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Global Event Hatches Backyard Poultry Software

Posted by Dwight Cunningham, Public Affairs Specialist, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in Animals Plants Technology
May 24, 2013
A screen shot from the winning app.
A screen shot from the winning app.

Coming one day to a smartphone or tablet computer near you: An application that helps backyard poultry farmers protect their birds from disease. It might even help make them profitable, if you want.

That’s the plan after a team of Animal Plant Health and Inspection Service (APHIS) officials announced the winner of NASA’s 2013 International Space Apps Challenge. Billed as “the largest hackathon ever” to solving a range of problems in space – and here on Earth – the April event drew more than 9,000 people in 83 cities across 44 countries and all seven continents.

The inaugural APHIS challenge, for its part, drew about 25 new software possibilities in the global demonstration of mass collaboration. Many developers had formed teams locally. Some went virtually across time zones, but all were united in developing 21st Century software to improve old-fashioned poultry farming in one’s backyard.

Their inventive work also came with some imaginative app names – including “Chickenpotpi” (Tallahassee, Fla.), E-Chicken” (Panama) and “Clucker!” (Spain).

The winner – ChicksBook – came from Sofia, Bulgaria. Honorable mentions went to Bok^E, from a project team in Manila, Philippines, and to Clucker!.

Weeks earlier, APHIS officials heeded the call for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to get involved. That’s when Terri Gallagher, the agency’s chief information security officer based in Fort Collins, Colo., contacted alumni from her APHIS leadership development group.

Responding to the call was Dr. Larry Rawson, a veterinary medical officer in Hawaii and fellow alum. He devised the challenge to promote bird biosecurity, with an assist from USDA’s Jennifer Bowman of the chief information officer’s unit in Fort Collins.

“Our vision was to encourage collective action to bring awareness of poultry management delivered to any mobile device around the globe.” Gallagher said. “People need to know where to go and who to contact for pertinent local information on poultry husbandry and health issues. An app could also help tell them where to purchase feed and supplies, as well as local ordinances on keeping poultry in an urban setting.”

The challenge to the development community could be summed up as “Government Challenges, Your Solutions,” she said.

To provide coverage during the weekend event, Gallagher said the three-person team used SMS text messaging and email “to coordinate our support of the developers during the live event to cover all time zones involved.”

Gallagher said ChicksBook was chosen because it met all the tasks outlined in the challenge statement – such as egg production tracking, weather and other environmental variables, egg handling and education data to keep one’s birds healthy.

“They also were the only ones to submit applications for IOS, Android and web platforms,” she added. “We are hoping to encourage them to make it a publicly available app, such as has occurred in previous NASA challenges.”

ChicksBook has already egged on hundreds of fans. The app recently won the challenge’s People’s Choice award, which goes to the solution receiving the highest number of public votes, “so it’s pretty awesome to see there was such public interest in a solution created to address USDA’s challenge statement,” Bowman said.

What's next? National Civic Day of Hacking…

Category/Topic: Animals Plants Technology