Ag Info by Phone in Uganda

 

More than 75 percent of farmers in a rural region of Uganda called Kabale have access to cell phones. But access to other things they need, like information on markets, weather, fertilization tactics, plant spacing, and other agricultural tools, is limited. So an organization called Life Long Learning for Farmers in Uganda created an application to text twice-weekly updates to farmers in Kabale. Those farmers who aren’t literate can receive phone calls in their local dialect instead.

Read more about it in this article from the awesome folks at Nourishing the Planet:

http://blogs.worldwatch.org/nourishingtheplanet/mobile-phone-technology-improves-farmers-fortunes-in-uganda/

 

Welcome to FarmHack Forum

The FarmHack Forum is excited to be launching in “beta” mode! Please feel free to join us in discussing farm innovations, tools and ideas as we iron out the kinks in our online community. farmhack.net/forum

FarmHack Projects: Paddlewheel-Powered Pump

Here is a great video made by Jeremy Smith of a water pump built by Cappie of Pangea Farm in Spearfish, SD. The pump, which is a “Wirtz pump”, uses a coil of hose and a scoop which are turned by a waterwheel in an irrigation ditch, pumping water 30′ or more vertically into a […]

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: More Earthway Seeder mods

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gang of six seeders mounted to a G toolbar

 One of our favorite FarmHack projects is the cheap and easy Earthway Seeder fix that we posted here.

Josh Volk, of Slow Hand Farm and author of the equipment column in Growing For Market, just posted a great roundup of more Earthway Seeder information and modifications, ranging from ganging together multiple seeders, to adding on a wire scraper to keep soil from building up on the press wheel.

 

 

FarmHack Projects: Paddlewheel-Powered Pump

drawing of a Wirtz pump
drawing of a Wirtz pump

Here is a great video made by Jeremy Smith of a water pump built by Cappie of Pangea Farm in Spearfish, SD. The pump, which is a “Wirtz pump”, uses a coil of hose and a scoop which are turned by a waterwheel in an irrigation ditch, pumping water 30′ or more vertically into a holding tank, from where it can then gravity-feed into livestock tanks, drip irrigation, etc.  This version pumps about 1 gallon per minute, depending on the flow of water through the irrigation ditch.

Passive Water Pump from Jeremy Smith on Vimeo.

Wirtz pumps have been around for a few hundred years, but haven’t been used much since steam powered pumps came along. Click here for a great resource about Wirtz pumps and the science behind them, as well as further details about the pump that was built at the Windfarm Museum in New Hampshire. Their pump uses “6 foot diameter wheel with 160 feet of 1-1/4 inch inside diameter flexible polyethylene pipe is able to pump 3,900 gallons of water per day to a 40 foot head with a peripheral speed of 3 feet per second.”

They also ran experiments that confirm that these pumps work quite well regardless of how quickly the water source (stream/irrigation ditch) is moving. The amount of water pumped increases pretty linearly with the water speed, but even at very slow speed the pump still operates at about the same overall efficiency.

Materials used in the Pangea Farm version (total cost = ~$250)

For the paddle wheel:
– Heavy cable spool (from local utility company junk pile) for the wheel;
– Cedar 1″ thick boards for paddles;
– Paddle wheel axle, either very heavy gauge tube, or 2″ solid stock, machined at end to accept inlet of the main coil;
– Pillow block bearings to hold the axle (worth the extra cost for their durability and ability to absorb lateral force if axle is out of square with mounts).

For the scoop and coil:
– 4″ pvc scoop with wire mesh screen and reducer fittings, to scoop water into the main coil;
– Check valve between scoop and main coil, so water doesn’t flow backwards;
– Compressed air port at scoop end of coil (for blowing water out coil for winter storage);
– 100′ of 1″ poly hose, coiled on paddle wheel
– Waterproof swivel joint, joining rotating axle to the stationary pipe carrying water to holding tank.

For the storage tank and outlets:
– Reclaimed telephone poles to hold the tank up high;
– Water tank (500 gal, fills in ~8 hours);
– 1″ water line and filter from tank to irrigation system;
– Overflow line to return water to ditch when tank is full.

Lots of possibility for modification for other uses!

Farm Hack: Coolbot Walk-in Cooler

The Coolbot is an invention that makes a walk-in cooler a viable option for a farm with low cash flow.  By using a Coolbot instead of a conventional walk-in cooler, farmers lower expenses while still helping enhance produce quality at the point of sale.

Since 2006, Ron and Kate Khosla have sold thousands of Coolbots, a technology they developed to convert off the shelf air conditioners into a compressor unit for a walk-in cooler.  Instead of purchasing a conventional cooler for $2500 or more, with about 30 seconds of modification, one can turn an A/C unit into a cooler for about $600. Further, electricity costs will be lower and the modification does not void the warranty on the A/C unit, protecting the investment for typically five years.

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Continue reading “Farm Hack: Coolbot Walk-in Cooler”

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 Tools: Barrel Water Collector

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This project comes from:

Make: Projects @http://makeprojects.com/Project/Barrel-Water-Collector/275/1

From the authors: Chris and Michri Barnes

Title:

Barrel Water Collector

Who the project is for:

Small Scale Farmers & anyone with an interest in sustainability

Range of how much it might cost to build:

probably less than $85

What skills are necessary to complete it:

You will need to use a drill, otherwise the directions should get you through everything else.

Summary of the project:

Many people let the rainwater that falls on their roof run off, then they use drinking water piped in from afar for washing floors and watering plants. Here’s a handy, mosquito-proof rain barrel we put together that stores 55 gallons of recycled water and adds a handsome accent to our yard. It’s especially valuable during droughts, and if you’re in a rural area with wells and electric pumps, it also means being able to flush the toilet when the power goes out.

Continue reading “Farm Hack Tools: Barrel Water Collector”

FarmHack: Poultry Housing Options

The growing season is full-fledged and you may be considering raising some fledglings of your own. Check out these housing options for small-scale chicken raising from around the web. Feel free to comment and post ideas of your own – we’ll be sure to include them!

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 broiler For Pastured Poultry, try this Greenhouse style pen used by Morris Farm.
The infamous chicken tractor: here is a series of videos on how to build one from Garden Girl TV.
CoopThruGate480 This chicken coop featured on Tangled Nest makes the most of space in a backyard.
This coop featured on greenterrafirma.com includes easy access doors.
This hutch built at La Finca NY used the frame off an old porch swing and other leftover materials to start.
*BONUS* Recommended Reading: The ATTRA guide to Range Poultry Housing.