(background: I live on a farm, and have come across dozens if not hundreds of websites that promise to "open source", and/or "crowd source" "innovative", "new" plans for farm tools, all of which are either useless, overly complicated, too much work to build, or better bought as a working product from Tractor Supply.)
...and - much to my surprise - this website actually has a fair number of really decent ideas.
"Pastured pig waterer", "Home built no-till seed drill", and a few others all look interesting.
FWIW, over the next year or two I'd like to design and weld up a potato row mounder and a potato harvester, both designed to attach via three point hitch to my tractor. They're commercially available, but not locally, and shipping on big stuff like this is killer.
IIRC, many of these projects came from actual farmers, not design students.
There's a related project, the Greenhorns  working to recruit new, young farmers and support them as they get going - part of that is cutting equipment and labor costs. I chatted a couple of farmers who were using the produce washers built from old washing machines.
Is it a solution for large-scale industrial farming? No. But from hobby farmers up to ones doing a 50-100 share CSA model, it makes a lot of sense and reduces barriers to entry.
As a designer, if there is one thing that pisses me off about my own field, it is that design students often are not encouraged enough to co-create with real stake-holders and end up just throwing ungrounded high-concept nonsense out there.
There ya go.
Tell that to The Matrix ;)
Thermodynamic impossibility is a relatively minor obstacle for a true believer.
I wish they would try to disrupt the first world first instead.
Edit: And a truck like this is just the thing for transporting crops or doing farm related tasks.
This statement from 1 makes me worry, but I think it was meant to instill confidence, which is also worrisome: "It is unlike any other vehicle and has no direct competitor – whether from a concept, performance or pricing point of view."
The entire thing is a deathtrap. A used toyota pickup is better in every regard.
I think Gordon Murray has spent too much time designing performance cars rather than utility vehicles.
Now I will have to reevaluate this.
So should I have invested in it at first, then stopped investing as it started sucking, and then reinvested again to the new people using it?
Given that type of friction, I may give up donating altogether. Or good ideas which hit a genuine rough spot may lose all funding and die off before reaching their full potential.
What would be a realistic ratio of overhead to target? Apple-like? Say 30% should be acceptable overhead? Or a sliding scale? For example, if a charity raises $1bn does it really need $300m for overhead? Maybe there is some middle band of maximum overhead percentage, say up to $1m <=5% $1m-$1bn up to 30% and over $1bn <= 15%?
> Miller’s True and Fair Foundation argues (pdf) that charities should spend a minimum 65% of their total income on charitable activity. Any charity spending less than that, it says, “must by definition be one or more of poorly governed, unethical or appallingly mismanaged” (pdf). One in five larger charities is said by the foundation to spend less than 50%.
> The foundation has simply taken a charity’s total income and contrasted it with charitable expenditure. But, the total income for many large charities includes the costs of trading (eg running a charity shop) – money which could never be spent on the end cause, but helps generate additional funds for it. Like any business, part of the charity’s income goes to cover these costs, before a profit is made which can go directly to the charity’s cause.
> For example, a charity may spend £30 running a charity shop. It makes £40 on the till, so therefore makes a £10 profit which goes to the end cause, along with the initial £10 donation.
> In doing all this, its total income is recorded as £50 – the £10 donation, plus the £40 from trading. The £20 it has to spend on its cause is 40% of this £50.
Donate to charities like you would invest money. Do your research and be sceptical about extraordinary claims and glitzy marketing not backed up by data.
They've re-invented the tractor and 3-point / PTO implements, but they've done so very VERY poorly, there are no instructions, everything is hand-wavy, etc.
It's condescending bullshit by "designers" who want to help third worlders with no realization that the best approach for an actual third worlder is to buy a used / discount version of the commercially available product.
For example, their cement mixer design is 25% done (whatever that means), and is going to cost about $1,000 in parts alone, or $1,800 in parts and labor.
Here's one that attaches to a tractor for $900 http://www.northerntool.com/shop/tools/product_200660639_200... and you can find similar items even cheaper on Alibaba.
A lot of these "let's help people farm!" websites are made by people who don't know anything about anything but seem to be compelled to do something so that they're "helping".
People who do this sort of thing as a hobby just want to feel good and are looking for distractions. A tractor that takes 600 hours to complete and requires extensive access to manufacturing equipment and the knowledge to use it? Great! Think about how much fun I'll have creating blue prints and what not!
