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Tools for soil preparation, seeding and cultivation
  • I don't know if it is the right place to start this discussion, but is somebody interested in discussing tools for soil preparation, seeding and cultivation?

    I would like to discuss tools and methodologies to prepare soil before planting, seeding and weed control. I have a bias to no-till organic farming, but I think that the discussion could include other technologies. I live in a small farm, and we operate until now basicaly with hand tools, contracting tractor services (once or twice in 10 years) only for the development of new areas over degraded land.  I'm already experimenting with very simple tools, like a wood/rebar harrow, and I want to discuss designs and experiences with others.

    On the wiki we have only a  few pages about this subject:,_Power_Harrow,_Rotary_Soil_Miller

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  • There's not much point building all this stuff if in the end we have nothing to eat....:)  This is an area that I know little about.  I will be listening closely.

    The Dawg
  • It may be less natural, but has anyone looked into things like vertical farming?

    And I personally like the ecological perspective found in aquaponics.

    I don't know a whole lot about permaculture, but my understanding of nature is that it is a system much like everything else and so we could create a "Second Nature" within our community.  It seems to me that permaculture is a technical system developed to maximize the natural efficiencies of the "wild".  A permaculturalist would therefore be most qualified to build an ecology into the community, but without having to encourage primitivism.  And for all of the purists about what is "natural" and what isn't I would like to encourage you to read this:

  • There are two pictures on the wiki that were uploaded a few days ago relating to vertical farming.  You may want to ask the uploader about it if you are interested as they probably are too.

    I put up CAD drawings for the rototiller for someone at the farm to post dimensions for, but they haven't gotten to it yet.  I had planned to put together some designs for some farm implements however I have been working on the steam engine at the moment.
  • @Fabiofranca (French Fabio?) I am a big fan of food and growing it myself.  In my opinion the most important element to a garden is a good compost heap.  But I think this whole discussion is an important one.  My experience is more of a one man show sort of thing (chickens, canning, personal garden), I think it would be interesting to study how to do it on a big scale.  The kibbutzim were interesting, they build round cities with infrastructure inside and crops around them.
  • Longterm -> We're looking strongly at Agricircle tech.

    Relatively easy to fab/operate, working prototypes. This tech could be potentially epic with fully automated agriculture.

    In the nearer term, we're looking at lot of different things. Up until now, we've somewhat neglected our food production capabilities to focus entirely on raw production power here at Factor E Farm. We do aim to rectify this in the near future.

    BTW: Vertical farming is pretty cool, though if you're going to the trouble of building such a large greenhouse, you might as well automate it.

  • I tried watching the Agricircle tech youtube video, but I think most people who try to watch it will understand why I didn't get more than a couple seconds into it.  What is agricircle?  I suppose it is higher tech than just a rotary sprinkler, which it looked like to me.

    From a personal been gardening for a while, lived in the woods, taught about nature and survival kind of perspective, I'm hesitant when I see the words automated near the words agriculture.  Would you mind going into more detail.

    As a side note, an element that would be essential in the long run, and I do mean critical (though I would like to hear an argument otherwise) is the ability to make something like pickling crocks and mason jars.
  • @ARGHaynes - I had no problem watching the first video.  The second one is in another language.

    In the first one it shows a neat machine that can till the soil, plant seeds, water plants with just enough water and even help with cultivation and composting at the end.  I really think it's doable.  Sure would be easy to make.  It looks like it's CNC controlled to move a tool or platform in a spiral till it reaches the center.  It makes spiral rows then plants the seeds then uses a watering rig to deposit water right over the rows as it goes along.  Neato

    If anyone with agro skills would like to form a team around this idea I would be interested in doing my part.

    The Dawg

  • @ARGHaynes , "França" is a common family name here. Its more like  France (the name of the country).

    Aquaponics seems to be a really smart idea and high productive, but it is intensive in materials and energy. I’m going to start experimenting with aquaponics soon, but I’m still thinking in how  to  build a system in a really really cheap way. The problem is that I didn’t find yet a good media for the beds  here were I live.  

    At the moment, I’m experimenting with irrigation from a fish pond (lentils crop). I have one line with chemical fertilizer, other with organic fertilizer, and others only with fertirrigation. Lets see the results.

    A good place for discussions about aquaponics is: ( Tons of knowledge there!

  • For other agricultural technologies, there is a lot of information on line. It is an interesting idea to discuss robotics in agriculture, but I think it is wise to begin in the other end of the technological spectrum.

    If conventional mechanization isn’t convenient in some places (job displacement etc) what we can say about robotics… And hand labor and physical exercise are healthy!

     The next references is what I’m studying now:

    Agricultural Tools: comprehensive review of published material about mechanization in agriculture: ( or ( Tools.pdf)

    Tools for Agriculture: A Buyer’s Guide to Appropriate Equipment, , ITDG, 1985, 1992:  (

    Dibble Sticks, Donkeys, and Diesels: Machines in Crop Production, by Joseph Campbell, available from IRRI Publications, P.O. Box 933, Manila, Philippines: (

    Small Farm Equipment for Developing Countries: (

    American Farm Tools, by R.D. Hurt, 1982: (

    Farm Implements for Arid and Tropical Regions, U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization Development Paper No. 91 by H. Hopfen, 2nd edition 1979: (
  • @Fabiofranca - I also feel that we should start basically and move towards automation later.  Having said that, our group is very automation centric at the moment.  For better or worse, the interest and skills to automate seem to be here.  So I'm inclined to suggest this sort of implementation as long as it makes some sort of sense.  Automating simply because it's cool or because we have the man power is a waste of resources.

