Last update: 09 September 2016
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A prototype developed by Gregory Cornelius, Ismail Vawda, Vlad Floroiu, Low Jueming, Mervin Tan, Diana Toh, Michelle Lai, Debbie Ding. Done in a week at FutureEverything Workshop in Singapore, October 2015.

The future of community gardens
and urban farming

Ten years after the passing of Lee Kuan Yew - one of the main proponents of the vision of Singapore becoming a Garden City - what has happened to the state of the greenery in Singapore without its "chief gardener"?

Can community gardening and urban farms help grow the communities around them by engaging people to become 'gardeners' within their own communities? Can gardening be applied as a metaphor to how all Singaporeans must have a duty of care to building our future digital landscape?

In the year 2025, more Singaporeans are turning to urban community gardens and urban farming as they face seemingly intractable constraints on space, but want to be more self-sustainable and involved with the food that they are eating.

Cramped high-rise living conditions result in informal, low-yield, non-commercial urban farms within people’s flats. Some crops perform better than others in these conditions, so the community needs to share information and tips about effective urban farming methods that are specific to Singapore’s climate and the above-mentioned constraints.

Beacons planting seeds of information within the city

It is anticipated that by 2025, beacons and proximity servers will be commonly used to distribute and collect data to and from users within the range of these beacons.

Current beacon casings have tended to be generic technological ‘black boxes’ whose design conceals the functions of their workings.

However, the totemic tomato or Totemato has been designed to be indicative of the data with which users can connect.

The open farming community is connected by a network of low cost, friendly looking, tomato-shaped bluetooth beacons - which transmit open farming information to farmers and would-be farmers. Each totemato is registered on a public register.

Totematos are introduced to childrens in schools as an educational project, and are placed in community green spaces and within urban farms. Children and their families first must have their devices registered via the school, so they can receive the information from the totematos. No personal data is collected.

They push out information to registered users on how to go on a tour of nearby urban farms, as well as information on how Singaporeans can also get directly involved in DIY urban farming (food bartering within their neighbourhoods, and the idea of the circular economy).

The design and schematic for the totematos are released on a creative commons license – they are open source and available to the public online, so that urban farmers can also download, 3d print and build their own open farming beacons.

Involving children and the public in maintaining the health of our networks and digital communities

Because the design of the totemato and the beacon is open source and low cost, it is also vulnerable to being exploited – to propagate spam and malware to unsuspecting users. Fake beacons may be reproduced to replicate official beacons in almost every way, impeding the transmission of meaningful information by potentially introducing a data flood of meaningless noise.

In order to solve this security issue, an open register of good totematos is maintained, using the Unique Identifier (UID) of each beacon. The openfarming web app checks the UID of the beacon against the register, before opening the URL, thus preventing the delivery of malware.

School children play a game in which they are also encouraged to go out into Singapore and to actively search for “rotten tomatoes” (rogue, hacked, malfunctioning, low-battery totematos) and log them on the bad/suspicious register, whilst also encountering the good totematos and discovering more about urban farming.

Bad totematons can be identified and replaced by good totematos, and children are given rewards to encourage them to become active agents in preserving the health of the network.

The network of totematos teach children from an early age that they need to be aware of data privacy, security and be prepared for the possibility of malicious attacks on data networks in the future.

The public can play an active role in spreading information about community gardens, as well as to directly helping to eradicate bad data transmitters from the digital landscape.