Cabot Institute blog

Find out more about us at www.bristol.ac.uk/cabot

Friday, 28 September 2012

Wired 4 Food hacking event a big success




Coders, hackers and designers came together at the Wired for Food 24-hour hackathon at the University of Bristol Campus on 21-22 September 2012 to help transform the way we produce and consume food. The event was organised by Forum for the Future, with support from the Cabot Institute and the Ordnance Survey. It is part of the Forum for the Future's Wired for Change series, designed to inspire and engage the digital communities in the global problems we face.

The idea of a hackathon is to build networks, spread the word about interesting challenges and help demonstrate what technology can do through simple prototypes. The prototypes are not answers in themselves but rather signs of what is possible. The winning prototypes from Wired for Food are described below.

Joint winner – Best solution to real problem

Solution: Hatchtag (DEMO) - finding local eggs with Twilio and Cart Challenge: How do small scale growers make their produce visible without having to jump through hoops – what is the digital equivalent of the handwritten sign by the gate?
Description: Egg sellers simply text their address to Hatchtag (020-3322-1868). This registers their location on the database and includes them on the desktop and mobile egg map for potential purchasers. The account is entirely managed via their mobile phone – further information about which products are on offer or whether they are sold out can all be managed via SMS. No smartphone, ADSL, laptop and so on is required, just a simple mobile phone that can send text messages.
Buyers can locate the nearest foods to them through a mobile digital eggmap. By visiting HatchTag on their device and clicking the phone icon, HatchTag automatically draws walking directions on a map to their nearest producer.
Implications: One of the key issues with local food is visibility. Hatchtag have created a very simple tool that does not require you to register on a website. It shows what is possible with geo-location technology combined with a simple SMS front end. The potential to build on this is endless – eggs are displayed at the moment, but the same system could just as easily handle a range of other products, and map them accordingly with their own icons.

Joint winner – Best solution to real problem

Get on my land – farmers for the future (DEMO)

Challenge: 50% of farmers are over 60. We are in danger of losing a wealth of knowledge and we need to inspire a new generation of Farmers.
Description: Farmers for the Future is a resource for budding food producers of all kinds. The aim is to provide the tools and information possible to make each of the 8 steps from being interested in food to becoming a fully-fledged farmer. Each time you take a step up you are encouraged to help those in the steps below you. It inspires people to get involved, and connects people to help by providing peer to peer mentoring between the ‘stages’ of transition. It also aims to benefit farmers by providing access to labour in exchange for passing on knowledge and skills.
Implications: A key issue is that an urban lifestyle is rapidly becoming the standard for humans – since 2008, for the first time in history, more of us have been living in cities than in the country. This shift comes with a corresponding drop in the agricultural skills that we ultimately need to support us. Get on my land helps address that by leading people through simple steps from being interested in food, to becoming a fully-fledged farmer. It connects people, encourages collaboration & skills development, makes complex information easily available, and can take some of the stress out of being a farmer by providing the best information on growing to identifying market opportunities.

Winner – Best use of OS Open data

Finding Cleo/The Sourdough Revolution (DEMO & MAP)

Challenge: How can we use Tom Hunt’s Sourdough project to connect people around making better bread, and how can we track where ‘Cleo’ has gone in order to join the revolution?
Description: Tom Hunt wants to create a Sourdough revolution to counter our bad bread culture. He has a sourdough culture called Cleo which he has been passing on to friends and interested breadistas who come to events. Finding Cleo tracks where the sourdough has gone – how far as Cleo travelled, and what does the ‘family tree’ look like. It will show lines of connection radiating out, and it can help you find Cleo for yourself, along with the people who can help you make sourdough bread.
Implications: Food waste is a permanent issue, and the foods most wasted in the UK are fruit, vegetables and bread. Sourdough is not only a longer-lasting bread, but by connecting people and enthusing them with simple and satisfying food skills (baking bread) it drives a deeper engagement and appreciation for food. Plus we can all vouch for the fact that Cleo bread is delicious in its own right – having eaten it as part of the Wired for Food event meals.

Food EQ (DEMO)

Challenge: There is growing evidence that suggests that what you eat has a major impact on your emotional health and happiness
Description: Food EQ is a platform for tracking what you eat, what you spend and how you feel as a result. The aim is to show patterns highlighting how your food contributes to how you feel, and to help you work out how you might improve your diet. Its calendar function allows you to compare your diet, happiness, and spend over various periods of time (a week, a month, a year) in order to clearly reveal patterns that motivate you to make improvements yourself. It doesn’t preach, it doesn’t bully, it just makes your own inner thoughts and feelings clear.
Implications: Technology can simplify complex information. Our feelings are immediate and transitory, so that looking back it is often very difficult to remember (or experience) day-to-day, or meal-to-meal changes in how we felt. A motivation to change or improve often requires us to first experience the need for change – Food EQ does that by playing back how we felt in regards to our food, and so helps people make better food adjustments that improve their lives.

Mapping Local food (DEMO)

Challenge: Local businesses are at the heart of a community – without them, there is nothing for people to coalesce around, nothing to keep them there, and the community dies. But local businesses are also under threat from big business, often supermarket, competition. Supermarket shopping is popular for a number of reasons, not least convenience – you know what you’re going to get there, and you know you can probably get most of what you need on one half-mile walk through the aisles. But in many cases you could probably get most of what you need on a similar walk around your local businesses – if only you knew where they all were. There wasn’t an easy way of knowing this, until now.
Description: By mashing up data from Sustaination and information from organisations like the Bristol Pound a user-friendly map was created that shows where local food businesses are, and so promotes the consumption of local food by making the buying choice easier. For the first time, I discovered which local food businesses were nearby (some I knew of, many I didn’t), and it also shows me that there are many locations nearby, closer than my major supermarket, that can meet all of my food buying needs in a small area.
Implications: It is vital that we support local food businesses and, often, the local produce that they sell. This will help us to maintain vibrant communities, cut down our food-producing & food-buying miles, and reduce our dependence on imports.

