Culticycle at the DAP Field Days: Cross-pollination and appropriate technology in farming systems

Horse People and Bike People
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Culticycle enthusiasts and teamsters convened at the Draft Animal Powered Field Days in September, hosted by the Draft Animal Power Network to discuss the intersection of human and draft powered farming systems and tools. What type and amount of power is needed for different tools or tasks on the farm, and how can draft or human-powered systems supplant fossil fuel-powered ones? These questions embody the first design principle of the Farm Hack community, “Biology before steel and diesel.”
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Most equipment manufacturers stopped building tools for horse and oxen farming around the middle of the 1900s. Farmers who wish to continue farming with draft animals innovate and invent tools appropriate for their purposes. It’s the classic narrative that defines the farm hack community: we want tools suited to ecological, human-scale agriculture, not industrial agribusiness. Local manufacture and on-farm research and development allow farmers to equip themselves with tools for their specific working environment and set of circumstances. 
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This design philosophy was brought to bear at the Draft Animal Power Field Days where tools cross-pollinated during guided brainstorming sessions. The new front end for the culticycle is hacked from a lawn tractor front end. The quick hitch system which Tim and Dorn are currently adapting for use on the Culticycle is an idea borrowed from the Pioneer Homsteader, a draft-powered multi-tool.  Old standby tool features can also be improved upon using a new component to perform a familiar function – for example, in recent Culticycle development conversations, the Farm Hack community is looking to handpowered hydraulics and auto trunk struts as alternatives for more ergonomic lifting of heavy, belly-mounted tools.
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Towards an Appropriately-Powered Farming Future
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 In the interest of minimizing our reliance on fossil fuels and developing more flexible and efficient farming systems, identifying what the actual appropriate power need for a job is allows us to develop and use the right power source – i.e. a human, a bicycle, a horse.
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Culticycle inventor, Tim Cooke, often makes the point that we just don’t know how much horsepower cultivating takes because we default to using the smallest tractor on the farm, which still might be vastly overpowered for the task. This insight connects to a broader principle galvanizing Farm Hackers; that innovation often stems from looking critically at the way things are and the way they are always done, and synthesizing from a rich repetoire of knowledge new and old to figure out how to do things better. 
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More documentation updates to come soon on the Culticycle tool page.
More Farm Hack events on the Events Calendar
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Farm Hack @ Draft Animal-Power Field Days, Sept 24-27 in Cummington, MA

Join Farm Hack at the 2015 Draft Animal-Power Field Days!

September 24-27 in Cummington, MA.

Farm Hack will host a workshop session on Saturday from 1:30-3:00 as well as a weekend-long build project focused on integrating draft and human power into standard vegetable production systems. Event page here.

Project #1:

The Homesteader is a new draft-powered multi-tool by Amish equipment manufacturer, Pioneer. One unique feature of the Homesteader is a unique quick hitch which makes switching the belly-mounted tools a snap. Our goal is to adapt this quick hitch mechanism for use with the Culticycle, a pedal-powered cultivating tractor. Culticycle inventor Tim Cook will bring a Culticycle and several of the hand built tillage tools he’s been working on.  See here for documentation of the Homesteader quick attach on Farm Hack.

Project #2:

Tractor-powered vegetable farms typically grow on a bed system that utilizes beds between 48″ and 60″ wide, growing most crops in multiple rows within the bed. Most horse-powered vegetable growers use a single-row system at 32-36″ spacing. This is because most horse-powered equipment available was designed for growing row crops such as corn. At the DAP Field Day, we will explore the possibility of adapting a single-row riding cultivator  to fit the wider bed-system spacing, with the goal of improving space efficiencies in horse-powered operations, and allowing the easier integration of tractor and draft power within a single farming system.

There are three crucial components to adapt a single-row cultivator for wider beds. First, the cultivator wheel-base must be widened. The wheel base on most cultivators is already adjustable, typically from 34-42″ but the adjustable axle will have to be extended as well as a linkage at the front of the cultivator. Second, a wider evener and neck yoke will have to be built to spread the horses apart. Third, team lines will have to be configured to spread the horses apart. See the recent conversation about this topic on the Draft Animal Power Network forums.