Meanwhile if I just needed an actual tractor, there is one rusting in someone's field I can grab off craigslist. It's twice my age but with some basic tools it will run again and will continue to work until long after my death.
It isn't just "farming" (more like gardening for most of these people) that this suffers. It's always cool to see someone's "make your own XYZ for your motorcycle" video on YouTube. But then you realize they just used a turret mill and a metal lathe to make a part you can buy for $100 on Amazon. Just the tooling they used costs over $100. And oh yeah, the part just has to be waited on for Amazon to ship it to me with free shipping via prime.
I build stuff in my free time, but I don't pretend it's cost effective or even a good use of my time. It's just a way to pass the time.
I have consciously spent tens of thousands of dollars on tools to be more capable of building things for myself (bad Return on cash). But some of the stuff these people make and have access to astounds me.
Except nowadays it is more like "I just went over to my uncle's job that night where we used a $1.5 million CNC machine his employer owns to make a replacement from solid stainless"
Paying a bunch of engineers, farmers, designers etc, that would otherwise be working on farm equipment to design farm equipment blueprints in and open way is an amazing idea. Do they have to be in the field, in a hut they built themselves talking about grand moonshots like changing the world economy or developing lives for the third world. Absolutely not. I agree with you that this seems like developers thinking they know better how to fix the world than those working in it.
So yeah, OpenHardware is cool and it should exist, but it's not going to replace commercial endeavors anytime soon and it's not practical for anything but a hobby today. There's no reason we can't have the Linux conjugate bulldozer option at some point in the future though.
...which I would ABSOLUTELY build, if there were plans.
OBTW, tangential, but if this kind of thing gets you excited, check out this guy (Doug Jackson, aka "SV Seeker"), building a 70 foot long steel boat in his backyard.
Maybe regulation would fix this, but it doesn't seem most consumers care for it anyway. Fixing things yourself today is hindered by regulation more than it's helped.
A lot of times, people will even pay you to haul that kind of stuff off for them, if they don't know what they have.
Interesting thing about the little old tractors, they were generally just the engine & transmission, with a seat stuck on top of the transmission and wheels attached. No real body or frame to speak of, it was all drivetrain. See this pic for an example: https://cdn1.mecum.com/auctions/gf0311/gf0311-103923/images/...
If somebody want to improve the world and help poorest they should just invent ways to produce those inexpensively and sell them in poor areas. Productivity will skyrocket.
He sits on the transmission.
I grew up on a farm in the 60's, before the era of AC and GPS controlled tractors. Most everything was fixable on the farm with a pretty minimal tool chest
Once you attach an implement, then there are all kinds of other functions that it may be used for, like variable rate application. In harvesting applications, there are systems where the combine can take over control of the grain cart tractor while unloading on the go to make sure it stays in the right spot, again localized via GPS. The combine itself will also map the crop yields by its location, and of course automatic steering like the tractors have.
With RTK these tractors can achieve centimetre accuracy and repeatability which opens the door for all kinds of possibilities.
Not to say that plowing, etc isn't exciting work, but with the tractor doing most of the work, you can rock out to tunes in your AC environment. When they install the GPS steering, there is a free minifridge. :-)
If you want to know why a compact tractor costs more than a new car that's a large part of the reason. These are things made to be abused day-in and day-out.
We ended up picking up a '81 Ford that has more than 2000 hours and still runs like a champ.
Old ones are little more than engine, transmission and maybe hydraulics.
My tractor is about five years old, but the haying implements I hook on (specifically, the New Holland 271 baler) are about as old as I am (45).
If that SJH TED guy actually depended on an ag livelihood which necessitated functioning equipment, maybe they'd been able to dogfood workable designs to be almost as good as commercial products, or at least not as terrible as solar roadways. Instead, they have a wiki for a Moller, which will stay unrealized... forever.
The point is not to get a cheap tractor, or even a good one.
The point is not to have a tractor you can service.
The point is to have a shared platform.
If you buy a random used tractor and mod it, and I buy a different one, the probability that your mod is compatible with my tractor is low.
If I am just as skilled as you at designing and fabricating parts, maybe that's ok.... I can just adapt your plans to my machine.
With open source hardware, though, you can be a skilled machine designer, release detailed plans, and then a less skilled designer can come along, follow your fabrication instructions, and have a chance that your mod will work on their hardware.
