Student-developed app helps farmworkers
Posted on April 27, 2017
Feliciano Paredes grew up in a family of seasonal farmworkers. He remembers the struggles of going to unknown areas for the season, and said it could take days to find help if their truck was broken, and sometimes they would arrive at a farm to find there was no work available.
Now, with help from Grand Valley graduate student Xiaomei Huang, Paredes is seeking to solve this problem through an app the two are developing.
Paredes became connected to Grand Valley last fall after meeting Linda Chamberlain, Frederik Meijer Endowed Chair of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Grand Valley. She encouraged him to pitch the idea for the app in a mobile application development class in Grand Valley's School of Computing and Information Systems.
That is where Paredes met Huang. The pair created a business model for AgHelp — or as Paredes calls it "the Yelp for farmworkers" — an app which connects seasonal farmworkers with resources and farms that are hiring. They worked with computing professor Jonathan Engelsma in the Mobile Applications and Services Lab in Mackinac Hall.
“I want to empower workers to find their own help and resources,” Paredes said. “The app will help them connect with a workforce that can maximize the labor that is available in the area.”
Since December 2016, Huang has been working on “AgHelp” as her capstone project. She presented the project at IBM’s Women of the Industry Coding Challenge in March and won first place.
“People use apps every day, so this is more than a class project,” Huang said. “We are working on something that is a part of real life. It's something that can have an impact on many people.”
Paredes, who has no coding experience, said he's grateful for Huang's expertise.
“It was just an idea in my head, but with Huang’s passion for the project, we are creating something real and useful,” he said.
Paredes said organizations from about 45 states have already signed up for “AgHelp” accounts. They represent local, state and federal organizations that will connect with workers when the app officially launches for the iPhone in June.
Paredes is looking for development help for an Android version of the app.
For more information, email email@example.com.
- written by Lucas Escalada, student writer