Looking at what the future of agriculture holds, and the challenges that lie ahead, a number of papers describe what is being called the forthcoming global crisis in agriculture; namely how do we feed a population of what will be 9 billion people, when current predictions indicate that we will need to increase agricultural production by 60-70% of current levels to meet this increasing demand. One of the areas that has been shown to show some of the largest potentials for gains are in small scale agriculture, which today is responsible for feeding some 2 billion of the poorest part of the global population, which quite often still involves either manual or animal labour to get the job done. Farming Forward focuses on improving the future of agriculture for small scale farmers as just one channel to tackle this complex global issue.
Inspiration and Method
Most pre-industrial economies were so dependant on the food supply it caused almost their entire economy to be devoted to agriculture; improvements to farm productivity thus had huge impacts on the wealth of the population. One of the first steps forward in agricultural development is replacing the farmers oxen with a two-wheel tractor. This was identified as a prime design opportunity to better productivity and the quality of life for small scale farmers since two wheel tractors have remained relatively unchanged for the last 50 years. Problems such as the physical strength required to steer the machine; repetitive strain injuries from prolonged vibrations and noise exposure; changing wheels for different tasks; general road safety; and operator ergonomics were found. Analysis, understanding, and evaluation was done through field research, tutoring sessions, historical research, internet research, journals, expert interviews, second hand experiences, group brainstorming sessions, market research, scenario mapping, and user testing.
The end result OX1 is an electric two wheel tractor for empowering small scale farmers in the developing world. The design is intended to be a more flexible and adaptive tool than the current solution, and be inclusive for both genders; allowing the farmer to adapt the tractor to their needs, rather than adjusting to it’s limitations. In combination with micro energy production (solar/wind), OX1 offers fuel independence while also serving as an energy storage device for the household when not used as a tractor. Utilizing electric motors instead of a combustion engine almost completely eliminates noise and vibrations, solving RSI issues. Shifting the power to hub motors allows for skid-steer operation; reducing the physical demands required of the user to operate the tractor. Hub motors also means easily attaching the wheels to height adjustable bogies; changing heights for different needs, and making wheel changing easier and safer.