To find out more, or get involved, please get in contact with Hugh Knowles or James Taplin.

This blog has been written by Hugh Knowles from Forum of the Future and can be found here.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Paul F. Hoffman visits the University of Bristol



Paul F Hoffman of Harvard
On the 24th and 25th of September, Professor Paul F Hoffman of Harvard University (USA) kindly offered to visit the University of Bristol for two days. Fresh from fieldwork in Namibia, Paul agreed to give two talks: one upon Cryogenian glaciations and another upon the interaction of climate scientists and geologists.

Snowball Earth - Image from COSMOS
Paul is perhaps most well known for his part in the development of the Snowball Earth theory, suggesting that during the Cryogenian (850 to 635 million years ago) ice covered the entire globe, from the poles to the tropics. This theory is based upon multiple strands of evidence including palaeomagnetics, sedimentology, isotopic analysis and numerical modelling. Paul succinctly summarised these ideas while also discussing some new results published in Science two years ago. The authors of this paper suggest that during the breakup of Rodinia, a proterozoic supercontinent, the eruption of the Franklin Large Igneous Province (LIP) in Canada (716Ma) may have produced a climatic state more susceptible to glaciation. Although there have been many critics of Snowball Earth, it seems Paul remains loyal to the theory.  A wine reception was held afterwards within the School of Geography and allowed for further discussion amongst staff and students.

Paul gave a second talk on 25th September to a selection of PhDs and PDRAs who attend the Climate Journal Club (see below for details). Paul chose to give a more anecdotal, but nonetheless interesting, talk on the co-evolution of climate scientists and geologists during the last 250 years. His talk focused upon the development of a theory: from indifference to hysteria, followed by rejection and then finally acceptance. I asked him where Snowball Earth stands. He replied that it was somewhere in between hysteria and rejection!

Maybe in 50 years time we will know whether Paul was right all along...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
For more details, see the following references:

Hoffman, P.F., et al (1998) A neoproterozoic Snowball Earth. Science, 281, 1342
MacDonald, F.A., et al (2010) Calibrating the Crypogenian. Nature, 327, 1241

This blog was written by Gordon Inglis who runs the Climate Journal Club at the University of Bristol. 

For more details on attending the Climate Journal Club (bimonthly event designed to allow PhD and PDRAs to discuss a selection of climate-themed paper), please email Gordon.Inglis@bristol.ac.uk

Friday, 21 September 2012

Cabot office weekly roundup – 21 September 2012









A meeting of the Cabot Press Gang started off the week.  It’s good to know we will have some interesting new Cabot-related stories coming out from the faculties over the next couple weeks.

I have now posted the videos from the AXA Volcanoes and Society Research Day which was held back in May.  You can view videos on our brand new YouTube channel with videos of presentations by the amazing Kathy Cashman, Katsu Goda, Caroline Williams, Paul Valdes, Susanna Jenkins, Jonathan Rougier, and David Pyle.  I have also added the videos to the main Volcanoes and Society page on the website where you can also download the powerpoint presentations.

The magazine mock-ups came through from Dirty Design.  We have three different designs to choose from which has been extremely contentious!  I have taken the magazine to several different groups of people to gauge opinion.  The press gang, press office, geography admin office, myself and Philippa all liked a bold design.  The hydrology group, other members of geographical sciences and a couple PA’s like a less bold design.  I have therefore decided to make a compromise between the two most popular designs.  I’m really excited to see the finished article.

Today is the last day of Gemma Simpson, an administrator in Geographical Sciences.  I for one am very sorry to see her go as she has supported Cabot in a lot of ways over the last year especially with regards to finding rooms for meetings!  Very many thanks Gemma and good luck!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Cabot office weekly roundup – 13 September 2012


Don't you hate it when you know something but you can't say anything.  All I can say is we have a few AMAZING things up our sleeves which will be revealed in the coming weeks.  I can't even hint at what it is...so stay tuned to our Twitter feed where you will hear our announcements first!
 
This week we have mainly been – busy!  Both Philippa and myself have been working hard to get the magazine ready for publication.  The boring things have been done, like sourcing hi-res images, establishing an editor for the magazine to ensure continuity and deciding on what paper to print it on (don’t worry we went for the most environmentally friendly option!).  We are quite excited to see the magazine, although it won’t be ready until October.  We will have an electronic copy put on Issuu and will share it with you as soon as we get our hands on the finished article.

Finally...did you know you can now read what we’re reading on Delicious.  Some really inspiring and interesting articles/webpages have been added so take a look.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Cabot office weekly roundup – 7 September 2012



Neville Gabie
Poor Neville Gabie, our Artist in Residence, has had a bad week with technology with his laptop and video camera breaking down.  Neville is currently recording and editing interviews of Cabot members for his project Common Room.  If you would like to get involved (Neville has a replacement camera now!), please contact cabot-enquiries@bristol.ac.uk or take a look at Neville’s web page.


Dave Kilbey
We have been working on the first edition of our new annual magazine this week.  We met with Dirty Design who are designing the layout of the magazine.  There is a lot of work to do between now and getting it printed in October so the next few weeks will be pretty hectic in the Cabot Office.

On Tuesday we met with Dave Kilbey who is project manager in IT Services.  He has developed a new mobile app called Nature Tracker to record invasive species in the UK.   Check it out.

Our top Cabot news stories in the last week or so are: