In The Field magazine Hillsborough Edition

Page 39

Cell phone technology has advanced a lot since its humble beginnings in 1973. Cell phones nowadays can program our TVs, turn the lights off and on in our houses and even set the alarms on our homes. Ethan Welty and Caleb Phillips are hoping our cell phones will be able to tell us were we can find fresh local produce. They are working on a cell phone application called Falling Fruit and they hope to launch the application in the fall of 2014. “I look forward to the spontaneity of a mobile app,” Welty said. “Being able to browse, add, and edit locations on the go will no doubt encourage more people to participate, and that’s been our goal from the beginning with Falling Fruit.” Welty and Phillips started the website, Falling Fruit ( as a map of urban edibles that could be updated by its users. According to the website, “Falling Fruit is a celebration of the overlooked culinary bounty of our city streets. By quantifying this resource on a map, we hope to facilitate intimate connections between people, food, and the natural organisms growing in our neighborhoods. Not just a free lunch. Foraging in the 21st century is an opportunity for urban exploration, to fight the scourge of stained sidewalks, and to reconnect with the botanical origins of food.” Welty and Phillips wanted to take the website a step further and make it available in a mobile phone application. “The app is going to be similar to the website in that it is centered around the map,” Phillips said. “Folks will be able to explore what’s in their immediate vicinity, or on the other side of the world.” Users will be able to add points to the map, just like the website, but now with pictures right where they are and in real time. They will also be able to get updates about what is being added in other locations nearby. “We also have big plans for more advanced features like multi-language support, text-only searching for folks without smart phones, searching by season, etc., which will come with time,” Phillips said. After looking at the website and reading all they have planned for the application, one would think both of the men have a background in technology, right? Not so much, Phillips is a research scientist living in San Francisco and Welty lives in Colorado and is pursuing a PhD in WWW.INTHEFIELDMAGAZINE.COM

studying glaciers in the Arctic. Welty grew up in France and traveled with his parents from farm to farm helping make cheese and baking bread in stone ovens. “Back in Seattle, where I was born, I quickly learned about many of the edible wild plants and frequented the area U-pick farms,” Welty said. When he moved to Colorado, he started to search for local produce to use in his home brewing. “The search for apples led me to mulberries, pears, plums, and ultimately to the City of Boulder Tree inventory, which gave the idea that there must be a tremendous amount of information about trees in cities locked away in municipal offices,” Welty said. “I began traveling by bicycle, with a camera and GPS to start mapping all the fruit trees I could find. By the fall of 2012, I was meeting all my fruit needs in the streets of my city.” Phillips grew up in Portland where he was introduced to wild and urban edibles. “I grew up among roadside ditches filled with Himalayan blackberries, blueberry U-pick farms in the summertime and tart apples on street trees in the fall,” Phillips said. “These days, I balance my ‘day job’ in technology with my role as an urban homesteader. I keep bees, have chickens, and work a four-season front yard garden thanks to the bay area weather.” The men set up a crowd funding website to help pay for the application and to keep the application free for its users. They reached their initial goal of $10,000 and now they are working towards their goal of $15,000 to set up the advanced features for the application. “My hope is that by increasing the mobility of the application we will enable greater and more innovative uses of the map,” Phillips said. “My first hope is the app will increase the portion of the population actively seeking out, mapping, and harvesting free food around the world,” Wetly said. “What I am most excited about is the mobile app is not only more dynamic human/plant interaction but also more spontaneous human/human interaction.” If you would like to learn more about Falling Fruit and the application Wetly and Phillip will be launching this fall, you can visit their website at www.fallingfruit. org. You can also make a donation towards the mobile application through the website as well. INTHEFIELD MAGAZINE

JJuly uly 2014 2014