Hacking it Out at the Farm

by Holly Black

The original version of the post was published by the Sustainable Food Trust, and can be found here.

New entrants to farming in Britain are often faced with a long list of challenges before they even put their wellies on. Defra’s 2013 report, Future of Farming Review, details a vast array of barriers faced by new entrants to farming, and highlights the shocking figure that only 8% of British farmers are first generation.

Across the pond in the United States, a different phenomenon is occurring: the arrival of the Greenhorns. In farming terms, a greenhorn is a novice or new entrant into agriculture, and this grass-roots group aims to help them. The Greenhorns have been making waves with their 2014 documentary on young farmers, and they are helping to change the landscape of field-to-fork farming by using technology to organise and up-skill new farmers. Recently, the Greenhorns have developed a specific tool to help connect the diaspora of new farmers spread across the United States – it’s called the ‘Farm Hack’, and it has now arrived in the UK.

What’s a ‘Farm Hack’?

‘Farm Hack’ is a concept coined by the Greenhorns. Think ‘i-fixit’ combined with Wikipedia. Lots of problems – and lots of solutions – all on an open-source, easily accessible platform that allows members to interact, debate and build on each other’s ideas. Although the term ‘hack’ evokes images of computers with Matrix-style numbers flashing across the screen and a virus eating your computer from the inside out, it actually has myriad meanings. These range from the ability to cope successfully with something to breaking up the surface of soil. In recent years hack has also come to mean a congregation of people (either online or offline) aiming to take action or work together to solve a problem.

Taking action and problem solving is exactly what occurred on a sunny spring day last month at Ruskin Mill in Gloucestershire at an event organised by the Landworkers’ Alliance. A group of farmers – some new entrants, some old hands – gathered together to find solutions to their shared problems. From Fife to Devon and Norwich to Pembrokeshire, farmers and those with technical expertise travelled from far and wide to share their knowledge and see how they could help one another address a wide range of issues faced on the farm.

UK Farm Hack #1

The Farm Hack was launched by Severine von Tscharner Flemming, the founder of the Greenhorns, with guests of honour L’Atelier Paysan, an innovative group of French farmers, that are reclaiming farming knowledge. The Farm Hack got off to a flying start, with the attentive attendees ready to soak in the energetic atmosphere. The highlight of the morning’s demonstrations was a bicycle-powered mill from Fergus Walker and the Fife Diet. Coined the ‘People Powered Flour Mill’,  it was an ingenious box that looked like a red rocket, and it ground wheat into flour at the turn of a pedal. The afternoon saw a host of inspiring workshops, covering compost tea preparation, 3D printing and how to set up food hubs with the Open Food Network. Alongside all this were welding, blacksmithing and green wood-working drop-in sessions.

The second day felt like the crux of the event. It culminated in an extremely productive Open Space session that identified projects for collaboration, with a short period devoted to the development of these projects. The Open Space session allowed attendees to get stuck into what they really came for – exploring their ideas, finding solutions and offering help to others. Suggestions were made for regional working groups to skill share and to create training and barter systems, as well as tapping into expertise outside of farming from engineers, CAD experts, coders, academics and architects. These other networks provided an alternative perspective on solving farming problems by framing the issues differently. For example, a blacksmith may have the expertise to fix a broken tool, but an engineer may suggest a different tool with a new shape or a different attachment to do the job better. It was a team effort – and if you didn’t know the answer, there was almost always someone in the room who did! 

Is technology the solution?

Technology is often seen as the golden ticket to problem solving. But driverless tractors, drones and robots are not necessarily the answer (despite what the Daily Mail may want you to think). Instead, we need problem-solving tools that can make a real difference in the hour you have at the end of the day when you choose either to sit at the computer or water the tomatoes. The introduction of organisational tools such as Farm at HandTrello and the Farmhack wiki could potentially change the face of farming. Farmbrite is designed for record keeping and is mobile enabled so it is accessible out in the field. The Open Food Network and Farmdrop support small-scale farmers by connecting customers directly with producers in their local area. And there is Buckybox, an organisational platform designed specifically for community-supported agriculture (CSA) projects – my local grower at CSA Sims Hill Shared Harvest was raving about it over the seed beds a few mornings ago. These are tools that allow CSAs to manage their members without ever seeing each other face to face.

