Jan 012011

For the last couple of days I’ve been studying the website of Factor E Farm and Open Source Ecology trying to really understand what this group of young visionaries is trying to accomplish.

Their goal is breathtaking in concept. They are trying to design the basic machinery required by a small community to operate in a sustainable way with a certain degree of modern comfort. The following two minute video provides a quick overview of what this project is about:

Marcin Jakubowski  is the leader and visionary behind this effort and was recently named a TED Fellow.

They are also a finalist in Make Magazine’s Green Project contest.

Open Source Ecology is a network of farmers, engineers, and supporters that for the last 4 years has been creating the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS), an open source, low-cost, high performance technological platform that allows for the easy, Do It Yourself (DYI) fabrication of the 40 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a sustainable civilization with modern comforts. The GVCS lowers the barriers to entry into farming, building, and manufacturing and can be seen as a life-size lego-like set of modular tools that can create entire economies, whether in rural Missouri, where the project was founded, the mountains of Oregon, or in the heart of Africa.

Key Features of the GVCS:
Open Source – we freely publish our 3d designs, schematics, instructional videos, budgets, and product manuals on our open source wiki and we harness open collaboration with technical contributors.

Low-Cost – The cost of making or buying our machines are, on average, 8x cheaper than buying from an

Industrial Manufacturer, including an average labor cost of $15 hour for a GVCS fabricator.

High Performance – Performance standards must match or exceed those of industrial counterparts for the GVCS to be viable.

Flexible Fabrication – It has been demonstrated that the flexible use of generalized machinery in appropriate-scale production is a viable alternative to centralized production.

Distributive Economics – We encourage the replication of enterprises that derive from the GVCS platform as a route to truly free enterprise – along the ideals of Jeffersonian democracy.

Industrial Efficiency – In order to provide a viable choice for a resilient lifestyle, the GVCS platform matches or exceeds productivity standards of industrial counterparts.

Modular – Motors, parts, assemblies, and power units can interchange, where units can grouped together to diversify the functionality that is achievable from a small set of units.

User-Serviceable – 
Design-for-disassembly allows the user to take apart, maintain, and fix tools readily without the need to rely on expensive repairmen.

DIY – The user gains control of designing, producing, and modifying the GVCS tool set.

Closed Loop Manufacturing – Metal is an essential component of advanced civilization, and our platform allows for recycling metal into virgin feedstock for producing further GVCS technologies – thereby allowing for cradle-to-cradle manufacturing cycles

This is a project worth following and supporting.


  8 Responses to “Factor E Farm and Open Source Ecology”

  1. I think a fun project would be an ‘all purpose garden vehicle’, made from a used diesel car chassis.
    Must be:
    All wheel drive
    open cockpit, with solar cell canopy for battery maintenance and rain protection
    bio-diesel capable
    include hydraulic PTO for attachments (generator, welder, hydraulic accessories)
    Front End Loader w/ changable attachments (concrete mixer, forks, etc)
    Rear end adapter capable for 3 point universal attachments (backhoe, auger, tiller, box blade, etc)
    plentiful from junk yards and cheap to build.
    Any welders, cutters, mechanics, engineers, tinkers, taylors or candlestick makers interested?

  2. Mike, No sense reinventing the wheel, you just described my tractor.

  3. I guess I got caught up in the moment. I pretty much described mine too. I would be a fun project to convert an old Suburu into a farm all.

  4. Mike, It would be nice to have an idea of what implements are available around the island for tractors. I’m currently trying to weasel my captain out of his 3 pt rototiller but alas he’s a packrat. I do have a 10 bag 3 pt mixer that could be made available if the need arises. Still think a small shake and bake batch truck at the quarry would be preferred but ……

  5. Or just buy a used ‘Portable Batch Plant’ that will do 100 Cyd’s and hour.
    Here’s a new one for $188k. Used for far less.

  6. I stumbled on this Blog this morning, and thought I’d share the wealth.
    Lots of good stuff on sustainable living. Click on the Real Food Resources tab for a ton of recipes.

  7. I’m working on a solar canopy hybrid tandem mountain-bike myself. I’ve decided that one best cost value for solar generation is a parabolic trough (3’x9′ foil-lined half-cylinder on cardboard or fiberglass) with a black copper pipe along the focus running a 0.5-2 HP steam engine. I’m not sure Washington has enough sun to validate such designs though.

    For a tractor, it seems to make more sense having a larger carport canopy with the steam motors charging batteries. It’s not like you’re touring cross-country in them.

    For energy storage, a six cubic inch oxygen/hydrogen separator can be made with one-way valves to charge tanks for reuse with a lawn-mower engine, from a stainless pipe-tee, interleaved stainless mesh, an old television choke coil, and a $10 vibrator circuit. Much less toxic than batteries. (alas, the most efficient seperation is also the most likely to spark and explode.) I’ve calculated that one could pedal-power enough hydrogen generation to fill a personal camping zeppelin in about 32 hours.

    Do not forget our ancient friend the ox. I am guessing that their HP output per acre of biomass conversion is pretty darn high. Paul Bunyan would be proud to see them return. Heck, they could even tow a new ferry.

  8. Another nice thing about steam is that you can use it to drive an air-compressor, then drive all sorts of pneumatic tools and construction machinery with that.

    Also, steam is versatile. You can generate it with wood, alcohol, cow pies, and solar troughs.

    If you are storing steam power mechanically, you can get by with a small air tank which feeds pneumatic tools, and an air-motor driven electric generator. In excess of that, energy can be stored by lifting water or other weights.

    With a single-axle machine-tool bench, you can have all of your energy modes interconnected: steam, air, water-pump, electrical, foot-treadle, windmill; and store or utilize these forms as required, interchangeably. All of your table-saws, routers, drill-presses, and such would driven off this one axle, with some gearing pulleys.

    This is nothing new. Rather it’s simply combining best practices of the old-timers who had to make their property work for them.

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