The Next Generation of Farm Tools
The future of farming is now with the newest generation of tools designed to fit the needs of a small-scale agricultural revolution. These innovative technologies were built to help producers cope with the challenges associated with an operation that relies on human power to produce. In the beginning there was the original hand tool Jedi, Eliot Coleman, coaxing us to think outside of the box and urging us to remember that when a problem arises, sometimes you must invent the solution to it yourself.
Eliot Coleman blazed the trail and following his lead have been numerous farmers and techies out to make the worst farm jobs easier, more efficient, and geared out with affordable, low impact tools that most any small-scale producer can utilize. With all these new toys on the market, we wanted to give you a run down of some of them in case you’ve been struggling with an ongoing operational issue that could be fixed or need some ideas of what to get your growing partner for their birthday.
Ah, weeding. The meditative activity that is always on the list and sucks the joy from the potentially happy lives of young interns and WWOOFers everywhere. When it comes to weeding by hand, incredible strides have been made to make the job easier to handle and even a joy to stay on top of. We’ve come a long way from even the stirrup hoe series and this next generation of tools are pretty slick, if you ask us.
Silage Tarps are weed eliminating tools for the future. The dark plastic of the tarp heats up and quickly breaks down existing weeds and germinates weed seed in the bed. As the weed seeds germinate, they are also killed by the plastic cover. In just 3 weeks beds can be transformed from weedy, overgrown messes to totally digested beds utilizing the power of the sun and the protected soil ecology underneath.
Collinear Hoes are a series of weeding hoes invented by Eliot Coleman that are ergonomic and effective. The design is especially useful with low-lying crops like head lettuce and other greens. The thin blade rides flat through the soil and allows the user to avoid throwing large chunks of dirt from the beds.
Tine Weeders are great for tackling weed issues early in the thread stage of their development. The tines move quickly through the soil and can be used as a cultivator when weeds are further along in their growth cycles. They are designed to go right over tightly seeded crops like carrots and direct seeded greens without disturbing them.
The Mutineer takes the innovation in hoe design and creates a one stop shop for all the blades, wires, and ergonomic orientations you could ever need. Our friends at Neversink Farm offer this powerful toolkit with an interchangeable head system and a handy clip to keep all of the features together in storage.
Flame Weeders are used to deal with newly germinated and young weeds that are beginning to take over the garden. Flame weeders place young weeds into a heat shock which prevents them from continued growth.
Wheel Hoes are great for precision hoeing for long beds and for removing small to large weeds. The design of the wheel hoe has been adapted to fit tools that also cultivate and plow.
Prepping beds for planting is an artform and there are numerous methods and practices specialized by different people to create that fluffy, even textured growing medium to house young transplants and seeds. Stepping down from the typical tractor for a minute, these newest inventions operate on a handheld level and bring efficiency to what can tend to be a very labor-intensive task.
Broadforks are great tools for loosening up compaction in beds without disturbing the soil ecology that has built elaborate networks and communities underneath growing plants. These tools can lift soils up while maintaining soil structure, avoiding the often-damaging effects of tillage.
Two Wheel Tractors are awesome tools for doing many of the farm tasks that would normally be done with a riding tractor. These small, easy to maneuver machines come with many attachments and can accomplish tasks such as flail mowing, tilling, spading, and hilling among others.
Tilthers are a clever method for breaking up the top layer of the soil in preparation for seeding. A power drill is attached to a hand tool that is moved through the bed. The drill activates the mechanisms that churn the soil in the bed, providing for a smooth surface perfect for even germination and soil contact.
Bed Preparation Rakes are light, wide rakes used to prep beds are planting. This new take on the old garden rake is wider, thicker tined, and can even be geared out with row markers to make transplanting and seeding a breeze.
Gridders are rolling hand tools that dibble in a grid that can be used for even spacing and straight rows when planting. They are offered in several sizes and can make for accurate spacing that leads to better use of available space and greater ease when cultivating.
Seeding and Transplanting
Starting seeds and transplanting young crops is one of the most exciting moments on the farm, but if we’re not careful, can take up every last drop of daylight when headed into a new growing season. Hunching over seed trays or crawling across the ground on your knees can get old after awhile and some incredible technologies have revolutionized the processes.
Row Pinpoint Seeders are handheld seeders that are excellent for hoophouse production. They are easy to use by pulling through the beds and offer adjustable brushes within the seed hoppers for accurate seeding of numerous different types of seed.
Precision Seeders have been evolving from their origins and the newest tool on the market is the Jang Seeder. This seeder is pricey but pays for itself in precision seeding and ease of use.
Plastics Plant Popper takes the act of popping out transplants from a time-consuming task to a quick and easy procedure. A wooden board with wooden pegs that line up to the more common flat sizes penetrate the wholes on the bottom of each plug and the plants are free and ready to be planted in one simple movement.
Paper Pot Transplanter takes hours of transplanting work and turns it into minutes. The seeds are planted directly into a paper-based tray that then gets fed through the transplanter upon planting. The tray detaches and becomes a strip of crops, evenly spaced and buried as the tool is pulled through the bed. (And yes, paper pots can once again be used in organic systems as of 2019!)
The Zipper is another tool developed by our friends at Neversink Farm and is used to plant and cover seeds and transplants. The tool has a sharp pointed edge that can be dragged through the soil to create a shallow trench for planting. When flipped over, the butterfly like wings on the other side easily cover the seeds, transplants, and bulbs planted in the trench.
Precision Vacuum Seeders are used very often on production farms and take the long, drawn out process of seeding multiple trays and makes it easy, efficient, and futuristic in a majorly enjoyable way. The seeds are suspended above the plug trays in perfect alignment and the seeds drop individually into the plugs, all at once.
Harvest and Storage
While seeing the fruits of your labor piled high on a table at the farmers market or on the kitchen table can be a very rewarding feeling, sometimes getting the produce there can be a somewhat daunting experience. From handy harvesting tools to a new innovation in cold storage, the farmers of 2019 can take harvesting to the next level and use all the time they’re saving on harvesting to make more sales. Or take more naps.
Quick Cut Greens Harvesters are incredibly innovative. Using the power of a handheld drill, rope ends spin rapidly across a razor-sharp blade. The greens are pulled into the blade, cut, and flipped into a bag that is attached to the back end of the harvesting tool.
Hori Hori Knives are multi-purpose tools. The tool is used to dig, trench, plant, and cut among other applications making the knife ideal for the various hand driven tasks on the farm.
Harvest Carts are specially designed carts that allow one person to haul a lot of weight. These light carts with large, open wheels allow growers to pull over 400 lbs without contributing the compaction of a fuel driven vehicle.
CoolBots take the low temperature setting of a standard air conditioning unit and allow the grower to drop the temp even lower. This is a great innovation for those who can’t afford the cost of walk in refrigeration and allows the grower to create and insulate a more affordable space themselves. The coolbot gives the grower the option of dropping the air conditioning temp to 34 degrees Fahrenheit and can be installed in minutes.
New tools and farm hacks are finding their way into the world, invented everyday by the people doing the hard work in the fields and having the inspiration to find a better way. What are your favorite garden tools? Have you invented a solution to a problem that you think others may face?