Excerpted from the Two Spruce Farm blog, written by Northland apprentices Daniel Grover and Scott Hoffman. Read the whole post here.
The Quadractor, manufactured in the 1970s and 1980s by Traction, Inc. in Vermont. The quadractor has a vertical shaft gear train originally developed by William Spence for using in aircraft landing gear, who designer of the Quadractor and founder of Traction, Inc. The tractor operates through four identical vertical drives to the wheels, and is therefore continuously in four wheel drive. This drive design allows for the lightweight Quadractor (around 500 lbs) to pull loads up to two tons.
Spence wanted to create a tractor that was lower cost and that used less fuel than conventional tractors with comparable workloads, and be highly dynamic (also that had really good traction, hence the company name he came up with). Though the tractor been used most extensively for logging, it can be used with cultivating, rototilling and plowing implements that are attached underneath the tractor rather than behind, the weight of which are distributed to all four wheels.
Though the quadractor is no longer being manufactured, there is a community of users restoring, retrofitting and using the quadractor for their small farming operations, homestead and woodlots. These users can exchange and dialogue on the tractor, modifications and implements through a user Forum, hosted by the resource site Quadractor.com.
Read a more detailed account of the quadractor and its manufacture in this 1979 Mother Earth News article by Bill Rowan. Also check out the Quadractor site to access information, videos, and the user forum.
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.”
You likely have heard of Kiva.org, a micro-lending site that lends to the entrepreneurial projects of individuals in developing countries through crowdsourced financing.
A year-old project of Kiva is Kiva Zip, which flips the tables. Through Kiva Zip, individuals in the United States (and Kenya) can apply for an interest-free loan up to $5,000 for their project. This tool could be great for farmer-entrepreneurs with a well-developed innovation idea that want to market their innovation to others, and that need startup capital to bring this project online.
One Farm Hacker has already used Kiva Zip to do this – Louis Thiery, co-developer of the FIDO greenhouse monitor, applied for and received a $5000 loan through the service to produce 100 initial units of the Fido monitor. This loan allowed him to build the original FIDO unit, and also develop a second improved iteration, now called the Sentinel Bee, through his new business Apitronics.
To receive a Kiva zip loan, you must apply through a Kiva Zip Trustee, whom you can locate on the site. You also need to prove your business plan is viable, and be vouched for.
If you are applying for a loan, let us know at info [at] farm hack [dot] net, and we can vouch for your project! Once you are approved, your project is then posted to the site, where users (hopefully) crowd fund your project. The great thing about the Farm Hack community is that we can use our network to get out the word about projects, and ensure they get fully funded. Use that farm hack community capital!
Find more info about Kiva Zip on their website.
Across the Atlantic, FarmHack shares a kindred outlook with a non-profit organization based in the Rhone-Alps region of southeastern France. ADAbio Autoconstruction is a farmer initiative formed in 2011 by the Association pour le Développement de l’Agriculture Biologique to showcase and share open-source technologies useful to local farmers. They organize training and instruction for building tools developed by farmers in the area.
Much like the goals set forward by FarmHack, ADAbio Autoconstruction aims to establish a farmer-driven community that stresses the self-reliance of the individual farmer, as well as the creation of resiliency within the local agrarian network. The innovations within this community are adapted for organic market-farming, but the knowledge is not limited to the organic community. From this foundation, ADAbio strives to create accessible, bottom-up technologies with which farmers can equip themselves at a cost two to three times less than what market-standard supplies.
The organization published a book, available for viewing online, which includes plans for 16 tools.
ADAbio Autoconstruction also features an open online forum (in French), to facilitate conversation and idea-sharing.
Watch few video-introductions to some of their tools online (and brush up on your French farming vocab!) here.
NOFA-NY is one of the biggest and best winter farming conferences out there, and Farm Hack will be participating! We will have a Farm Hack Innovation Exhibition, put on by Farm Hackers from around the Northeast on Saturday and Sunday (January 26 + 27) of the conference. It will be a great opportunity to informally meet other hackers and swap ideas.
More info in the conference brochure, page 8.
And we want you to join us!
If you are planning to attend the NOFA-NY conference already, bring along a hack you have built (or photos, video or other documentation of it), and share it at our booth. The exhibition will be happening Saturday and Sunday, so you can come to share your ideas and talk to other farm hackers any time that fits into your conference schedule.
If you are interested in participating, please email Kristen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have never before visited Low-Tech Magazine, a blog about appropriate-scale technology design by Kris De Decker, you should change that now. The blog offers thoroughly researched and hyperlinked articles on various issues related to the role of low-tech, appropriate-tech, open source, etc. to address modern problems, and is both extremely useful and extremely interesting.
Kris’ most recent posting, “How to Make Everything Ourselves: Open Modular Hardware”, focuses on the importance of open modular design approaches for creating a more equitable, mutually beneficial and sustainable production system. Modular design refers to a design system in which components are constructed with universal features that allow them to be mixed-and-matched to construct a variety of things, and, equally important, can be deconstructed and easily reused in the future. The “open” part means that all users can create new components for this system, rather than production being controlled by one firm (think Legos – modular, but not open). This concept is universally relevant, but especially important for applications such as small-scale agriculture, where the technologies required are often pretty simple, and ideally able to be completed by farmers with tight budgets and sometimes low levels of fabrication expertise.
