Marco Tan, the industrial designer of Indonesian origin based in California, has come up with this intriguing conceptual design for a multipurpose farm vehicle for use in Uganda. The project is sponsored by GE Healthcare. The farm vehicle, meant for shared ownership, will be used in agricultural fields for plowing and spreading manure and by the farmers as a transportation vehicle.
Marco Tan has designed the farm vehicle with an injection molded body, that would be easier to produce and longer lasting than a metal body. The drive post area is made open, which makes the vehicle easy for access and also permits carrying material or passengers in the open space behind the driver. The driver’s seat and the flooring are made of locally available wood. A foldable metal frame supports a fabric canopy over the driver’s seat.
The wheels are made airless with compression springs mounted on the wheel hub. The springs provide the surface grip for traction and cushioning for the vehicle. The airless design ensures that the wheels are not prone to puncture from stones or other sharp objects from the farm field. The rubber tires are expected to be remolded from discarded car tires. Unlike conventional farm vehicle tires which need thick walls to protect the inner air tube, the tires in this concept vehicle need only low thickness covering over the springs. The wheel is replaceable without the use of any tools. The drive controls are simple and intuitive.
The farm attachments for plowing and manure spreading are attached to the rear axle of the farm vehicle and get powered from the same drive that drives the rear wheels. The vehicle also has the provision to attach a trailer at the back to transport farm produce or people to market towns.
The engine runs of methane gas produced at the farm from bio-waste. A substantial part of Uganda’s energy needs are met from wood, charcoal and agricultural waste with all of its oil being imported. Oil products availability is very limited in the farm areas and it makes excellent sense to design the farm vehicle to burn bio-gas.
The vehicle also has a rack of batteries under the front hood that get charged when the vehicle is in operation. These batteries can be used as power supply for lighting homes and other such uses after dark.
Uganda has a population of about 29 million people, over 86 percent of them dependent on subsistence agriculture. The average farm sizes are very small at 1.3 acres, growing food crops like maize and corn, vegetables and bananas. In recent times, farm co-operatives have emerged to help farmers consolidate land holdings and to grow cash crops like coffee, cotton, tea and tobacco. These co-operatives are receiving technical inputs and financial help from overseas and that is helping the country increase its agricultural output. The climate and soil conditions in Uganda are very favorable for dramatic advances in agricultural output.
Farm vehicles such as Marco Tan’s will help achieve this goal of advancement of agriculture in Uganda and to lift at least some of its people out of abject poverty.