Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

I clicked over to this, prepared to hate-read it and leave a caustic comment.

(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.

I've met them in person a few times while working for a magazine that documented solutions in resource-constrained (not necessarily poor) environments.

IIRC, many of these projects came from actual farmers, not design students.

There's a related project, the Greenhorns [0] 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.

> IIRC, many of these projects came from actual farmers, not design students.

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.

The Greenhorns and National Young Farmers Association helped organize a Farm Hack event at RISD in 2012 where they brought together design students and farmers. Here's a link to the forum where a lot of the work was posted http://farmhack.org/forums/farm-hack-rhode-island-2012-risd

It hurts the field as a whole - when impossible-to-build CG renders and endless piles of pie-in-the-sky Post-Its becomes synonymous with 'design' it makes it that much harder to convince organizations to put resources behind including design in their planning and production.

Your comment reminded me of the PlayPump idea that was going to supply fresh water to every village.


PlayPump failed, as so many others, because children do not make good horses. Countless projects in many fields have attempted to "harness" children for energy. There was the soccer/football generator (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oeb2fyHKirQ). I've even seen attempts to install power-generating floor tiles in English schools (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9AZxB55xjI). We think we can tell children what to do, use them as beasts of burden, but they are not a reliable power source.

We can make children be our beasts of burden, it's just that the techniques required tend to be frowned upon in modern civilization.

"... children ... are not a reliable power source."

Tell that to The Matrix ;)

The problem with the Matrix is even with made-up physics, they did a terrible job writing in humans as a power source into the plot. That's a fairly low bar and they failed.

It is claimed that in the original script, humans were used as a computing resource instead of an energy resource, but the idea was scrapped because it was too complicated to understand. A bit like lovemenot next to here indicates.

Discussion: http://scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/19817/was-executive...

I've always thought this too but I haven't come up with a better plot device

I think it's a better and more terrifying plot if you watch it as a Kafka-esque dystopia where people are imprisoned by the machines for inscrutable reasons that no-one truly knows. Morpheus's power supply theory is then just a necessary rationalization and a part of the mythology that allows the resistance to continue, while being fundamentally incorrect.

Thermodynamic impossibility is a relatively minor obstacle for a true believer.

Me too. I always thought it would have been better if humans' processing cycles (thoughts) were utilised to supplement, validate and expand the Matrix. A sort of automatic, involuntary, unaware Mechanical Turk.

Gordon Murray recently designed a flat pack truck for the third world: "[The Ox is] The world’s first ‘flat-pack’ truck [...] designed to provide low-cost all-terrain mobility for remote parts of Africa and the developing world" [1]

I wish they would try to disrupt the first world first instead.

[1] http://www.gordonmurraydesign.com/news-articles/the-world%E2...

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."

Of course you can buy like two Nissan frontiers or like 5 pixos (retail) for the price of of one of those, and spare parts and knowledge base for those is pre existing.

Good grief, they go on about being "flat pack" and easy to put together but offer no photos of it as shipped or during the assembly process...

Worse yet, they are playing tricks with the perspective. Look at the loading ramp. That's actually the rear gate unmounted and used as a ramp. But see how photographing it from that angle makes it look so much longer.

The entire thing is a deathtrap. A used toyota pickup is better in every regard.

Yeah, I couldn't help but think there's probably a reason no normal car or truck on the road has completely flat sides.

Don't the LLVs that the US postal service uses have flat sides? Similarly for UPS trucks and the containers that eighteen wheelers haul. Seems pretty normal to me.

I recall seeing a timelapse video of it being constructed, here's one http://arstechnica.com/cars/2016/09/ox-flat-pack-truck/

Hmm, rear coil springs on a cargo truck. Disk brakes on all corners too.

I think Gordon Murray has spent too much time designing performance cars rather than utility vehicles.

Thanks for the link, a long, but extremely eye opening read. I has made me rethink how I donate to charity from now on: I really did use only one metric- overhead percentage.

Now I will have to reevaluate this.

Good. I (sort of) work in that sector and investments and grant/donations support often goes to things that look good in the marketing, and show low overheads. Imagine investing in startup based on low overheads. I know, it isn't the same but the end result can be very poor. Some of the biggest names in the aid-charity business are truly awful at implementation. And there is little transparency, so it is very hard to learn what is truly effective.

So what would you suggest? The article gets a little hand wavy about what donors should do - eg the playpump worked at first, then sucked, and is now working well in some instances.

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%?

How does that charity raise $1bn? It might have legitimate costs - for example, running thrift shops.


> 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.

Fyi, the site givewell.org is dedicated to evaluating charities and helping people make the decision of what to donate to. It's the first place I'd consult for this.

I only had a chance to look at one assessment of a charity they rated that I know relatively well, and the assesment was fair (they didn't recommend donating to the charity).

