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An international conversation about the Culticycle

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Hi all! Severine asked me to throw this conversation up here -Will

On Feb 14, 2013, at 12:17 PM, Etienne wrote:

Hi guys !

I hope everything's fine for you on the other side of the atlantic. I'm Etienne, currently working for ADABio autoconstruction which is, as you probably know, the french cousin of Farm Hack. Julien gave me your e-mail addresses, I'm not sure you'll be all concerned about this topic so sorry about that.

With my workmates and some of the active members of our organization, we 're very interested in the culticycle you're showing on your website. We promote a way to grow vegetables that could be helped by the use of such a great machine ! This tool could be used as well for lot more purposes, exactly the kind of machine we're looking for.

You say on your website you're thinking of a new version. What do you think of sharing the work ? That may be helpful to think together of a strong, easy-made and easy-to-use version. In that case, we would think seriously about courses for this tool next winter.

If you think that it could be a good idea, a good way to look in the same direction, don't hesitate, I'm personally very enthusiastic and ready to start designing !

Hope to hear from you soon !

-- Etienne ESCALIER

On 2013-02-15 16:09, Severine wrote:


You and your workmates seem to work in similar ways to us

I"m cc'ing you to TIm, who made the Culticycle.

And to LU and ROB. who are the other bike-oriented drivers. I hope you can talk to them about bike stuff.

And yes. We are working on the next phase for our website, particularly designing around the " workshops" of local groups who are driving this system forward. - RJ is the designer of the website so far.

And in terms of developing a pilot project . a mobile- teaching facility, to bring farmhack skills to vocational skills..

But I think its time to talk on the phone.

Could we make a time? It would be amazing to collaborate across the ocean.

What about sometime next week? I will be in France with Jude Becker-- pastured pork farmer from Iowa in the first weeks of July. I'll be in touch with you a bit later on about seeing if we can come visit you in person to talk this through as well.


On Tue, Mar 5, 2013 at 5:03 AM, Etienne wrote: Hi all !

I hope that everything's alright for you. Here in France we're organizing the last courses of the season. Next months will see the first triangular hitch courses : we'll go directly to peasant's farm with our van to convert all their tools. Depending on how many tools and volunteers, it should take 1 or 2 days. As I know that you're interested in this hitch, I'll let you know how it's been going and how to make those courses easier. Don't hesitate to ask for more informations.

About the culticycle, we had a talk yesterday. A lot of people here are interested, but we (ADABio autoconstruction workers) have currently too many work to spend a lot of time on it. But we don't want to forget the idea and we'd like to share what we think. The first thing is that we think that making a culticycle is sustainable only with an electric help : I guess that it's the same in the US : in France farmers are very busy when it's time to do the job. Even if the idea of using less the tractor is great, they don't want to loose too much time, and they'd like to keep their knees safe. And it's easy to use a solar-loaded battery.

As all the tools we make, we totally agree with the moto "the more modular the better". Our last tool is a bar where a lot of tools can be hung easily (http://www.adabio-autoconstruction.org/outils/tous-les-outils/barre-porte-outils.html). The same kind of bar, much more smaller and lighter could work quite well.

If you want to send pictures of the protoypes, I could post it on the forum and see what people think of it.

Keep in touch !


From: tim (green tractor farm) Subject: Re: What about working together on the culticycle ? Date: March 6, 2013 8:32:37 AM EST

Hi Etienne and everyone, The triangular hitch is amazing and I've been telling all my neighbors about it. And the picture with all the modular toolbars together, equally amazing. Farmers who see these things instantly get the idea - the next step is that I usually say, "You know, there's a welder right down the road, you could have these things built the way you want and it would be cheaper than buying new equipment." So people are thinking, and the impact that you and Farmhack are having is profound. As for the culticycle, it's true that electric assist would make it faster. Dorn Cox suggested a built-in flywheel to store power, which would also make it faster. Certainly anything that makes it either faster or easier will only increase its appeal. Probably around June I'll have enough frames available to try a few technologies on. Here's what I've concluded lately from looking at my 2012 notes, and they relate only to the one, gangly, cobbled-together prototype:

  1. The lighter and springier the better. Most people ask why the rebar? Tube or channel would be stiffer. But in the field, the flex action is very helpful. The rebar frame is like a backup spring helping the toolbar springs, especially when a tine hits a rock. I don't mean to say rebar is ideal, only that the frame should have some flex action.

  2. Of the 3 body positions, recumbent, upright, pitched forward, the first 2 aren't so good at overcoming the resistance of the soil. They work well on pavement when there's momentum; but here there is constant resistance. In other words using a bike to cultivate is like riding a bike up a hill. As soon as a bicyclist hits a hill, the body rotates forward, weight is shifted to arms and quads. This position can be maintained for long periods without undue stress on knees or wrists, and actually feels pretty good. Everyone agrees there's too little good exercise on the farm: it's all weightlifting and not very aerobic, and often it's necessary to stay in the same bodily position for too long.

