Wednesday, 16 July 2014

FoodCloud goes ‘Botton’s up’

By Deborah Butler & app; DE:FT (@deftfood)

My blog is a further update on the DE:FT research project ( which is investigating whether digital tools such as apps can be used as a way of promoting more sustainable production and consumption through reconnecting consumers and producers, but we need to know more about best to involve diverse users, what information they might need and in what form and how to promote new technologies in the face of information overload and increasing public distrust.  In order to try and achieve this we have created three prototype apps,  FoodCrowd, ShopStamp,and FoodCloud and are in the process of testing FoodCrowd in schools and the other two apps on farms and in the countryside.

Last week I had the opportunity to try the FoodCloud app out on a ‘Food Trail’ courtesy of Sue and Aiden Nelson, the joint brains behind Yorkshire Food Finder ( We have customised Food Cloud so it can be used to provide a background description of some of the different places that trails go to.  Let me explain further.

Sue and Aidan have devised a series of themed culinary trails linking Yorkshire food producers and Yorkshire restaurants.  Participants on the Food Trail get the opportunity to experience at first hand how some of Yorkshire's quality foods are created, bred or grown which can then be sampled on specially themed menus at some of the best eating places in the county.  So, you may ask, where does FoodCloud come in? I must admit, when I was at The Star, Harome eating my twice baked Yorkshire Tome cheese soufflé or sipping a half pint of the Great Yorkshire brewery’s best porter in the New Inn, Pickering, I was half thinking the same. 
One of the objectives of the Food Trail is having the opportunity to learn something about the environment and cultural history of the locations the trail passes through.  At the moment this is delivered courtesy of a very informative commentary given by Aiden as we passed various places and points of interest, and this is where the FoodCloud app could be used to great advantage in adding to the information available. 
Initially FoodCloud was created to work when out on a farm walk for instance.  In order for the app to work successfully, however, the farmer needs to have created data about the farm and the crops being grown, adding information into what we call the ‘back end’ of the app.  The data inputting process is quite straightforward as we wanted a data base (the back end) which was simple and easy to use where the data added is displayed once the app is activated and opened up (the front end).  Although the Food Trail is not a walk, Sue and Aidan were able to input data about some of the key places on the food trail in the same way descriptive data could be added about a crop, which was then visible when the front end of the app was opened up. The following section describes how this worked in practice
‘Botton’s up’ Food Trail
The trail started off at The Star, Harome (, worth a visit just to look at the amazing private dining room with its painted gabled ceiling.  The app gave a brief description of the pub and what was available there which Andrew Pern, the proprietor of The Star could then elaborate on in more detail.  From The Star we drove up onto the North York Moors, passing through managed moorland, black face sheep and the occasional red legged partridge.  It was my first ever visit onto the moors and I was blown away by the vast expanse and the brown, green and purple hues of the landscape, before negotiating a precipitous descent down to Botton and the Camphill Trust Community (  The Camphill Community at Botton is one of nine rural and urban communities run by the Camphill Trust, a long established UK charity supporting adults with learning disabilities, mental health problems and other needs, supporting people in their home life, work, social and cultural activities.  The Botton centre is a rural community made up of five farms, two of which are dairy farms which supply the milk for the Botton creamery which we were lucky enough to be given a tour of by their resident cheese maker, Alistair.  We even got to taste some of the delicious hard and soft cheeses made and aged on site which can also be bought at the creamery shop and which complement some of the dishes prepared at The Star.  Next stop after lunch was a tour of The Great Yorkshire Brewery, a micro brewery located in the garden of the New Inn, Pickering, where their beer can be sampled and is on tap at The Star.  One of the brewery’s largest markets at the moment though is Japan, to where beer is shipped in kegs to be consumed by discerning Japanese beer drinkers.
Last but by no means least the trail ended at The Star where Andrew Pern gave us a guided tour of the pub, the guest rooms and the kitchens explaining how he had built the success of the pub on being able to source and use local Yorkshire produce which together with his culinary expertise had given The Star its award winning status.
Future developments.
Whilst the version of FoodCloud I took on the trail was designed more for farm walks rather than longer linear trails there is great potential to create a bespoke version of app drawing on our fieldwork ‘in the wild’ plus a little computer re-programming. In this way FoodCloud can enhance established connections between producers and consumers and help showcase the cornucopian foodscape of Yorkshire.

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