SolidBase Software recommendations
For the erasmus+ project solid base we conducted a survey where we asked Solidarity based Food Systems (SFS) which software is in use by them. Combined with prior research in the Free and Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) milieu, we can now give the following recommendations for dedicated CSA tools and for tools of more general applicability.
General purpose office tools
If you start a SFS you don’t need any special software. Just install the general purpose office suite LibreOffice and the offline email client Thunderbird. If you don’t want any third party to spy through your windows, use a Linux distribution, e.g. Linux Mint. Maybe arrange a mailinglist with your preferred Librehoster, and your ready to go!
In our survey we found no special solutions in productive use for the the three groups of SFS activity crop planning, delivery planning and budget planning. Either these are fulfilled with the dedicated CSA tools or they are done with spreadsheets.
Dedicated CSA tools
In europe several flavors of CSA emerged from the various regions. In France various solutions are competing for the users attention. The most notable are:
- AMAPJ is a development from an AMAP of the Drome written in Java. Well done documentation is available on the website.
- Cagette.net had been developed by the agency for training producers in digital skills and communication for food short circuit projects Alilo. It is written in the language from gaming industry HAXE which produces a very clean GUI. As only one instance is used for all groups, it can offer a good mapping functionality out of the box. On the website you can find a tour through the application.
- AMAPress is a WordPress plugin for enabling the easy organisation of AMAPs
Interestingly all other investigated tools have origins in Switzerland. But sunu (demo), which is coordinated by an association spread over Germany, is working on the adaptation of the Swiss development OpenOlitor (demo) to global applicability. In the first phase they concentrate on implementing features special to German circumstances, i.e. the ability to map monetary contributions to the Solawi of individual height and the ability to generate direct debit lists compatible with bank standards. Another intriguing feature is the complete adaptability with direct access to the database using SQL queries. The coding is done by the professional Swiss software company Tegonal in Scala.
A very complete solution which leave no need for ACPs from the FRACP network unfullfilled is the development done by a member of Rage de Vert is ACPAdmin. Some more ACPs are now using it, one german speaking ACP is testing it.
Another interesting development out of this french speaking network is CakeACP. It is build on top of the ERP dolibarr. This is an interesting concept as it allows for a quite complete administration of the ACP.
Juntagrico (JA) is an development by the german speaking CSA Ortoloco, more connected to the solawi.ch network. It is quite a small Django plugin with elaborated features for compulsory co-worker management and distributed members administration.
Dedicated foodcoop tools
These tools differ from the CSA tools in the need of having a shopfront for offering pre-ordering functionality. The most remarkable tool in this category is the OpenFoodNetwork (OFN) with Australian roots. It has a large international community and a global steering organisation for it’s development. Other notable tools are Foodsoft from Amsterdam and foodcoopshop from Austria.
Common functionality of SFS tools
On the following table the common functionalities these SFS tools share. Of course all the functionalities can also be accomplished by smaller tools with a more general applicability.
|Control of payments||x||x||x||x||x||x|
See details and screenshots of these specialized tools on https://sfslides.solidbase.info/
The field of market gardener / farm management tools is old and a lot of money circulates in the conventional farming industry. The biggest players in agrotechnology united to create 365FarmNet. It is a complete solution for managing all aspects of farming, free for small farms. If you don’t care about data souvereignty this is the way to go. For organic farmers a tool from the US emerged that seems to fullfill the needs of the farmers very well: Tend. It’s applicability in european context is although not given yet, due to non existant support for the metric system.
Two offline MS-Windows based tools for the management of the first wave of box delivery services starting in the 1980’s are still of notability: The PC Gärtner is a all in one solution from crop planning to door delivery Box schemes. The AboBote only has delivery planning functionality but in a well elaborated fashion.
Only one (which is good, as concentration could be put onto it) FLOSS tool seems to be active in the field of farm management: Farm OS
In the association management category there had been no report about any FLOSS web tool that is used in production. Altgough Galette has good prospects to become a membership administrative tool of global applicability. Another similar development could be of interest for French SFS: Garradin.