Open sourcing the plans is essentially providing an standard API for the machine.
If you are satisfied that the existing market for farm equipment gives you an optimally efficient process already, then this is of no benefit to you.
If you are a tinkerer and would like to build off a community of tinkerers to design new workflows for your operation, you might find an open source hardware project valuable.
2) no environmental regulations
3) governmental policies
5) lower costs of living relative to the west
6) less barriers to entry and less middlemen sucking out money
9) government regulation governing the contents of those raw materials e.g. Prop 65.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=myf_bJv20NE touches on it (26 minutes in). That you can order a chip you need... and its made a few blocks away.
Detroit (and the midwest auto industry) used to be like this - where whatever you needed was fairly close already. Not so much anymore. I'd have to dig up the cost difference in a slack (I asked about it), but IIRC, the majority of the price difference was not the difference in the cost of labor on a $30 item, but that at the scale things are being made the logistics isn't as expensive (you can buy 1000 chips and get them in a day or so rather than needing to buy 10,000 chips and needing for them to be shipped from 1000 miles away that will get here next week).
For what it is worth, as a farmer myself, I'm under the impression that a lot of these projects were created for someone's garden/backyard project, not a farm. That doesn't diminish their utility in that application, but the usefulness may not translate to farm-scale.
But it's always fun to see what other people are doing, even if it isn't necessarily useful on my own farm. I wish discovery was a little better though. The site makes it difficult to segment the tools that are designed for the garden and those that would fit in on a larger farm.
For the modern stuff, equipment can be unfixable without factory authorization. The rest (tires, frame, pistons...) is perfectly fine, so just replace the electronics.
Older stuff doesn't do GPS, automated steering, and so on. That should be doable.
It could probably be split into model-specific parts and more general parts, allowing at least some of it to be done as a large production run.
Modern stuff is partially complex due to new emissions standards(things like DPF, regeneration and UREA). An open source ECU that solves those problems would be a good step.
Clutch based tractors aren't that complex, there's just a large amount of capital investment in building them and very little incentives to make them open.
Yeah, the electronics can break. But even on the equipment I own where the electronics are not critical to the operation, you still end up fixing it ASAP because you quickly miss not having it. Electronics have become heavily used because they add a lot of value.
Perhaps not in the case of the aforementioned DEF, but that's a legal requirement, and even the most basic tractor you could imagine would still require it.
I would want anything I'd buy to not have a magical black box which costs thousands of dollars every time it has a problem.
There are still some fairly bare bones new tractors on the market, particularly those that come from the old Eastern Bloc, but I don't know anyone who wants to own one. There is a dealer around, so someone must (perhaps in the compact market?), but they are definitely few and far between. I'm not sure I have ever seen one in person.
Besides, if you're comfortable with maintaining a decades old tractor, why wouldn't you buy an existing one? There are plenty of a good old used tractors on the market that are tried and true. They last a long time and will be far cheaper than anyone could ever make a new one for.
I'm left wondering if you are out of touch with the realities of farming, or are farming in a completely different way to what I am? If the latter, I'd love to know more about your operation.
Cheaper machinery (and not having to hunt at farm auctions for good deals) lowers the bar so you can get more and smaller farmers which I believe is a big step to improving our food economy (and not just the money part, the whole (what|where|why) of growing food could be much improved if there was less focus on industrial concerns)
I only go home to farm for fun a few times a year – after a while it might not be only for fun.
Kubota basically targets that market(Compact Utility Tractor) and geared ones still cost more than a new car before you factor in maintence.
And since the manufacturers need to do all the engineering for those large farmers regardless, I, like the parent, am going to also have to question how much the electronic equipment really costs to put in the lower end models? It's certainly not a zero cost, but how much are we really talking?
Here's a ripper. We used something like it this year to, amongst other things, assist with some drainage issues.
28-38 HP per shank, up to 9 shanks. That's ~350 HP in it's max configuration.
>It's certainly not a zero cost, but how much are we really talking?
Low volume, high complexity electronic hardware design and manufacture? I've been part of engineering departments building such things and it's not cheap. It'll cost... $200,000 per employee-year for engineers? Researching enough to come up with an actual cost would probably take days – but it's definitely a significant if not majority share of the engineering budget.
Why does 500 acres necessitate the max configuration? I mean, you could also run a DB120 and have all of your acreage planted in 6 hours, but that seems rather unnecessary at that size. There is a certain time/value calculation at play, but at that size you can justify spreading the work over more time.
