Project Everest

Work Update

Access™ may let us access a better database system

Vivienne Smith
Vivienne Smith | Jan 10, 2018 | in Knowledge Base

When the January 18 FarmEd team arrived in Fiji, there were *so* many spreadsheets with varying categories and corresponding forms on the Google Drive. This month, we’re going to build a database using Microsoft Access that compiles previous data in a more effective way.


With the current system, there were a few inconsistencies and missing data across the teams and months. It’s important to compile all our information into one cohesive, understandable database, because it will form the foundation of both FarmEd’s marketing and the data analysis and personalisation of the Blueprint. Although Excel and Google Sheets are familiar, they lack some of the features of a true database. The overall size and performance of these programmes may not be big enough for the thousands of farmers that FarmEd aims to reach


Microsoft Access is a professional-grade software programme with many more capabilities than Excel or Google Sheets. The use of primary, foreign and candidate keys are good ways to keep track of customers and build a unique set of data for each uniquely identifiable customer. This relational database can be edited both by using SQL (a database programming language) and by simple prompts and buttons. Also, the data is stored securely in servers and you can filter the data so, for example, it only shows farmers who have livestock.


So what do you guys think? Are there are software programs that could work better than Access? Will the future teams be able/willing to use this new programme? Do you ack Access? Let us know!

edited on 1st July 2018, 16:07 by Mallory Dobner

Vivienne Smith Jan 10, 2018

Hey, I saw your previous articles, Gabriel and Matt, and thought you might be interested in this idea? :)

Reply 0

Matt Allan Jan 10, 2018

Hey Vivenne, nice suggestion. Agree with the need for a database solution that's firstly organised, but also intuitive for each new batch of trekkers to sort data in.

From experience, I would steer away from enterprise offerings for a few reasons:
1. Microsoft access has a cost attached. When we have trekkers coming in and out of the project, managing licencing to the software adds an additional barrier.
2. Access is only offered on Windows OS, which restricts any Unix (yes, we exist) or OSX users from developing.
3. Access was designed for management of local databases, and struggles with remote connectivity.

I would recommend a MySQL database in Amazon RDS (
- MySQL is free and an open-source standard for semi-advanced databases.
- It is hosted in the cloud and thus can be accessed remotely. It also has good simultaneous read abilities (multiple people requesting data at the same time).
- It is easy to configure and contains (most) SQL functions.
- It's processing speed is far greater than GUI based solutions (eg. access)

As databases go, from least complex to most complex:
SQLite >> Access >> MySQL >> PostgreSQL.

MySQL strikes a happy medium. Unless we get very very complex in our database structures (god forbid), MySQL should suit our needs fine.

Hosting in AWS also allows persistence of their data across different groups, while ensuring its security.

Let me know if you have any follow up questions :)

Reply 4

Robbie Mete Jan 10, 2018

Matt, thanks for your Input!

When selecting which database software (DBMS) to Implement our database, we believed that it should be accessible to all trekkers not only ones with a COM/SCI background. Therefore, MS Access looked like an attractive option because all SQL queries are done in the background which meant that non-SQL trekkers can filter though the database.

However, more research was conducted and it was discovered that MS Access isn’t available on all platforms e.g. won’t work on Mac’s. Because of this MS Access was no longer a viable option. We are currently searching for alternatives that will better suit our needs. I’m 10000000000% going to research into Amazon RDS as it looks like a suitable alternative (I love that it be accessed remotely).

When I complete the database design I will upload it to keep you in the loop!

Thanks again for your suggestion!

Reply 1

Gabriel Raubenheimer Jan 11, 2018

+1 for MySQL. It's very unlikely that we will 'outgrow' MySQL anytime in the foreseeable future, and its ability to be easily integrated with remote/cloud systems is very useful. In terms of non CompSci/Software people being able to use the system, we'll just need to create/find a set of tools to do so as easily as possible.

The other big benefit of something like MySQL is that it'll integrate better into a tech stack if/when we need to access it for the app/other future uses.

Fantastic work getting this up and running team, and I'm glad we're exploring all options.

Reply 1

Matt Allan Jan 11, 2018

Here is a list of tools that turn MySQL into something nice to look at:

Reply 0

Vivienne Smith Jan 10, 2018

Thanks for your feedback! Yeah MySQL actually does seem like a better option! Robbie Mete is in charge of the database design in our team so I think he’d love your input!! The rest of us aren’t so computery haha

Reply 0

View all replies (5)

Gabriel Raubenheimer Jan 16, 2018

Vivienne have you explored the use of MySQL workbench or any of the other tools Matt mentioned? If so, what were your thoughts as someone with a non-COMPSCI/Software background?

Reply 0

Vivienne Smith Jan 17, 2018

TBH, even with my ENGG1801 excel & matlab experience, I think MySQL looked a bit complicated and though I might learn how to input data, I don't think I'd be able to make any changes to the database itself.
The concepts behind it seem great though and I still think it's a good idea but it's not super user-friendly.

Reply 1

Gabriel Raubenheimer Jan 17, 2018

Thanks for that. ENGG1801 is surprisingly different to SQL isn't it?

Definitely going to have to do a good front-end integration. You have obviously been engaging with it a lot over the past few weeks, and you've clearly picked up a lot, so if its not working well for you, it's certainly not going to for new Trekkers.

Reply 1

Ciaran Hoare Jan 17, 2018

Complication on the back end can be mitigated through effective set up of an intuitive front end. My advice on this is to maintain an efficient system of recording information currently that can then easily be fed into the database once it is ready. From what I understand Robbie in Fiji is working on CRM through SQL and Hubspot, correct me if I'm wrong. I propose that a more substantial link be set up between Gabriel here in Cambodia, and the work that you guys are doing. Gabriel has capacity and knowledge to work on the back end and at the very least set up a framework for how this will look longer term.

Reply 1

Vivienne Smith Jan 17, 2018

I agree, it would be a shame to waste any talent. It's a bit difficult to collaborate side-by-side on this though when they're halfway across the world, but we (and by 'we' I really just mean Robbie and Gabriel) have had a few calls to discuss this issue.

Originally, the database wasn't going to be to this scale, we just assigned Robbie to make one to combine all of FarmEd PoC Fiji's data that we were collecting from farmers as we visited them. It's since grown way larger and more complicated than we could imagine haha, with first the Field Dev, then the other countries, and now SoCon and Fuel Sustainability too! So bear with us, hopefully we can figure this out together :)

Reply 1

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Mallory Dobner Jul 1, 2018

Status label added: Work Update

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