One tool that is used in Germany by some Solawis is the Java based offline tool JVerein.
In Finland a members adminstrative tool became common, called Flo members.
A very well elaborated free but not libre association management tool for German speaking areas is Campai.
The world of bookkeeping and accounting is one of the first realms that became digitalised. Hundreds of commercial bookkeeping and enterprise ressource planning solutions are competing at the market. Only few FLOSS tools have emerged in this highly capitalized field. One very powerful tool from the GNU network is GNUCash. It sticks to the basics and has complete double-entry accounting functionality. You should be trained in essential concepts of accounting before using it.
In Germany another FLOSS tool is quite popular that uses the same platform (Jamaica) as the association management tool JVerein: Hibiscus. Although this is also an offline tool, it’s quite simple to share information across this platform.
Copious commercial solutions are available. Very often they are highly adapted to local circumstances. A selection:
For more complete business organisation you might want to use an enterprise ressource planning (ERP) tool. The following FLOSS ERPs might be of good use:
- https://www.dolibarr.org/ (Base of CakeACP)
- https://www.odoo.com/ (Base of cooperative shopping systems by Coop IT easy)
- https://erpnext.com/ (Next generation FLOSS ERP, already equipped with basic agricultural functionalities)
Working time planning
For planning and recording the labor our the regular staff is doing, some SFS are experimenting with using the proprietary web app Toggl.
In Norway some CSA made good experience with using the volunteer coordinating tool Rubic out of the sports club world. From the US is coming the successful free but pitily not libre tool volunteersignup.
Almost all digital communications available needs some kind of intermediary in the internet to establish connections. This is done using servers that are run by organizations called hosters. That’s why here the tool is even more closely related to the social environment that keps it running than in standalone software. As our organisations are based on communication, and all tools we use for communication influence the way we communicate, the question on how we like to communicate digitally should be thoroughly deliberated.
The internet offers great possibilities for decentralized, federated communication. Some well known companies like to recentralize the net to gather all information about the citizen they can get for gaining profit and power. If we want to keep our data sovereignty we need to cooperate with hosters that stick to the key concepts of networking, that are decentralization, federation and transparency. Transparency is expressed by the strict use of FLOSS and the possibility to have a view inside the servers, to collaborate with the hosters. This is expressed by the libre within librehoster and is well comparable to “volunteer” co-work on a CSA.
Email is the one of the oldest internet protocols. You can keep your communications with it quite well in self-controlled space if you cooperate with a librehoster for your inbox.
According to the survey, the only offline client in use seems to be the libre software tool Thunderbird from The Mozilla Foundation. The only named online mail client is Roundcube. It is recommended to use Thunderbird as client as it is much faster and has some additional features onlineclients can’t offer, i.e. archiving functionality.
Next to googlegroups Mailman and Sympa are used for mailinglist functionality.
Sending emails to all or parts of the membership is core funtionality of all dedicated SFS tools.
Mailchimp is a advanced all-in-one newsletter solution and is integrated by ACPAdmin for sending the weekling list of distributed vegetables.
The future of messaging if decentralized. You can choose from
- https://matrix.org (most sophisticated protocol, team and personal chatting, bridges to almost all other platforms available)
- https://rocket.chat (Best UX)
- https://signal.org (Uses standard mobile numbers as identifiers)
Facebook was born dead. The future belongs to the Fediverse.
Content Management Systems (CMS)
All CMS of interest are libre software now. Next to WordPress other CMS in use are:
Next to the conventional gdrive and dropbox the FLOSS Nextcloud is used by several CSAs. It not only enables filesharing (very soon also with end-to-end rncryption) but also for sharing of contacts, calendars and tasks. Even online collaborative document editing and video calls work on well set up servers. It is provided by Nimmerland and is a core offer of most libre hosters.
Providers for online communication
Lists of libre hosters
- Chatons collective of independent hosters
Selection of libre hosters