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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 Uncleâ„¢

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."

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