A group of people decides to collectively purchase seasonal and local foods directly from a producer or group of producers. This is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). The collective nature of this type of group makes good management and communication of all resources and people critical. Therefore, when the group reaches a certain size, the management becomes more complex and therefore more management hours are required by the group. The use of IT tools can facilitate the organization and organizational tasks, while keeping the management workload low.
This is why the CSAs Soliterre and Bioabi, together with Tegonal, decided to start programming a specific solution for CSAs. This solution had to meet a number of their requirements:
The collective nature of this project, where several consumer groups were involved from the beginning and where 15 different groups were later managed, was a complex process in itself to unify all the criteria and requirements so that the needs of each of the groups could be met.
Another peculiarity of this type of groups is that, in the vast majority of cases, the use of digital tools is very limited. This is explained by the fact that these tools are not at the heart of their activities. This places a central role on multi-layered communication and intermediaries that can distill the real needs emanating from the CSAs. This is why multiple collaborations with different actors in the system become very important.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that CSAs, as independent groups of citizens, have difficulties in freeing up resources, both financial and human, to provide themselves with complex tools to facilitate their daily work. For this reason, this project has been carried out with a significant amount of volunteer work by both the consumer groups and Tegonal.
After a phase of requirements analysis with the first two CSAs, the first version of OpenOlitor was created to primarily meet the needs of these organizations, without losing sight of the intention to create a generalist application that could meet the needs of other different groups. Agile and CI methodologies have always been used in the programming of this project.
Once the project was launched, an association was created to manage the platform and all the actors that would use it. A Community Supported Software methodology was implemented, where stakeholders participate in the definition of the next features and help finance the necessary changes. Once the features are defined, they are refined and posted in the form of stories to the public project on github. These stories are then finalized and sent to production.
The result is a free software application currently used by 15 CSAs in Switzerland and Germany and translated into 8 languages. A majority of groups rely on the deployment solution offered and managed by Tegonal. The application consists of 2 portals, one for administrators and the other for subscribers:
The application allows management personnel to automatically create periodic delivery schedules with minimal effort. Based on the subscriptions and the composition of the standard baskets, the system is able to deduce the quantities to be ordered from each producer and to manage the delivery points. In addition, the application allows the generation of invoices, their semi-automatic digital dispatch, the management of work groups and times, etc., as well as the integration with automatic bank payments (SEPA, ESR).
On the other hand, subscribers have a portal where they can consult all their upcoming orders, their invoices, as well as basic information about the organization. They can also report absences or register for collaboration sessions.
Both portals have security measures such as two-factor authentication, the infrastructure in which the project is deployed has an integrated firewall, control against DDOS attacks. In addition, we have automatic backups and we monitor the availability of the service around the clock.
The deployment is prepared to pool resources in a way that makes the management of the tool and the infrastructure more accessible to all CSAs.
Visit the project at openolitor.org for more information.