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This Pedal-Powered Tractor Takes the Fuel Out of Farming

01 Bicitractor Cover - STEFANO BORGHI
Smaller farms have significantly different needs from larger ones, but the right tools aren’t always available to meet those needs — a perfect opportunity for an open source project to step in and fill the gap. Such farms are big enough to need powerful specialized tools, yet may not have the budget or space for large tractors. Bicitractor hacks its way around these issues, providing a green, silent, healthy alternative.

Bicitractor is an open source pedal-powered tractor suitable for small to medium-sized vegetable farms. Created by farmers for farmers, it performs a variety of agricultural tasks, working the soil to a maximum depth of 5 cm, which is popular with the no-till farming movement. It can be used for sowing, weeding, hoeing, harvesting open lines, and carrying loads, among other applications.

[youtube https://youtu.be/lx1GhKOZJ6s]

02 Bicitractor Sketch - FARMING SOUL
Traditional tractors are expensive and consume lots of fossil fuel energy. Bicitractor can be built and maintained affordably by anyone (with the right tools and training) and needs no gasoline, saving money upfront and in the long run. With its low cost, this DIY solution helps farmers stay out of debt and increases their self-reliance.

04 Bicitractor assemble - MICHAEL FLOYD

Do you know a farm that could use a Bicitractor? Check out the early beta model: the Bicitractor B300 on Instructables! The Instructable features a sneak peek at the project’s ongoing evolution. The next prototype, the B310, will incorporate a few bug fixes, more gears, and electrical assist. Bicitractor’s creators, the Farming Soul collective, encourage us to wait for this next version before attempting to build one. But for anyone willing to weigh in on the next design, this is your chance.

Farming Soul will soon be offering workshops for farmers who want to build their own Bicitractors.

This is one of the many cool projects to come out of the POC21 conference where 100 eco-hackers gathered in a French castle to brainstorm ways to improve the world.

12 thoughts on “This Pedal-Powered Tractor Takes the Fuel Out of Farming

  1. small farms could use an older tractor, like earlier Deutz or similiar with 1 cylinder Diesel engines, they provide more versatility, look great and their fuel consumption is about 1.5litres per hour. While the above is a good idea, but how to prepare for potatoes which need to be planted deeper, how to make hay etc…

  2. There’s a reason that before tractors were available, farmers hitched implements to horses and oxen: because they need some serious pulling force to get anything useful done. One comment says “I’d like to see him farm 6000 acres with that,” but I’d like to see even one acre farmed with it. I realize no-till is all the rage in the gardening world, and to some extent in the farming world as well, so perhaps you don’t need to pull a plow — if your field is already workable. But you still need to pull a seed drill, or a manure spreader, or maybe a baler. If your land is *not* already workable, you might need a mower, or a plow and scraper to level it so flood irrigation works properly (because if you’re using a bike as a tractor, you probably don’t have pressurized irrigation infrastructure). Neat bike, but pretty useless for real farming.

    1. In the Instructable’s comments for this build, you’ll find Farming Soul’s response to a very similar critique of their concept, which is:

      “It is not made on no account to replace tractors. We agree that all the work of the ground (plowing, disc etc.) must be realized with big tractors and fortunately for the farmers. But you cannot neglect that Bicitractor corresponds needs for certain farmers and not for the simple gardening.
      Indeed a great majority of the installations in France are small and average
      farms of vegetable farming (2-4 ha, i don’t know equivalence with acres). And for these surfaces our tool is adapted, because many farmers have necessarily no financial means to equip itself from the beginning and have to make all the small works manually (I know it a lot).
      Secondly
      some people who are equipped in tractor cannot or do not want to
      go back on the board with a big tractor to make these small works which
      do not ask so much power. And thirdly the work under greenhouses
      (“serres” is the term in french, i’m not sure of this translation) is more pleasant and more practical with this tool than with a tractor (if you have not hundred of it of course). If you have a farm of 20 ha and if you are equipped, that can’t interest you.
      In any case several small farmers who live on their work are interested in
      Bicitractor thus it is more than a toy for amateur
      gardener.”

      1. I can buy that, and acknowledge that I was being a know-it-all and a jerk in my original comment. Thanks.

  3. In terms of practicality for small scale farming (a hundred acres max) a tractor on the order of one to two horsepower would match up with what was historically used for that purpose and with low-till/no-till techniques could probably handle the larger area pretty easily.

    1-2hp or 740-1480W is 4-6 modern solar panels. If you want to interest me in modern low-impact, low/no fuel farming, let’s talk about a small electric tractor with a PV skin and sunshade. Small battery for energy smoothing, optional larger swappable batteries that can be remotely charged for locations with shorter days, crappier spring weather, and working into the evening.1500-2000W long-life motor that’s geared down to useful farming speeds or two 750-1000W hub motors that can operate at 10-40rpm all day long.

  4. How wonderful. And how useless in the ‘real’ world. Rage against modern technology all you wish, but without it, North America could never support its food needs.

  5. In answer to comment below…

    You have difficulty in understanding our approach and why is made Bicitractor.
    It is not made on no account to replace tractors. We agree that all the work of the ground (plowing, disc etc.) must be realized with big tractors and fortunately for the
    farmers. But you cannot neglect that Bicitractor corresponds needs for certain farmers and not for the simple gardening.
    Indeed a great majority of the installations in France are small and average
    farms of vegetable farming (2-5 ha, i don’t know equivalence with acres). And for these surfaces our tool is adapted, because many farmers have necessarily no financial means to equip itself from the beginning and have to make all the small
    works manually (I know it a lot).
    Secondly some people who are equipped in tractor cannot or do not want to go back on the board with a big tractor to make these small works which do not ask so much power. And thirdly the work under greenhouses (“serres” is the term in french, i’m not sure of this translation) is more pleasant and more practical with this tool than with a tractor (if you have not hundred of it of course).
    If you have a farm of 20 ha and if you are equipped, that can’t interest you.

    In any case several small farmers who live on their work are interested in Bicitractor thus it is more than a toy for amateur gardener.

  6. I could see several use on the farm if it had wider tires on the ground. It can only work on soil that too dry for tillage, cultivation or planting operations without severely compacting the soil.

    As it is it’s built it can only run around on smooth dry ground without the tires sinking until it too hard to peddle in ground damp enough for farming opreations.

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Michael Floyd is a creative director and sustainability consultant. As Marketing Lead for Autodesk's Making for Impact program, his work supports and amplifies the positive environmental and social impact of the global maker community. Originally from the US, he has been a Londoner for seven years

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