Invest in successful water charities instead? https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.summar...

This site gives high railings for things that it can measure and are of marginal value, and not much for things that are important, like the effectiveness of the intervention. It gives high ratings to a least one charity I thinks performs poorly.

In international development there is an arbitrary (as far as I can tell) limit set on overheads. But without defining what the charity does. I see many organisations go through contortions to redefine their overheads to fit the norm, often unnecessarily, as the overheads are justified but not accepted according to the norm.

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.

http://kickstart.org is a successful charity/startup selling human-powered water pumps.

This was what I wanted to know coming over to the comments. This is really interesting to hear. I'm always curious when I see these websites if these tools are created by well-intentioned people that don't know the industry, or actual workers in that industry. I'll have to send this a long to my farmer friends.

This is an example of a site I hate:


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".

What you've essentially discovered is the difference between someone's hobby and trying to support yourself by doing something.

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.

My friend and I call this the "my uncle's machine shop" phenomenon after the seemingly endless forum posts about cars, desert racing, mountain bikes, woodworking etc where someone says something like, "I didn't have the part handy, so I drove over to my Uncle's machine shop and we milled it out of a 6x6x6 inch cube of billet aluminum he had lying around. Then we anodized it, and used it to fix our broken plastic xyz part."

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.

That's genius. I feel like I need to create a blog documenting stuff like this. We could compare the cost of the tooling used vs. the cost of the replacement part.

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"

On the plus side, the replacement part will probably be better. If the tools don't cost any money, and the material doesn't cost much, and you can do the labor for free, you can make some incredibly cool stuff!

life goal: becoming That Uncle™

You have a good point re needing a working tractor. However on the GP's "just by it from AliBaba" I'd really be surprised if such items would last long enough to become the "rusted one in a field" at a later date; I'd expect the "expensive" home made one might be that long lasting though.

It depends on the item. China is known for low quality goods because companies outsource to China to save money. They are telling the companies in China to make cheap crap. The manufacturers are perfectly capable and more than happy to make high quality items, it just isn't requested of them very often. It is always "use the thinnest possible" not "make it twice as thick as it really needs to be".

I think there are a lot of things they did incorrectly with OSE, but I like the premise of maintainable self-built open hardware. There's simply not enough open hardware. I don't think it's practical to build it for the third world, at least not now.

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.

+1, if only for the phrase "Linux conjugate bulldozer".

...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.


A shortcut could be to force commercial endeavors to provide Open Hardware through regulation. Not going to happen overnight either, but talking up in policy discourse seems like a better option than talking up in a hut.

It used to be, a company wouldn't buy a machine without the spec booklet, the development manual and the in depth machine build information. Hardware producers were not hardware repair shops, you went elsewhere or contracted in house to fix something. As things got more complicated, proprietary and developed for relatively poorer end-users that's no longer the case. Now trying to fix something yourself or contracting out can get you fined or worse.

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.

It's not like there aren't huge amounts of second-hand farm equipment that already exists, either. My dad is still running a John Deere M tractor from at least the early 50s, and all of the implements that we hook onto it are at least of that vintage (manure spreader, mowing machine, plow, harrows, potato hiller, potato digger, etc). Farming equipment was built ruggedly in those days, and it was simple enough that you can keep fixing and patching and welding it up almost indefinitely.

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.

> Farming equipment was built ruggedly in those days, and it was simple enough that you can keep fixing and patching and welding it up almost indefinitely.

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/...

I am using little Japanese tractor (Kubota) built in 80s on my farm. There is thriving industry importing those directly from Japan. They are very simple, there is basically no electronics, everything could be repaired by hammer and will last lifetime. Only downside is that even 25 years old tractor is still more expensive then my car, but it is still worth it.

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.

I've got a Kubota myself (B-7800). Very simple; I do all the maintenance on it with just basic shop tools.

Even modern large tractors, save articulating ones, have pretty much the same basic design. Granted, now you get a nice comfortable cab instead of a hunk of metal to sit on.

Modern farm tractors are connected in all sorts of ways to the Internet.

That doesn't change the same basic engine connected to the transmission design though.

Yep, my favorite bike is this one http://www.bikemenu.com/Jesse%20James%20Peterbilt%20Discover...

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

What's meant by "GPS controlled tractors"? I know what GPS is but not clear how it is used in tractors; similar to how it's used in cars?

As far as tractors go, the primary function is localization for automatic steering and other function automation (raising an implement on the headlands, for instance), and, especially in older systems, simply being aware of where you have already crossed the field.

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.

Plowing, planting, fertilizer and picking can be done within inches. A farmer can now plan on the contours of the land and the tractor can steer. This allows for higher yields and better land usage.

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. :-)

Yup, one of the things that floored me when I start looking into compact tractors was the concept of heavy machinery that's build to last 30-40 years and tons of abuse.

