Virtual farming disrupts regular distribution channels

The original MyFarm movement started in the UK as a crowd sourced approach to farm management. For 30 quid, potential farmers could become part of the 10,00 strong crowd deciding the fate of the farm. Create your profile, vote on farm decisions, and check out the web cams to see how your farm is doing. A nice way for the National Trust to use social media to reconnect hordes of city folk with life in the country.

Now the Polytechnic Institute of Beja have taken crowd sourced farming a step further with their version of MyFarm (hint, put the URL into google and hit Translate if you don’t read portuguese). Instead of just signing up and voting, Beja farmers get a Farmville style interface to their own personal plot. For 60 Euro you get 49 sq m and 600 points to do with as you will. Buy seeds and choose where to plant them with real world avatars working the land for you. So how is this radically different from the UK version?

  • First up you get a FarmVille style interface! Cool. Farm play becomes game play
  • Next you get to exchange your cash for points, and buy in-game resources like seeds
  • You also get to pay for the upkeep of your plot on a monthly subscription, stop paying and it goes up for sale again
  • Most importantly though, it isn’t crowd sourced anymore. Gone are the big crowd votes, in are the decisions of one. You.

Un-ownership 

Most times when you buy a product you actually get hold of it, either through delivery or by picking it up. With this model your goods are deployed virtually. Sure you get to eat some of the vegetables at the end but that’s more of an added extra, the core purchase is in buying materials and choosing how they get used. This cuts down on shipping costs for sure, it also removes the need for customers to satisfy their sense of ownership through any kind of physical exchange. Imagine buying the new iPad and being told it’s still in the shop but its yours to look at through the web cam any time you like? We’re not talking about Send a Cow here (the rather fantastic charity that lets you buy your granny a cow for christmas, and give it to someone in Africa). We are talking about buying something for yourself, and then not actually receiving it.

Imagine applying this to the retail solar panel market. Why have the panels installed on your house when you could just as well rent a space on an industrial sized solar farm and sell your power back to the grid? Win win. You get the benefit of solar (selling your power to offset your own bills) without having to worry about delivery, or installation. It would probably be more efficient too (cheaper to maintain, closer to the power grid etc). Actually, why isn’t this service available?

Game Play

The other really cool feature of the Portuguese MyFarm model is with the game play interface. There’s something fun about exchanging your cash for points before you spend them. Something competitive when you see how many points your friends have. It’s about keeping your customers hooked, and keeping them coming back for more. If ever there was a ready-made platform to keep extending your product line, this is it. If you can innovate rapidly enough to keep the game exciting, the customer experience just keeps getting better and better.

 

Credit: Original spotter fond on Pulse, here 

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