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Tool ideas for Farm Hack Ithaca

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Event

At Farm Hack Ithaca, there will be a tool design charrette, where farmers and allies can team up to dream up and begin the process of prototyping new or improved farm tools and systems.

This forum is where you should post your idea, or summarize the problem you hope to solve, so that other farmhackers can be thinking about it ahead of time.

DeanK's picture

I've been thinking about a harvest/weeding cart for working in a prone position over a row. There are mechanized harvesters that place farmworkers on a platform, but I'd like to make a human powered version.

Here are some initial resources: the University of Wisconsin's specialized harvest cart for greens (http://bse.wisc.edu/hfhp/tipsheets_html/cart.htm http://ergo.engr.wisc.edu/proj05.htm) and some research done at UC Davis' UC AERC lab (http://nasdonline.org/document/1927/d001873/stooped-and-squatting-postures-in-the-workplace-july.html).

Mechanized harvest platforms: http://www.pendragonfabrication.com/pages/drangen.html Wunda Weeder from Australia (their website has been removed?) http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20010618-1.html

Devon Van Noble's picture

Some good news about the human-powered, prone-position harvester.. A group at Farm Hack - Iowa was just discussing that earlier this Summer , check their "Quadracycle Harvester/Weeder" plans, here:
http://www.farmhack.net/forums/charrette-group-quadracycle-harvesterweeder

Devon Van Noble's picture

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Devon Van Noble's picture

Another tool that is being used just outside of Ithaca, is the Japanese Paper Pot Transplanter. Muddy Fingers Farm in Hector NY has begun to use this transplanter, and I hope to hear some feedback about their experience with it during the design charrettes-- the way it works is amazing.

(Check out a brief video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWd8gBJgEMY )
or
( Check out one of the only farmer-suppliers in America who carries these instruments: www.smallfarmworks.com )

-- Let us know if you are interested in learning more about the transplanter by replying below:

AndyF's picture

I've been using the paperpot transplanter on my farm since 2009 and have been very happy with the results. It does a great job for me with alliums, beets, turnips, spinach, asian greens, small lettuces, kohlrabi and several other crops. The economics for the tool are compelling - it can easily pay for itself in less than one year.

DeanK's picture

We borrowed the transplanter from Muddy Fingers earlier this year, and definitely liked it. We had troubles with clogging the chute with plants that had grown quite leggy and were falling over. The paper sections also kept breaking since they should have been planted a few weeks earlier. But other than user error, it worked great.

AndyF's picture

We're considering building a sprayer which we could be used in the high tunnels as a bed sprayer for greens for either foliar feeds or materials such as pyganic or entrust and would also be convertible to a sprayer for trellised crops such as cukes and tomatoes for spraying of materials like kaligreen as well as entrust, pyganic and neem oil.

Ideally the sprayer would be metered based on ground speed to ensure that materials are applied at the proper rate and would be set up so that tips can be easily changed depending upon the material being applied.

AndyF's picture

We're using DIG controllers for irrigation in the high tunnels and for some field irrigation, but are interested in finding a controller which has a more friendly user interface, can be accessed from any PC on our network, easily allows forced starts and stops of individual valves, ties into flow meters to track gallons being applied, allows for input from irrometers or other tools to sense soil moisture and/or rainfall, can be enables starts/stops of chemilizers for injection of materials into the irrigation water (ex. citric acid in high tunnels for pH management or compost teas) can send data to an excel spreadsheet for tracking water usage and would have the potential to use the information from the rain gages and/or irrometers to change the pre-programmed irrigation schedule, ie if we get 1" of rain in a week, automatically disable the irrigation start for that week, or in a high tunnel if soil moisture is sufficient, cancel the second scheduled watering cycle.

I'm interested in partnering with people with programming skills to build this type of tool, or talking with people with irrigation and/or industrial controls experience to see what might be available as a stock solution.

Louis's picture

Hi Andy,

This sounds very interesting to me. I'm currently developing a general purpose long-range, weather-proofed, sensing and automation board. The communication options will include Zigbee (local wireless protocol, longer range, lower bandwith than WiFi) and 3G. The idea is to have real-time monitoring as well as user-determined logic (if sensor A reads above threshold X, do action 1) and schedules.

I would love to hear about this application and any others you may think up. Initially, I was actually thinking more along the lines of your post below which talks about the motorized flaps.

--Louis

Timothy Weber's picture

I worked on an open irrigation control project some years ago, when ZigBee wasn't quite done yet; I built a solar-powered node and ran it for several years, but the overall project got derailed in politics. Would be happy to chat about it.

Louis's picture

Sounds intriguing! I would love to hear about it. Is any documentation still up?

Timothy Weber's picture

No, we abandoned it due to too much competition. The competition didn't necessarily get it right either, though. We applied for an NSF SBIR grant, but were turned down, then found and lost venture capital, then I considered taking it open source, but decided it would take way more time than I could afford to donate, especially since there seemed to be a lot of efforts going already in both academia and industry. That was around 2005.

AndyF's picture

A walk behind garlic planter would be a real time saver for us and have much better ergonomics than hand planting. Some work has been done in Thailand developing and evaluating small scale planters, http://fme.hcmuaf.edu.vn/data/design%20and%20development%20of%20a%20garlic%20planter%20in%20thailand.pdf , this work could be used as a basis for building a similar machine, possibly using a BCS type power unit as the drive.

AndyF's picture

We're considering adding thermostatically controlled shutters to two high tunnels next season and are also thinking of motorizing the roll-up sides or installing motorized drop down sides so that the sides as well as the gable peak vents can automatically open and close depending upon inside temperature.

I'd like to discuss any experiences people may have had with automated roll-up sides, specifically reliability and any cost savings/yield improvements realized as well as lower cost methods for automating the roll-up/drop down sides. Commercial systems are well out of my price range.