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Free food, anyone?  A growing number of online communities and mobile apps are making it easier to share surplus harvest from backyard gardens. From Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to iPhone and Android apps, choices run aplenty for people seeking to swap their excess produce to reduce food wastage.

“I ended up with all these extra plants,” says Sydney mum, Laurie Green, who established Crop Swap Sydney in 2015 after getting frustrated with the incredibly high prices of commercially grown organic produce and deciding to grow her own vegetables in her backyard. To facilitate sharing of her bumper crop, she created a website, set up a Facebook page and opened accounts on Meetup, Instagram and Twitter. Laurie has organised at least 40 Crop Swap Sydney events that have provided an avenue to exchange seeds and recipes and barter home-grown produce, homemade products and unwanted gardening goods. Money does not usually change hands at these events unless there’s prior approval from Crop Swap Sydney that an item has sufficient value to warrant an additional cash payment.

Laurie Green, Founder of Crop Swap

Laurie Green, Founder of Crop Swap

Crop Swap Sydney has since signed up 190 members on Meetup and gained 240 followers on Twitter; 2,171 on Facebook; and 11,500 on Instagram. It has also spawned local Crop Swap groups in Cairns, Brisbane, Newcastle, the Hunter Region, the Northern Rivers, Canberra, Melbourne, Hobart, Launceston, North West Tasmania, North East Tasmania, and Cygnet and Surrounds.

In the Central Coast region of NSW, the Long Jetty Produce Swap uses online platform Eventbrite to manage registrations to its monthly sharing of backyard produce, plants, seeds and cuttings. The group meets every first Saturday at the CWA Hall in Long Jetty and Eventbrite, which is free for free events, comes handy with useful event management features, such as email invitations, social sharing and online RSVP management.

Meanwhile other gardening enthusiasts are organising crop swapping activities through mobile apps. Here are 5 such apps that have been designed specifically for this purpose:  

1.     Spare Harvest

Sunshine Coast resident Helen Andrew launched Spare Harvest in April 2016. It’s a free iPhone app that aims to reduce waste footprint by providing a forum where individuals, community groups, schools and primary producers can connect with local gardeners and farmers looking to share, swap or sell excess produce as well as garden items, services and experiences.

2.     OLIO

Entrepreneurs Tessa Cook and Saasha Celestial-One launched this free food-sharing app in the UK in January 2016. The app is now available in 51 other countries, including Australia, where Aasta from Slacks Creek QLD has posted: “My mullberry tree is in fruit. You are welcome to pick some fruit until fruiting is finished.”

3.     Urb

Developer Iman Zakeri released urb in March 2017 to allow urban gardeners to trade, buy or sell locally grown fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.  The app is compatible with iPhones, iPads and Ipod Touch and is available for free in the App Store.

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4.     Grow2Share

Friends Mayank Agarwal, Apoorva Jaiswal and Friederike Fokuhl released Grow2Share in May 2017 to encourage people to grow their own organic vegetables and share them with others. Available for free on the App Store and in Google Play, the app also provides information on pesticide-free planting and harvesting.

5.     Giving Garden

Another up-and-comer in the food sharing app space is Giving Garden. Deema Tamimi released the beta version of the app in the Sacramento and Davis areas in California, United States, in August 2017.