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.

Is this perhaps a case of survivorship bias? Surely there are plenty of brands/models of the tractor and implements which have critical flaws exposed only over time.

Yes, but not as much as you'd think. Tractors are very simple, very rugged devices built to be run all day in a punishing environment. It's not surprising that many 50+ year-old ones are still running.

Old ones are little more than engine, transmission and maybe hydraulics.

Does it matter at this point? If you are shopping for used equipment and all the early fails have been filtered out already then that's a good thing.

> My dad is still running a John Deere M tractor from at least the early 50s, and all of the implements that we hook onto it are at least of that vintage

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).

They're SJH: Social Justice Hackers; minus the social, the justice or the hacking.

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.

Everyone in this subthread is missing the point of open source industrial equipment.

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.

Cheap stuff from China has done quite a bit to help the world develop. How they produce and export for less than the cost of raw materials in the west is, IMHO, one of the great mysteries of economics.

1) low wages

2) no environmental regulations

3) governmental policies

4) economies of scale

5) lower costs of living relative to the west

6) less barriers to entry and less middlemen sucking out money

8) markup and living wage being paid by the supplier of the US raw materials.

9) government regulation governing the contents of those raw materials e.g. Prop 65.

4.5) Central planning for various industries to reduce logistics costs.

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).

Would be nice if someone did a dissertation level analysis on this and really got into the details. It seems like there's a lot of "Just So" stories that get thrown around and not a lot of deep research. If there were, perhaps we'd find something that's leading to a sizeable amount of the cost differential that could be adjusted by policy makers.

1.1) disregard for worker safety and well being

That goes hand in hand with "disregard environmental regulation."

> I'm always curious when I see these websites if these tools are created by well-intentioned people that don't know the industry, or actual workers in that industry.

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.

It seems to me that the obvious set of plans would be to replace all electronics of a modern piece of equipment, or to upgrade something older to modern capability.

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.

Older stuff does just fine w/ 3pt hitch & PTO. You can hook up new implements to a 50 year old tractor. The biggest issue is finding parts for some of the less common makes/brands.

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.

This is the key, somebody needs to make a minimal-electronics tractor new with even a moderate amount of openness.

What's the market? I can't imagine ever wanting to trade my modern electronics-filled tractors for the stuff we have run in the past, even if it was in brand new condition. I look forward to the day that I can upgrade my tractors to ones with even more electronics in them.

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.

The market is small farmers (lets say 500 acres) who want an economical machine they can own for decades and maintain themselves. There are plenty of electronics which are useful which don't need to be integrated into the tractor.

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.

You've pretty much described my operation, but I still don't see your vision. In fact, there's nothing inherently unapproachable about electronics. I often have an easier time understanding the electrical faults than I do the mechanical ones.

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.

The vision is simple hackable machines designed to be maintained. You'll spend quite a bit less on engineering costs if you dump most of the electronics and turn a tractor into an attachment bus for all of the electronic features you might want (crowdsourced or commercial). The mechanical design could be more or less static with only minor refinements and you might just end up with a machine that costs a fraction of the latest John Deere.

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.

You know that the cost of a JD/Kubota/New Holland has to do more with the abuse they can take than the electronics right?

Kubota basically targets that market(Compact Utility Tractor) and geared ones still cost more than a new car before you factor in maintence.

I'm talking more of the 250-500 HP range tractor which generally cost more than a house.

Really? What 500 acre farm needs a 250HP tractor, let alone 500HP? Besides, I'd suggest the farms that do need tractors that big also really do have a good justification for all of the electronics that are found within.

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?

For example:

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.

> 28-38 HP per shank, up to 9 shanks. That's ~350 HP in it's max configuration.

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.

Getting a bit into the weeds here, I pulled 250-500 out of my ass. Perhaps you'd be happier with 200-400, but I was just giving an approximate range of the sort of thing necessary and contrasting with the other commentor.

The problem here is that we're trying to establish why your target market of someone who farms 500 acres would want to buy your hypothetical tractor. I thought your market was already small to begin with, and as we get more details of what you feel is necessary, I'm left feeling like the market is even smaller than I originally thought.

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?

It's price differentiation. In some cases, low-end products ship with all the hardware but the features are disabled in software. Think of Tesla, which has shipped identical hardware at different prices, with the low-end model having less battery capacity due to software.

The way to break this is to make Open Source electronics replacement kits for all the popular models.

Ideally yes, but drop-in replacement electronics for a popular model would be almost as good.

I grew up on a farm and I used to love reading through Farm Show magazine to see all the DIY inventions the other farmers would come up with. I just checked and it looks like it's still published though there's not much available on their website without a subscription which is too bad.

>They're commercially available

At absurd prices though. It isn't just the shipping, small scale farm/market garden stuff is priced ridiculously high.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact