Crop Bed Preparation for Organic Farmers
Organic farming is on the rise around the world as more and more people prefer locally grown produce over fruits and vegetables grown in heavily industrialized farms. As a result, there is now a significant increase of organic farms and farmers. These farmers, however, are significantly different than the famers of previous generations. The goal of this project sponsored by the agricultural machine company, Yanmar, was to study these farmers, discover their needs, and propose a new tool or device that can improve their work lives.
Organic farms tend to be small and not so mechanized. This is often intentional as farmers prefer to be more connected to the land. For example, any machine that would automate harvesting would be hugely unpopular as it is one of the more enjoyable aspects of being and organic farmer.
After much research, the team decided to focus on bed preparation, a very time-consuming and labour-intensive task within the field of non-crop handling actions. Proper bed preparation is crucial in maintaining healthy soil. While machinery such as tractors and tillers are available for bigger farms, small-scale organic farmers avoid using them due to the damaging effect on their valued land. Instead, they rely on hand tools such as wheelbarrows and broadforks.
Nu-tan is a bed preparation tool that evenly distributes and spreads soil supplements during the stage of bed preparation. It has interchangeable rollers that can spread various types of soil supplements such as compost, mulch, and fertilizers. Nu-tan is also motor powered so that it can be automated or power-assisted.
In comparison to using a wheelbarrow, Nu-tan significantly saves organic farmers time and physical labour in the amount of trips they have to do to spread soil supplements. It also fills a gap in the market for agricultural tools between that of a wheelbarrow and tractor.
Swinburne University of Technology
Mel Calleja, Mel Phillips, Ethan Lankshear
Kyoto Institute of Technology
Kohey Ouchi, Jinhee Kim, Raviduth Ramful