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Innovation & Job News

Temple University team launches alpha version of its urban farming site

Justin Shi, a computer science professor at Temple University, wants to create up to 300 farming jobs in two years. If that weren’t ambitious enough, he plans to do so on Philadelphia's 40,000 vacant lots.

According to Shi, many university students have the will and passion for urban farming, but not the resources and information. GrowShare.net, an online resource he created with four Temple students, helps build the local urban farming economy by providing the essential data.
The project was funded by the Knight Foundation and earned runner-up status in Google's international Place API Developer Challenge in Feburary. The site recently launched in alpha and the team plans to incorporate as a nonprofit this summer.
By logging onto Growshare.net, users can locate urban farming projects in Google Maps, view crime statistics and assess resources in the surrounding area. They can also log into an auction platform and bid on gardening supplies, equipment and plants from other local farmers.
"What can public data do to help solve a problem?" asks Shi. "The Growshare project puts private and public data together in one place."
Assets like volunteer labor and knowledge -- which Shi calls "intangible resources" -- are advertised and claimed on the site. He expects to launch a separate currency called "Universal Resource Exchange" to facilitate the trade of volunteer hours.
"Those intangible resources have no place for trade," he says. "Growshare allows those intangible resources to be fairly traded on a platform that includes tangible resources."
GrowShare was developed through Temple's Computer and Information Systems Department (Shi is associate chair), and received support from the City, The National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates and Code for America of Philadelphia.
 "If we quantify the volunteer work and use social networking power and people's goodwill, those vacant lots will be much more effectively utilized," says Shi.
Source: Justin Shi, Temple University
Writer: Dana Henry
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