming businesses, he found that “they were doing it on the back of a napkin”.
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Shaya is a freelance web developer by trade, but he also applies these skills to personal projects. As he learned more about the complexities of successions and crop rotation, he decided to take the plunge, working for friends at First Root Farm in Concord, MA. There, he got an idea for the daily tasks that growers undertake and learned along with them even as they got their feet on the ground in their first year of operation.
From this experience, he not only gained the nuts-and-bolts knowledge he would need to create Farmonic, but also the guiding principle that his software “had to be easier than what [growers] are using now”. His final creation, after a half-year of development and a soft-launch in December 2010, is a simple product that trusts the farmer to know their crop and provides a template into which they can place their knowledge without flipping through dozens of sheets and Excel files. From this arise complete field schedules, seed orders, and automatic to-do lists. And in the end, if something goes wrong, the site promises that “we’re hunched over our keyboards just waiting to deliver mind-meltingly helpful service.”
Shaya says that response from users thus far has been very positive and, while he does not want to give away too much information, said that sign-ups have been steady and promising. He also says that he “maybe underestimated the possibilities” of this kind of software and is currently exploring different ways of expanding Farmonic.