Many of De Decker’s articles are of extreme relevance to Farm Hack-y applications. These include pieces on stationary pedal power for farm and factory use, a history of pedal powered machines, and a traditional knowledge database. And there are many more! Peruse through them at the Low-Tech Magazine site, right here.
The Open Modular Hardware article points you towards many interesting projects already happening based on the open modular concept, one of the most advanced being Open Structures. This project takes modularity to a new level, allowing users to produce parts, structures and components all based on a shared geometric grid. All these are documented on the project website. The grid system allows a wider variety of objects to be designed, not just those with square or rectangular frames. So far, Open Structures community members have posted designs for furniture, biogas digesters, cargo bikes, and much in between.
Taking it beyond the virtual world, Open Structures has set up a physical workshop with the goal of providing a design space with their OS components, plus infrastructure and assistance to facilitate design of new structures and components. Unfortunately, this workshop is located in Brussels, Belgium – but here’s to hoping this project moves stateside soon! In the meantime, definitely check out their website.
Within the past year smartphone app developers have been creating and experimenting with both iPhone and Android platforms for farm-use applications.
Seed to Harvest is an iPhone app geared toward the organic farmer, designed as an intensive record-keeping tool. Farmers can use it to keep track of transplant and harvest dates, soil amendments, and sales records by cultivar and location. Information is stored on the device itself in the case of limited internet access in the field.
The USDA has also initiated a suite of agricultural apps this year, including the Save Our Citrus app, designed to identify and share relevant information to deter the spread of citrus diseases.
Researchers at Penn State University have created an app for dairy farmers to assist in financial planning and calculate feed costs and other expenses. Called DairyCents, the app may be a good tool in the future for sourcing better priced feed, and referencing calculations from other farmers around the country.
The Government of South Australia’s AgExcellence Alliance has compiled a list of farm-pertinent apps, which includes many that provide US-based information. Currently, many apps are designed exclusively for Apple platforms, though this will likely expand to include more Android-OS based software as such technology gains an audience.
Last weekend, Brooklyn and Queens played host to New York City’s first Farm Hack. The event brought together many young urban farmers, designers, architects, and community-makers.
The gathering took on a distinct complexion in the context of Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath. The damage left in the storm’s wake lent a powerful focus on the challenges unique to metropolitan infrastructures, and their capacity to overcome difficulties such as extreme weather. More than anything, the event highlighted the urgency for urban populations to generate positive change through engaging in a real relationship with innovation.
The Hack kicked off in Williamsburg at DB Co-op, a design guild whose projects focus on creating human-powered technology. Their current includes a series of composting machines, including a dry shredder and barrel sifter.
From there, our caravan moved onward via subway and bicycle to a composting and nursery site used by the Gowanus Canal Conservancy. Though the site had suffered flood damage, the discussion continued to be very lively, and stressed the recurring topic of bioremediaton, a crucial process in dealing with depleted and contaminated urban soils.
At the nearby Gowanus Studio Space, the group heard from Build It Green NYC on their scaffolding material reclamation project for raised bed construction in the city, and learned about the preservation of the city’s waterways from NYC Water.
Jae Lee of Project EATS also spoke on the inventiveness needed to address rodent problems at one of the organization’s newest community garden sites in Harlem, and Lenny Librizzi of GrowNYC demoed a bicycle-powered rooftop rainwater harvesting system.
The first evening concluded with a tour and serious feast at Brooklyn Grange’s impressive rooftop farm in Long Island City, the largest of its kind in the world.
The second day of the event took place at 3rd Ward’s education and coworking space. Presentations included a discussion on hyper-mobile milk-crate farming from Zach Pickens of Riverpark Farm, a talk from Our Goods, a web-based barter system that seeks to redefine how we value one another’s time and work, and from 596 Acres, a NYC vacant land mapping project. Feedback Farms also spoke about their continued research efforts in exploring various urban farm technologies, such as sub-irrigated planter design and automated watering systems.
Speakers Leonora Zoinsein and Liam Turkle continued the ongoing thematic dialogue of reinterpreting the parameters of “value” in our culture, leading into the highly spirited Design Charrette, which rounded out the weekend.
By the end of the day on Sunday, the NYC group was already discussing future collaborations and a possible regular meet-up in the city. We will keep you posted!
Thank you to all of our hosts, farms upstate and downstate for the fall bounty, and of course our head event chef Hannah Black.
For notes, news, and continued discussion, head to the Farm Hack NYC Forum.
Event photos viewable on the Greenhorns Flickr.
Get on it farmer inventors, farmer researchers, farmer questioning everythingers..
Organic Farming Research Foundation Is Accepting Grant Proposals Through November 19, 2012
Since 1990, Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) has awarded hundreds of grants supporting exceptional research and education in organic farming. Organic farmers are some of the most innovative entrepreneurs in America who work tirelessly to meet a growing consumer demand.
The OFRF grant proposal deadline of November 19, 2012 is quickly approaching.
Thanks to our partnership with Seed Matters, proposals are being accepted for:
• Research in categories of organic seed quality or crop breeding.
• Education/outreach projects in categories of organic seed quality or crop breeding.
OFRF will make selections in March. Applicants will be notified by March 30, 2013. Submit a proposal if you wish to receive funding to improve organic research.
For more information, please contact the OFRF Grants Program.
Let’s cultivate BIG ORGANIC IDEAS,