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Searching the Internet for information on farming, agriculture and business development 15 October 2

The Virtual Farmers’ Lab on “Searching the Internet for information on farming, agriculture and business development” featured Juanita van der Walt, Lecturer in Transport and Supply chain Management at the UJ and co-convenor of iZindaba Zokudla.

In this discussion we discussed the use of the internet to search for information about agriculture and farming. We situated the discussion in contemporary discussions of the internet, and in this regard, we also wanted to situate the discussion within the difficulties that are emerging in using the internet.

The internet emerged as an open resource for everyone, but currently we see our activity mediated by “platforms” that sit between us and all other users of the internet. These platforms like Facebook mediate our interaction based on their algorithm which amplifies emotional and sensational information and in a sense neglects or under-processes information that is factual, unsensational and technical. The recent whistleblowers, like Francis Haugen, have emphasized that these algorithms in fact make qualitative choices on what is being shared and how it is shared. The outcome of this is that we need to re-interpret social media information as it may be mediated by interests of the platform, and we may be susceptible to receiving only a certain kind of information on the internet.

iZindaba Zokudla aims to organize farmers into groups and enable these groups to collaborate and change their own activities and also the structures around them so they can trade better, produce more, and create more durable networks that can help in further development of their enterprises and products.

From academic studies of such groups the idea of a “Community of Practice” emerged. We have seen that people who cooperate in groups develop techniques amongst themselves to build the group, share learning, create an identity and meaning, and in this dynamic it is possible for people to develop themselves without being unduly influenced by the interests and agenda’s of larger and powerful players in the economy or internet. We also believe that such a Community of Practice can enable groups to consolidate their interests and achieve savings and benefits from acting as a larger group. We also believe that such groups can innovate and develop patterns wherein they can build their enterprises, like seed libraries, sharing knowledge and technology, designing and developing technology, and also developing new ways of marketing and selling food, like a food for waste exchange scheme. This is important for urban farmers as urban agriculture can create very many new patterns in the economy, as production and consumption takes place in almost the same space, and here great opportunities lie.

We also believe that sustainability will benefit us all and in particular urban farmers and this benefit that derives from protecting the environment has economic advantages. This is the sweet spot we want to create where people benefit from the environment as they act in it, but this needs to be operationalized in a complex way around a food garden. How can we do so with the information and technologies on the internet?

In this regard we have done the following on our website:

We have placed links to free courses and please take a look.

We also show in this video how to search, follow, and like something.

We also show and recommend that you develop a group with like-minded people in the sector or activity you are busy with. You should also join groups that reflect what you are doing.

We also show how important it is to develop a profile and reputation on the internet as this enables people to know who you are and what you stand for.

The reputation and profile that you then create will attract others who have the same interests. In this way, you can avoid being “farmed” by others. We see this often, specifically in the poultry industry, where one-stop complete solutions are offered to farmers. We have found that these systems often do not perform and extract resources from farmers. Building your own solution with advice from others may be a better idea. For instance, we have seen that standardized feeding troughs allow chickens to foul the feed, with consequent higher costs and chicken mortality. A good farmer will adapt the technology and elevate the trough, so chickens do not climb into it. Those who sell these systems do not tell you this as they also sell you the feed… Often the farmer is being farmed…and this is how we need to understand engagement on the internet.

We also discussed how you can avoid being scammed on the internet and as a group. We spoke of administrator actions we can use to govern a group, and we also talked about how profiles and reputations can be used to avoid scammer and misinformation. This can only be used of the group is active and collaborative.

We also discussed and showed how you can use the Facebook analytics to see how people react to your postings. This is how you can develop a cohesive group that would benefit the group as you can understand the impact of the postings, likes and activities on the internet.

We even show how you can find free WiFi to download information.

Please see the video below and please do attend our next Virtual Lab scheduled for the 29th of October. We will be discussing “How to integrate community Food Gardens with larger systems” and this will be made available on the 29th of October 2021.




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