Plus, the brochure you link to even shows a Puma 210 running the unit, which has just 210 engine HP. Clearly the implement can work just fine with a sub-250HP tractor.
> Low volume, high complexity electronic hardware design and manufacture?
No. Much of hardware is already going to be designed for the big operators either way. So, just the cost of increasing the manufacturing volume for putting the same equipment on equipment destined for the smaller farmers.
As cool as 500HP is, there are consequences to that much power. It uses more fuel, it requires more material (metal, rubber, etc.) to handle the load, it requires more shed space to store, larger implements to do something with that power, etc. all of which just piles on the costs. Even ignoring electronics completely, a 500HP tractor is going to cost more to own than a 100HP tractor.
While I recognize that everyone farms differently, in my experience 100-200HP is sufficient and price-optimal to get the job done on a 500 acre farm. That's why I was surprised to see you suggesting this hypothetical tractor be so far away from that, especially when you claimed that price cutting was the primary driver here.
If you truly can buy a 300HP tractor without electronics for the same price as a 150HP tractor with (along with the implements sized for that additional power) allowing you to get the job done faster so you can get back to another job that pays the bills, maybe there is something there. But then that doesn't solve the capital cost problem of new farmers that you felt was important.
In short, I'm struggling to find the coherency in your comments. Perhaps you can go back and tie all the tangents together?
The way to break this is to make Open Source electronics replacement kits for all the popular models.
At absurd prices though. It isn't just the shipping, small scale farm/market garden stuff is priced ridiculously high.
Farmers are the original entrepreneurs, they are all hacking, all the time, sharing their hacks.
It's unbelievable how much knowledge most farmers have.
Some of the concepts, like the vertical garden, could give city-dwellers the opportunity to grow their own food on an apartment balcony or make better use of a small back yard.
"In life you're a tool maker or a tool user. What we're building at Baqqer is a tool. Here's something I've noticed about tools and the people that make them. There are ultimately two types of tool makers.
The first type of tool maker is an observer and participant of their own craft, and as such can make very insightful decisions on how to devise a tool from the systematic understanding of what explicitly and implicitly goes into the work being shaped by these tools. Typically these tools are utilitarian and without form in excess beyond what is absolutely necessary to accomplish the task. This is the truest form of tool.
The second type of tool maker is an observer, but not a participant in a craft. These tool makers tend to be cloning tools with small changes, or seeing a problem where there might not be one, because they might not truly understand the way makers participate in this task of their craft. This is the weakest form of tool.
To say there is not evidence to support contraries in both statements is false, but I would expect these instances to be outliers. These statements also do not dismiss the contributions made by outsiders of a craft, as there is something to be said about observing outside the traditions of a craft. I would even suspect large leaps of innovation in the craft might be made from the application of knowledge and modes of thinking leveraged from other/disparate pursuits."
Which is why it's so important for young people to go into industry before entrepreneurship. Learn a business, identify the gaps, solve the problems. Thinking you have world-changing insight into industries you've never experienced is hubris at its worst.
They are a little more even handed though. I think one of the examples are specialised scalpels. They point out that a doctor innovating a new surgery may need a tool which simply doesn't exist, and theyll need to build it themselves.
On the other hand, a professional scalpel maker may know about a new alloy, or a new casting technique, or a way to mass produce them for pennies. You get the best product when both types of innovation are present.
I can see a few "vapour" ideas/concepts, some software, games, instructionals (however immaterial), and among the more material objects, an artisan made knife for US$ 150 apiece and a wax canvas bag for wheelchairs for a mere US$ 250 apiece.
But not any "tool".
I had expected "makers" to be more like the ones on the site this thread is about, making some heavy, sturdy, simple, cheap, effective tools.
i subvert logical fallacy by acknowledging 'the undiscussed third'
 e.g. the Japanese saws that I mentioned in one of my recent comments - I read about them in the Whole Earth Catalog.
 Update: Just googled and found this:
- washing machine converted to a large salad spinner
- a hand drill with a mop on the end, plus a slicing blade and catching bag (for picking lettuce)
- a 12-tine rake to which you'd attach a combination of hose segments specific to the seed row spacing you needed
- a green house on rollers so you could start seeds undercover and then move the framework without replanting anything
Open source farming hardware is the right way to do it.