  3. What's the price? Why would anybody want this compared to a Cub? Even if a culticycle could be made faster and stronger, it will never pull a trailer like a Cub. I think there are other selling points, for instance it's a great tool for farms with volunteers and interns, or that annoying CSA member who's there too much because it's fun. It's a good teaching tool that gets work done, and can be produced cheaply enough that a farm can have multiple versions. And as we've been saying, the more modular, the more versatile.

Anyway, I'll keep building and we'll see how it goes this year. I'll send some more pictures but it will take some time, I can't lift anything until April (surgery last week, went fine). I've had a great time getting into this inspiring circle of innovators and I really appreciate what you all are doing. And hopefully I can meet more of you soon. Take care, Tim

incrediblefarm's picture

Hi people, Ive just found your site and this culticycle thing looks great. Just the kind of thinking we like. We are a UK based project from the Incredible Edible Todmorden Movement with a one acre vegitable farm, intending to expand to other bigger sites in our under used landscape. We like this kind of low tech, high thought way of doing. its amazing how much brain ache it takes to do something a SIMPLER way! We would like to be involved, and have access to a full metalwork shop so please count us in, but in line with some of the comments already posted, maybe this is mostly a winter project, its so busy on the farm right now. Best Peasant Wishes Nick

Two_field_meal's picture

Hey there, I'm a farmer trying to partner with technicians in the pedal power community here in Eugene Oregon to create a prototype/ flagship demonstration model. If it seems like as popular an item as I think it could be, they might make more for other farmers. Tim, I am curious if you have any kind of blue prints/ hand-drawings/ or some other schematics that might help save us some time in trying to reinvent it on our end. Thanks! -Sam

green tractor farm's picture

I'm getting the drawings and build page ready to post this weekend - thanks, Tim

montclar26's picture

Hi there. Tim, just to let you know that we are a few futur farmers, in Drome-France, really interested in the pedal power machinery. Hope you'll find the necessary time to draw and build this page you're talking about. We'll let you know about our feelings and even perhaps try to join "l'atelier paysan" and ADABio autoconstruction where Etienne is working to think about buiding a french prototype and to be able to share experience. Best. Dan

edixon's picture

FarmHack Folks -
My friend Isabel and I are embarking on a culticycle build this semester. We are hoping to have a prototype completed by mid May. We hope to be adding to existing documentation from Tim through using CAD. We are curious about FarmHack and starting to document progress here. We have been working mostly in Google Drive currently and will link that work shortly. For those of you following the culticycle documentation, would it be more helpful to add documentation to Tim's culticycle page or to create a related tool and create a culticycle page of our own?
We are looking forward to collaborating -

baruch77's picture

Hi Emily,

If you are working on a culticycle design then you should post it on Tim's forum. Some people find this site hard to navigate. I recently started a forum on a human powered tractor (small farm) that I am building. It would have more capabilities but also more expensive. There will be a build in MA in March. Are you participating in that?

orchard pond's picture


I met Tim in Boston a couple of weeks ago, and will be building this fall.  My bride started an organic csa about 8 years ago, and has not found the right equipment yet. Through ergonomics, precision, shallow till, partial damage to weeds, ground driven implements, foul-less rolling cultivators, we can help a generation of small farmers help recover the nutrition system that one and will feed the world.  A great collaboration will yield great advances, but my goal is to get something that works into the hands of these farmers that do not want to build their own for a reasonable price.  They have so much going against them, and so many other professional roles to fill.

We make toys in asia but design them in Tallahassee, and Tim has given me the inspiration to crank up a prototype build in our shop, or in that of a bike creator.

I am pleased to meet you guys anywhere in the usa, to collaborate soon.  Winter is warm in tallahassee.

We are working also with FSU on a robotic weeding machine, a pogo stick kite generator, a ROV that climbs trees and cuts limbs.  We have access to so good folks, so you should consider coming to see us, or we can go up coast.

Is this the place to be discussing the technical questions and solutions that I am working on, or is there a better place.  For instance, I am intrigued by the rear steering concept coming from france.  I would think it dynamically unstable, my experience is an old gravely mower that my father had, but if you are only adding very small steering inputs, and are geared way down, it may not matter.  What are the advantages of steering from the rear?

Thanks Jeff

edixon's picture


Another question, I have yet to find any CAD files on FarmHack. There are a lot of .jpegs of CAD files. Do users have to contact the developer for access to CAD files?