    Keep in mind that one of the core strategies of this group is to free up time as much as possible.  No one wants to go back to the stone ages.  If I can spend an hour in the morning preparing an automated machine to do 12 hours work in 4 while I go and do something else useful, I then have the potential to spend 11 hours on the porch drinking a cold beer, or reading a book, or any other useful thing I want.  At that point, I am no longer a slave to the task.

    There will always be agro chores that need to be done by hand.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But ideally we would have the flexibility to choose the time and place.  Automation I think can provide that flexibility if done carefully with eyes WIDE open.

    Thank you for gathering those links.  We need to do this more often to speed up research.

    The Dawg
  • A somewhat related topic, being both connecting to farming and an essential piece of technology, it the discussion held in the book 'Humanure'.

  • @ Dawg, we
    are thinking in the same way. Personally, the more free time, more time I have to
    investigate and experiment with sustainability/resilience projects and my hobbies,
    like  outdoor activities and ham radio (I
    understand that you are into ham also, isn’t it? By the way, my call sign is


    I have a
    day city job, but live in a small farm.  To
    have the work done in my farm, I have the resources to hire manual or
    mechanical labor, but I’m not thinking in my personal needs when discussing
    open source projects. I’m thinking in ways to help the millions of peasant
    farmers in my country to have more free time of their own. I have time,
    resources and space to spare with experiments, something they don’t have.


    I think
    that we have to devise technologies  to
    help them to do their job faster and more efficiently, but in a way they can
    understand and afford. A farm robot, even open source, is absolutely out of the
    reach of a peasant farmer in Latin America, Africa and most of Asia, even in the long  term, realisticaly. But an open source “multipurpose
    toolbar” (see  Tools for Agriculture: A
    Buyer’s Guide to Appropriate Equipment, pp 45) can promote huge improvements in
    labor efficiency. Lets help them free their time, so they can learn to use the
    internet, and join our discussion about robots, induction furnaces and similar


    Here is an
    idea of basic requirements for an “Open Source Multipurpose Toolbar”:


    1-It should
    effectively reduce time and effort in soil preparation, planting and associated

    2- It needs
    to be affordable for a peasant farmer family

    3- It needs
    to be simple to build with local materials and minimal tools

    4- It needs
    to be simple to operate, maintain and repair in the field

    5- It needs
    to operate where space is scarce for

    For maneuver  and storage

    6- I should
    be compatible with a variety of power sources:  animal power, walk behind tractors, small
    tractors (Lifetrac!), 4WDs, winch systems and others  available.

    I already have a concept in mind. I will try to
    draw something in 2D CAD soon.


  • @ARGHaynes,
    positively human produced “fertilizers” need to be accounted in a resilient
    farm. Humanure is a great book. I studied the bucket humanure composting method
    once, but  I think that are better
    methods out there to do the same, without 
    having to empty buckets full of xxx somewhere in the middle of the night
    ; )!  What we are using now in the farm
    is an anaerobic biodigester, associated with an evapotranspiration pit. It is
    not the best solution because it still uses water and emits methane (greenhouse

    option is a somewhat more complex dry composting toilet. Here is an “Open
    Source” one. The text is in Portuguese, unfortunately:

  • The anaerobic digester is one step away from a methane digester, if you capture that methane, you have a fuel source.
  • Found an attra article on aquaculture, quite an interesting technology.
  • I created a  wikipage for the multipurpose toolbar, and uploaded some sketches: (

    The sketch is without the more complex details, like fixtures, depth control for the tools, attachment points and others, but I hope it is sufficient to represent the  idea.

    It is a simple tool, but I think that it is more versatile and can perform more functions than the "agricultural spader": (

    I did a brief check on the GVCS selection criteria, and I think that the toolbar can get better scores than the spader to the top 50 tools. What do you think?

  • Is there any work being done around a fertilizer pellet applicator or rice farming? I know there is a pelletizer and seeder in the suite of 50 machine, but I haven't seen much in the way of fertilizer (organic or synthetic) application, or rice farming in general. 

    The reason I ask is because I'm working on a Fertilizer Deep Placement (FDP) pellet applicator for subsistence rice farmers in Cambodia. The project was started in a class at the Stanford design school (Entrepreneurial Design for Extreme Affordability) and my team was working in collaboration with International Development Enterprises - Cambodia. 

    If anyone know's anything or anyone involved in appropriate technology related to rice farming or fertilizer application, please let me know! I'd  be happy to share photos and CAD files of the current prototype. We're aiming for a low-cost (<$50 retail) device that one person could operate to accurate dress a one  hectare field in less than a day's work. Accurate depth and spacing of the pellets in the mud/rice paddy is crucial, and can boost yields by 25% compared to conventional broadcast fertilizer and can double yield when compared to no fertilizer at all. On top of that it's much more cost effective and environmental friendly than conventional broadcast fertilizer because far less fertilizer is lost to runoff or evaporation. 

    Any and all feedback is appreciated!
    Will (

    RiceRunner V1.2.JPG 29K
  • Hello Will.

    This is a small forum, no need to double post....:)

    The Dawg

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