High Tech Kona Coffee Farming
Seventh grade, that's when I discovered Dungeons & Dragons. I
had discovered girls too but D&D was a strong competitor for my
attention. In eighth grade I discovered computers. I wanted
to use my computer to get girls but couldn't figure out how. Instead,
I figured out how to use my computer for playing D&D.
20 December 2010
I spent hours and hours writing a Dungeons & Dragons character
generator on my Commodore Vic20. As simple as the program was, it
was too complex for that little computer so I had to write the program
in multiple parts. When loading the next part of the program from
the tape drive, the only safe place I could find to store saved data
was in video memory. That meant the screen showed all the saved
data. I wanted the data to stay "secret" so I hid it from the
user by writing white letters on a white background. Once the
next portion of the program was loaded, I retrieved the data from the
screen and continued with the next portion of the character
generator. It was a clunky hack but it worked.
After high school I got my degree in computer science then got a job as
a computer game programmer.
As computers grew more powerful and complex, I
learned things like 3D graphics programming and multiplayer network
programming. It was a great career until I got tired of it and
decided to try Kona coffee farming instead.
Today there are games like Everquest and Warcraft
that are so fun and realistic they can be addictive. The latest new gizmo
is the Kinect, a consumer-level device with 3D motion capture, facial recognition
and voice recognition capabilities. Those are all technologies I
could only dream about back when I was making games. It's almost
enough to make me want to get back into game programming.
Kona coffee farming keeps me too busy for things like D&D or
computer games. I do still spend a lot of time on the computer
though. When not outside working on the farm, I'm usually inside
working on the website. From CSS to SSL, a good website is
deceptively complex. There are entire books written on the
subject. One such book that I highly recommend is
"Effortless E-Commerce with PHP and MySQL"
by Larry Ullman.
When I was first developing the Kona Earth website
I could have really used a good book like this. Even though I am an experienced
programmer, and my website already does most things covered in the book, the book is
so packed with good info that I plan on rewriting some major parts of my code.
One of the examples in the book is a website that sells coffee.
In fact, if you look real close at figure 7.2 you'll probably recognize
the Kona coffee being sold. I'm proud to have
my name mentioned in the thanks on the first page. I won't claim to
have helped much with the book. My biggest contribution was providing
feedback. Larry definitely helped me more than I helped him. That's
why he received some free Kona Earth coffee. If you write such a helpful,
informative book then I'll send you some free coffee too.
Having a good website is vital when trying to sell Kona coffee
online. Developing and running KonaEarth.com takes a significant
portion of my time. Beyond selling coffee, I've extended the
website to help with coffee picking records
and coffee farm finances. The more I
automate on the computer, the more time and money it saves us in the long run.
At least that's the theory. As a programmer, I sometimes get a little too
involved with my latest "important" project.
I've recently been "working" with a program called Google SketchUp.
It's a 3D modeling program that is amazingly intuitive yet powerful.
Back when I was making computer games I would have loved a simple 3D
editor like SketchUp. It's not as powerful as 3DStudio Max or
AutoCad but it sure is easier to learn. I even found some people
using SketchUp for Dungeons & Dragons.
Now that's cool! It makes me want to model my favorite dungeon in 3D,
use a 3D printer to make a physical copy of it, then stock it with my old
collection of orcs, trolls, dwarves and other D&D miniatures.
As cool as it would be to have a model of Mordor, that probably won't
make it to the top of my To-Do list any time soon. My most recent
project is a coffee dryer and I've been using Google Sketchup to try
out different designs. I wish I had known about Google SketchUp
back when I was designing my barn.
I would have really helped when trying to figure out where to put the
coffee pulper, designing the
coffee storage room, visualizing my
new office or any of the other zillion
projects I have around the farm.
I'll talk more about my coffee dryer design after I figure things out a
bit more. Drying coffee correctly is a delicate process that can
be very labor intensive. Even with a large
coffee drying deck, it's still not
easy. Large commercial dryers are about $20,000 and have to be
imported from Central or South America. The hope is that I'll be
able to design my own dryer that is less expensive, more efficient and
still manages to be delicate with the coffee. There's a fine line
between drying the coffee and cooking the coffee.
I've already spent hours with a spreadsheet crunching the numbers for
things like BTU's and airflow resistance. I have a 3D model of
the barn so I can compare it with 3D models of dryer ideas. I
found a couple papers and a Master's
thesis on the subject. I also found a source with complete
formulas for drying coffee parchment so I could write a computer
simulation of the entire drying process. Then I could write a
genetic algorithm to find the most efficient dryer design. After
that I could program some robots to build the dryer for me. Those
same robots should also know how to stir the coffee. Then all
I'll have to do is teach them to pick coffee and I'll really be set.
So much programming to do and so little time. Good thing I have
lots of good Kona coffee to keep me going.