Marcin Jakubowski didn't study fusion physics to become a farmer. But the Polish-American scientist grew more disillusioned with academia the longer he worked toward his doctorate. Researchers withheld data to compete for grants, he says, instead of collaborating to solve big problems. "The further I went in my Ph.D. program, the less value I felt I was contributing to society," he says. Seeking a fresh start, Jakubowski bought 30 acres of Missouri farmland and a tractor. Life in relative seclusion proved uneventful until, one day in 2008, his tractor broke down for the second and last time, spurring him to start an open-source industrial revolution.
To Jakubowski, the tractor seemed designed to fail. Why should he sink more money into fixing it or buy a replacement? He wanted a simple and useful machine, and one he could repair and upgrade on the fly. "It boiled down to lower cost in the long run," he says.
Jakubowski built the first LifeTrac, as he calls his DIY tractor, in three months for $6,000—about $30,000 less than a comparable mass-produced model. Seeing room for improvement, he built a second prototype in just six days. He posted his progress on the tractor and other machines to an online wiki, which attracted followers, who suggested their own design tweaks. Some even visited in person to help with builds—and Open Source Ecology took off.
Led by Jakubowski, the group now designs open-source agro-industrial machines on his "Factor e Farm." The fourth iteration of LifeTrac isn't like the industrial equipment on most farms; it works with a variety of custom attachments, including two removable, office-copier-size hydraulic engines called Power Cubes. The cubes also power other pieces of the Global Village Construction Set: 50 machines—ranging from 3-D printers and CNC mills to bakery ovens and brick presses—that the group deems essential to modern society (see "Multipurpose Power," next page).
Jakubowski isn't preparing for the apocalypse, even though his civilization starter kit might come in handy after one. Rather, he wants to equip the world with affordable tools that enable productive farming, manufacturing, and other accoutrements of civilized life. Open Source Ecology has prototyped 15 of 50 designs so far, and Jakubowski plans to create the rest by the end of 2015.
Once all of the blueprints hit the Web, the group will shift from prototyping to multiplying. The idea: With a few raw materials and a starter construction set, users could copy all the machines. Jakubowski hopes to field-test the concept around the world at centers where people learn to build the machines—and, in the spirit of open source, improve the original designs. "This isn't about free versus paid," Jakubowski says. "When people are free to build on each other's work, innovation can increase exponentially."
(Get the specifics of the project on the next page)
Gene Roddenberry envisioned this kind of collaboration for Star Trek as well.
Instead of individuals focusing on personal wealth and how to beat the next guy, humanity shifted to the concept of unselfish collaboration with the goal of making humanity better as a whole.
Of course in Gene's vision, replicators are what leveled the playing field and made the quest for money to support basic needs unnecessary.
I.m not sure why you would build something like this when there is a lot of tractors with loaders out there for less than $6,000 dollars and most have independent ptos 3 point hitches and hydraulic systems witch would do the same thing you are doing maybe better. Look at tractorhouse and tell me that there isn't a surplus of tractors floating around. I would think buying a used tractor would be better for the environment because you are recycling. Look at all the attachments you can get to fit onto a tractor literally thousands. Why reinvent the wheel just recycle an older tractor. Plus it is much safer than what you have going there and safer to operate. And you could have one today instead what time it takes to build this. If you have the know how to build this i'm sure you could fix an old tractor.
People would want to make things like this because they want to make them. WHy not create your own open source tractor then buy one?
He explains why he decided to build something like this in plain English. When he started out, he bought one of those "used tractors" that you wrote about and it promptly broke down. After he had it repaired, it soon broke down once again. With his design, he knows how it works so he can fix it himself should it break. It uses a central power plant that can be used for various other machines that he and those working with him on this project have designed.
Due to your comments, I question whether you've read the whole article above or perhaps you just passed on watching the video?
If he had called it a skid steer and not a tractor he would have been a lot nearer the mark, take a look at a Bobcat and the similarities are plain to see, now look at a conventional tractor and there is no comparison. The vast majority of tractors built around the world share one common design evolved by an Irishman named Harry Ferguson seventy five years ago.
Skid steers are designed primarily to operate on concrete or the black top their tractive performance in the field is poor to say the least, on wet grass the Life Trac would not pull you out of bed and as for ploughing or hauling or a myriad of farming tasks it would only make a fool of itself. The hydrostatic drive is also a mistake for draught work and a bolted together chassis is an accident waiting to happen.
All in all an exercise in self indulgence with an eye to the great unwashed.
I've done pretty well farming by fixing up tractors and combines that are older than I am.
The problem is any current tractor is a big pile of scrap metal without some electronic controllers. Now there are open-source engine controllers like http://www.diyefi.org/ that I could use, but for me to be able to continue farming, I have to be able to have an open source toolchain like what http://www.efabless.com/ is building, and eventually build myself a silicon fab.
If you try to build an engine *without* electronic controllers, let me know. Even the steam engine designs (which will burn a hell of a lot of fuel per acre) proposed by the OSE project use Arduinos for controllers.
Where's that microcontroller in the arduino going to come from? Am I going to be able to even buy an ATmega in 15 years?... Only if I build the damn thing myself.