Web Site of Robert John Morton
Sustainable Food: Appropriate Machinery
Farming has been mechanised for a long time. The profit motive has always driven machine development to cater for increasingly large scale operations, each involving a decreasing diversity of crops. Ecological harmony requires that this be reversed without diminishing efficiency.
For small-scale sustainable agriculture, machines must be able to sow and harvest an interspersed mix of crops and protectors. These machines will necessarily be smaller and more complex. They must also be flexible and totally user-maintainable.
This is quite an engineering challenge. Nevertheless, in an ecologically sound world of diverse small scale farms in which all its human inhabitants are well fed, the potential market would be vast. This would mean that, though small and complex, these machines would also become cheap to produce.
Machines could be modular. A snap-on power unit could drive a user-configurable set of snap-on devices for sowing or harvesting an interspersed mix of crops and their protectors. Efficiency would come from universal interconnection standards for linkages and control interfaces. Machines could also become robotic - sowing, planting, harvesting automatically. I think that on a world scale this is highly practical.
It would not be easy to impart all the necessary knowledge and skill to all who would, in such a world, be providing directly for themselves from the earth. But this is not necessary. I could not tell when a crop I have never grown before is exactly ready for harvesting. But if I have a device which can analyse the light signature coming from the crop, together with prevailing time-of-day and weather information, this information could be passed through a neural network which has been 'taught' by experienced growers to tell me exactly when to harvest it. Many such useful aids are possible.
©Jan 2001 - Robert John Morton