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miércoles, 29 de noviembre 2023
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Guía tu Huerta: a UdeA app that sows knowledge and food sovereignty

By: Johansson Cruz Lopera - Journalist

"Guía tu Huerta" is a free mobile tool that offers scientific support and a bank of information about plants, their optimal cultivation, and traditional uses. This application, developed by UdeA researchers as a collaborative effort between various academic disciplines of the University, seeks to empower gardeners by offering them information and recommendations to cultivate land with skill and respect for nature.

Researchers and students from the food engineering, pharmacy management associate degree, pharmaceutical chemistry, medicine, environmental engineering and sanitary engineering programs joined forces to develop the project. Photo: UdeA Communications Office

Cultivating land has been one of the most essential human activities for developing past and present civilizations. This work is the basis of food production, which has undoubtedly helped human survival and conditioned lifestyles. Agriculture - the cornerstone of history - has shaped societies and economic development.

Sowing land is still a transformative tool. This premise served as the basis for developing the application Guía tu Huerta. It was possible thanks to the project "Producción sostenible de alimentos y plantas medicinales en una huerta comunitaria de la comuna 1 en pro de la soberanía alimentaria" (Sustainable production of food and medicinal plants in a community garden in Comuna 1 in favor of food sovereignty). The Pharmacy Management Associate Degree Research Group led the project. This group is attached to Universidad de Antioquia's Faculty of Pharmaceutical and Food Sciences (CIFAL).

"The application compiles practical information for this or any garden. The effort is focused on generating specific knowledge to promote food sovereignty and democratize information. It is easy to access and maintain," said Andrea Salazar Ospina, the project coordinator and professor at CIFAL. The application Guía tu Huerta, developed for Android devices, is a tool that contains detailed scientific information on a wide variety of plants such as garlic, pumpkin, chard, anise, celery, citron, cabbage, and cumin, among others.

The application not only provides the common and scientific names of each plant but also contains information on the part of the plant approved for use, optimal growing climate, irrigation needs, sun exposure, pH, nutritional requirements, rotation, the possibility of association with other crops - allelopathy - for the plant's development and growth, the appropriate fertilizer, its approved traditional use, contraindications and consumption warnings.

"One of the main problems when looking for information, especially on traditional medicine, is the large amount of information circulating that has no scientific backing. This application has scientific backing and mixes traditional knowledge with scientific knowledge. It describes what a plant is good for, how it can be used and in which cases it is contraindicated. It is reliable information," said Johan Granados Vega, developer of the application and professor at CIFAL.

The project "Sustainable production of food and medicinal plants in a community garden in Comuna 1 in favor of food sovereignty" was selected in 2019 in the 16th Call for Proposals of the Banco Universitario de Programas y Proyectos de Extensión (BUPPE) (University Bank of Outreach Programs and Projects). The application Guía tu Huerta is one of the products of work with the community.

Outreach programs and projects promote the articulation and linkage between the University and society, with quality and academic excellence criteria in the search to incorporate the highest theoretical and practical content. The main objective is to contribute to social promotion, territorial development and improvement of the population's quality of life.

Union of knowledge

The application has information on the 40 plants found in the garden where the project was developed in Comuna 1 in Medellín and which are the economic support of these families. The work team plans to expand this plant library in the future.

An important novelty in this project was the synergy between several academic departments of the University to achieve the objective. "This was born from the University's purpose of articulating academic practices. Researchers and students from the food engineering, pharmacy management associate degree, pharmaceutical chemistry, medicine, environmental engineering and sanitary engineering programs joined together," said Salazar Ospina. She added that this garden is an inspiring element in Comuna 1 because it functions as a space for social resistance. "What we did was to articulate knowledge to carry out this project," she said.

"The application was designed with an intuitive and easy-to-use user interface. Users can easily search for specific information or browse the various categories available. In addition, thanks to Kotlin - a cross-platform programming language - the application offers efficient performance and a smooth user experience," the app's programmer expressed. It is on Android because most of the app's target audience uses this platform. This characteristic also conditioned the work offline. The application is downloaded, and the database is linked, so it does not need the Internet to work.

"The app exemplifies how science and technology can work together to improve our daily lives. With its scientifically accurate database and features, this app is democratizing knowledge about horticulture and agriculture, all framed within the concept of 'environmental sustainability,' which implies, on the one hand, reduction of environmental and, on the other hand, using natural resources and ecosystem services for human well-being, economic opportunities, and social and ecological resilience," concluded Johan Granados.

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