One of the best ideas of the day was to invite older and more established farmers to share their expertise to help find better working systems. Meeting in real life rather than by email meant ideas could flow more freely, connections could be made and interests shared. Farmers need support through shared best practice as well as from new developments in the field. The wisdom imparted from established farmers who have seen it all before is incredibly valuable. Once this group of farmers got going, the ideas were flowing faster than Severine could note them down – a sign that a network of farmers, old and new, focused on solutions and assisted by technological tools is just what the future of farming might look like.

Photograph: Steph French

From Indie Farmer: Farm Hack at Ruskin Mill

original post at Indie Farmer

FARM HACK AT RUSKIN MILL – DAY 1

The Landworkers Alliance held the first ever Farm Hack event outside of north America at Ruskin Mill Farm, Gloucestershire. The event brought together over 100 farmers, growers, fabricators, engineers and IT programmers to demonstrate and share tools, skills and ideas.

With most people camping the Friday night, everyone was up early Saturday morning for registration between before the official start a 9am. Congregating in the main communal building horse-powered farmer Ed Hamer gave the opening address, setting out the agenda for the two days after which everyone in the room had the opportunity to introduce themselves. This was followed by a talk by Severine vt Fleming representing the Greenhorns and Farm Hack.

The first day’s activities then began with a demonstration of pedal powered mill and a field demonstration of horse-powered technology. I spent my time running between the various demonstrations, workshops and seminars trying to capture a few of the highlights to share with everyone who couldn’t be there in person.

To be continued…

 

Farm Hack Davis Meetup! Sept 15th

Farm Hack Davis – Come meet up for beers and conversation with fellow farmers and tinkerers at Plainfield Station outside of Davis!

Sunday, September 15th, 4–7 P.M., Plainfield Station

Hi folks! The Farm Hack Davis meet-ups are back for a bit as we continue to gear up for our big event in November. This coming Sunday, we’re going to talk about what nifty innovations have come out of other Farm Hacks around the country, including tools, gadgets, and relationships that they have fostered. Come hang out with your farmer neighbors and tinkerer friends that have an interest farming and food!

We are looking for folks who have problems to solve, inventions on the back burner, or tools to tweak, who want to share ideas with each other and other skilled craftspeople to see what comes out of it.

We’re getting ready to send out a call for proposals for farm-related design projects for the upcoming Farm Hack, so keep your eyes peeled! Come to the meet-up, look for the RFP or email us with your ideas.

Farm Hack Davis event will be November 16-17, 2013. Remember to save the date!

Hope to see y’all at Plainfield Station this coming Sunday, Sept 15thRoad Construction Note: (Rd. 29 is open, use CR 99 as 98 is still closed!)

Info on Plainfield Station

Vote to help Farm Hack get to Maker Faire NYC!

Dear Farm Hack posse, help your fellow farm hackers get their hacks to Maker Faire NYC this fall!

Farm Hack is in an online voting competition for $2,500 so that we have a truck to take us to Maker Faire. Maker Faire is an expo of all things DIY.  The truck will take a route from Cambridge, MA up to Burlington, VT hitting places in the Pioneer Valley and NH. Then towards NYC through the Hudson Valley, picking up all the Farm Hacks we can and to make it easier and more stress free for others to attend.

We attended Maker Faire last year with all sorts of great hacks, including a converted washing machine greens spinner, pedal powered compost chipper and flame weeder.  It’s a great way for us to educate the general public about what we are doing, and to connect with the techie crowd that can help us create future farm hacks!

So vote for us here! And if you are interested in sharing your hack at Maker Faire too, respond in the forum thread.  We hope you can join us, and help us get our hacks to the Faire!

 

– the Farm Hack team

Farm Innovation Talk with Ben Flanner of Brooklyn Grange

Ben Flanner, president and farmer at the NYC rooftop farm Brooklyn Grange (and co-host of Farm Hack NYC last fall), talks on this week’s Farm Report episode about different organizations and projects that are helping farmers create and innovate on their farms and share these designs and tools, and strategies the Grange has adopted to grow productively in a limited rooftop space.  And read up on the Farm Hack NYC meetup and build project he mentions in the forum!

