Project of the Day: Growstuff

Help our friends at Growstuff in their righteous campaign to build a global, open-source database to help foodgrowers around the world. Please read the campaign text posted below and head on over to their crowdfunding page to help in any way you can.

Help build an open database for food growers everywhere

Every day more of us are growing our own food. The number of people growing food in the US doubled from 2008-2013. Other countries are seeing similar growth.

As growers, we need information suited to our local climate.  Most books and websites are surprisingly bad at this, so instead we rely on local networks of growers: neighbours, family, or other people who grow food nearby.

When we started Growstuff, we reviewed dozens of crop databases and gardening websites, looking for food growing advice that:

  • had specific local growing advice
  • for people anywhere in the world
  • was relevant to small-scale home food gardeners (not just big farms)
  • and was available under an open data license

Sadly, most gardening websites claim control of all the data in them, so that you can’t use it except for a single, limited purpose.  You agree to share your data with them, but they don’t share it with you in return. There’s no way to download the whole database, or build something new on top of it.

Terms of service from one of the sites reviewed by Growstuff.

We need a community-based solution, to serve everyone.  It needs to reflect real-world growing practices that small-scale food growers use.  It needs to be global, and cover all regions, climates, and conditions.  It needs to be free for anyone to use for any purpose, and stay free forever.  And it needs to be built collaboratively.

We believe the way to build a worldwide database is to crowdsource food-growing information from individual growers, then make the data available in aggregate form under an open license.

About Growstuff

Growstuff is a platform for gathering and sharing crowdsourced food-growing data, under an open license, which means anyone can use it at no cost and for any purpose: from personal record keeping to building mobile apps or researching growing trends worldwide.

Growstuff’s website already has real growers and real crop data.

We have members all around the world, around 370 crops in our database, and we’re growing every day.

Growstuff’s database of about 370 crops is maintained by volunteers.

As our members record what they’re growing, we learn from them.  Our data grows with each person who records their own activity.  We currently track planting, harvesting, and seeds.

We use this information, along with each grower’s location, to see patterns and learn how and where people grow each kind of crop.

Growstuff’s information on growing lettuce: locations, planting advice, pictures.

As well as displaying this information on our website, we also provide it in several other formats that anyone can use: downloadable CSV files to load into a spreadsheet program, or via a JSON API (Application Programming Interface) to help software developers access our database.

Our code is 100% open source (check it out on Github), and our data is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license that allows anyone to use it, even for commercial purposes.  This ensures that Growstuff will always be free and open.

Along the way, our inclusive community has offered mentoring to help dozens of contributors improve their software development as well as their food-growing skills.  We have a fantastic reputation as a welcoming and supportive communityfor new developers, especially from under-represented groups in the tech and open source fields.

We want everyone to use our data

Growstuff’s data can be used for any purpose at all!  For instance, anyone can build:

  • A harvest calculator to show you how much money you save by growing food
  • Emailed planting tips and reminders based on your location and climate
  • A map showing how food-growing patterns change over time in a region
  • Web apps, mobile apps, apps embedded in specialised hardware gadgets — anything is possible

We want to improve our API (Application Programming Interface) to make it easier to build apps like these. We’re also going to work with the developer community, from mobile app creators to data scientists, to help them use our API.

Here’s what we’ll deliver over the course of this project:

  • Consultation with the API developer community
  • An improved “version 1” API, with advanced query options and more complete data structures
  • A suite of well-documented code examples and demos showing how to use our API and data
  • Educational materials for developers and others interested in using Growstuff’s open data


Our qualifications

Growstuff’s not vaporware.  We are an established open source project, and have built a great platform with mostly volunteer contributors.  Our team have bucketloads of experience as developers, API users and creators, data designers — not to mention food growers!



Alex Bayley, Growstuff’s founder and lead developer, has been developing open source software since the 1990s, and led developer relations for Freebase, a giant open data repository acquired by Google in 2010.  Her vegetable garden and fruit trees provide much of the fresh food for her household.


Frances Hocutt, who will be the main API developer on this project, has recently worked for the Wikimedia foundation developing a gold standard for API client libraries, including work with the Wikidata API.Growstuff has previously received support from:

What people are saying:

“On the internet, it’s generally our personal data that’s cultivated, harvested, and converted into profits. Perhaps freely sharing data might be the thing that sets Growstuff apart. After all, gardeners have always been good about sharing their bounty.” – Grist

“I think food gardening is a natural fit for the kind of community-first approach Growstuff wants to pursue. I jumped at the chance to pick a project coming out of this friendly, highly collaborative world, and I can’t wait to see what it grows into.” –Maciej Ceglowski, Pinboard

Help us meet our goal

We are trying to raise $20,000 to improve Growstuff’s API and help people use Growstuff’s open data.

The funds will go towards:

  • Paying two experienced software developers to work on the project (approx. $16,000)
  • Fulfilling crowdfunding rewards, fees, etc (approx. $4,000)

We have structured this campaign as “flexible funding”; if we raise less than $20,000 we will pay our developers for a proportionally smaller amount of their time.

Stretch goals:

  • up to $40,000: pay our developers for more of their time on the API project
  • $50,000: support an intern under either Rails Girls Summer of Code or Gnome’s Outreach Program for Women to work on Growstuff in 2015 (includes paying the intern and the Growstuff team member who supports them). Growstuff is well known as an supportive and welcoming project, and we’re very keen to help mentor an open source novice in this way.


Growstuff is not vaporware. We’re an established project, with experienced developers. However, as with any crowdfunding campaign, there’s always a risk that something will occur to prevent us delivering our project.  We foresee that the most likely risks are as follows.

Insufficient funds to complete a useful amount of work

We have structured our campaign with “flexible funding” because we believe that even if we do not meet our overall goal, it is still worthwhile for us to do a smaller amount of work on improving our API, building demos, etc.  However, there’s a chance that if we do not meet our goal, a scaled-down effort may mean that our API is not as useful to third-party developers.

Illness, injury or other unavoidable personal crisis

If Frances or Alex are unable to deliver the planned API work for these kinds of reasons, we’ll make every effort to find other developers to do the work, or to re-scope the project and deliver meaningful benefits with the resources available.

Insufficient third-party developer interest

We’re planning to work closely with developers to establish their needs and preferences, and to develop API features that meet their requirements.  A lack of engagement from third-party developers would make it harder for us to improve our API.

Technical risks

Growstuff’s source code and infrastructure are well managed.  We do not foresee any technical risks such as downtime, lost data, etc, however such things are always possible and should be noted as a slight risk.

Other ways to help

Become a Growstuff member – it’s free!

Sign up for Growstuff, then use it to track what you’re growing and harvesting.  Your data will help growers near you and worldwide.

Get involved in the Growstuff project

We welcome contributors from all backgrounds and levels of technical expertise, including food-growers and gardeners interested in having input into the project.

Some links to get you started:

  • Growstuff Talk (discussion forums for Growstuff project contributors)
  • Github (source code)
  • Wiki (project documentation)

Spread the word

Help us get the word out about this campaign.  Tell your friends, family, or local gardening club.  Word of mouth can really make a difference!


Visit Growstuff’s crowdfund campaign page to help them reach their goal!

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.