Young farmers share sustainable technology

Thanks to a new collaborative programme and its open source ethics, young farmers in the US are working together to share sustainable and innovative farming technologies, ensuring the longevity of their livelihoods

A growing network of independent farmers in the US are helping one another become more competitive and sustainable by sharing designs for innovative DIY farming technology.

Called Farm Hack, the network acts as a platform for farmers, designers and engineers to freely share designs and instructions for farm machinery and technology. All of the information is open source, which means it’s licensed under a Creative Commons attribution and can be accessed and built upon by anyone in the world.

According to the Farm Hack website: “Farm Hack is a community for those who embrace the long-standing farm traditions of tinkering, inventing, fabricating, tweaking, and improving things that break.”

Established at the start of 2012 by the National Young Farmers’ Coalition, Farm Hack aims to make small farms more sustainable and efficient, and therefore more financially viable as a result.

“Together, with an open source ethic, we can retool our farms for a sustainable future,” says Farm Hack. “Mainstream agricultural research and development tries to solve farmers’ problems with top-down, chemical- and energy-intensive inventions. Farm Hack seeks to solve problems by helping our community of farmers be better inventors, developing tools that fit the scale and their ethics of sustainable family farms.”

There are currently 30 plans available online for farmers to download and construct themselves, including a pedal-powered electricity generator, vertical planters and a solar-powered chicken tractor.

“Right now we’re also testing one of the first Farm Hack collaborations,” says Lindsey Lusher Shute, executive director of the National Young Farmers’ Coalition. “A cell phone that texts you when your greenhouse gets too hot. Once ‘FIDO’ is mastered, there are plans for all kinds of additional alerts that it could send a farmer.”

The programme is open to farmers of all ages, but Farm Hack believe that young and beginner farmers can benefit most, as it enables them to learn from their peers and elders. “Farm Hack gives young farmers access to affordable and appropriate tools that are not available otherwise,” says Lindsey. “They also benefit because they’re exposed to new skills and technologies and they get to join a massively creative and inspiring group of DIY-ers who are eager to help and move ideas forward.”