“Farmers are super collaborative…we are all about that. In terms of specific farming type things, thats all completely shared, open source, you put as much time as you possibly can to people, especially farmers and aspiring farmers.”

 

 

 

Report back from FarmHack New Hampshire

We had an amazing weekend in southern New Hampshire-  touring an inspiring farm that’s a hotbed of innovation;  making headway on new project ideas;  and doing some serious strategizing about the development of the FarmHack project.

The weekend began with a tour of Tuckaway Farm, focusing on the innovative tools and techniques that Dorn Cox has been integrating as part of his work with the host organization GreenStart.  We saw self-contained biodiesel processing rigs, one-pass no-till planting set-ups, farm-fabricated fence stretchers, and we worked on reverse-engineering an old oat dehuller.

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Dorn Cox and his mobile biodiesel trailer

The next day we reconvened at the Lee Grange Hall to roll up our sleeves and strategize about the future of FarmHack and to make some headway on designing new tools.

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There was much talk about FarmHack’s imminent launch of a new Web Forum to use as a space for discussion of new farm tool projects, knowledge exchange about existing technologies, and communication about standards for collaborative tool development (for example let’s all be on the same page regarding quick connects, power transfer, etc. so we can interchange our inventions.)  Some participants were even able to register early for the Forum and begin populating it with threads.

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Cleaning oats with an old fan mill

 

Those oats that were de-hulled the night before?  We took a break from discussing new media tools in order to use an old-technology hand-crank fan mill to separate the hulls out.  Still works! Continue reading “Report back from FarmHack New Hampshire”

Farmhack@ESF Update!

By Leanna Mulvihill

Plans for Farmhack@ESF are coming together! We’ve received positive responses from the SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry community, special thanks to the Environmental Resources Engineering department, and a few local farms are excited to participate as well. This event will be covered by Food + Tech Connect, a company that brings innovators in food and information technology together. The Saturday after Farmhack@ESF (September 17th!), is the Local Living Festival in Canton, NY on September 24th where Leanna Mulvihill will be giving a presentation on Farmhack@ESF and the designs that come out of it.

Ideas for possible designs are still needed! Farmers who would like to work with landscape architects, engineers, botanists and ecologists are highly encouraged to share their ideas. There are students and faculty eager to hear your point of view and collaborate. Please contact Leanna Mulvihill at lpmulvih@syr.edu.

 

Farm Hack Comes to SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry

By Leanna Mulvihill

 

My name is Leanna Mulvihill and on September 17th, I’m bringing Farm Hack to my school — the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY ESF) in Syracuse, NY. ESF is unique in that every course of study has an environmental focus. There are a lot of different flavors of science majors and other majors including: environmental studies, landscape architecture, construction management, bioprocess engineering and environmental resources engineering. As such, it is pretty easy to get students from a variety of programs excited about sustainable farming. This fall I will be a senior in environmental resources engineering and am
currently interning at Tantré Farm in Chelsea, MI.

 

Farm Hack @SUNY ESF will be a one-day event for farmers and designers of all varieties with the goal of creating relatively low-cost, easy to implement solutions for small scale farmers.

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We need farmers with design ideas/farm tech challenges to pitch and people to help solve them . If you’ve got an idea burning a hole in your pocket, please let me know! The ideas will be presented in the morning and teams will be formed based on the interests/expertise of the participants. Each team will have the rest of the day to flesh out their designs with research, sketches and
rough prototypes. This will be from 10am until roughly 5pm and snacks will be provided. Some materials will be available and bring your laptops, we’ve got wireless.

Presentations of these designs will happen that evening from 6-8pm. If you can’t participate in the full day event or would just like to drop by and see what it is all about, please come to the evening presentations!

A similar event was held last spring at MIT. They came up with a triketor and a self-flushing irrigation valves.

Details:

Farmhack@ESF – Saturday September 17th 2011 Nifkin Lounge, 1 Forestry Drive Syracuse, NY
13210, 10am-5pm

RSVP to lpmulvih@syr.edu

Post your design ideas on our Facebook event page (Farmhack@ESF) or email them.

Hope to see you there!