While ag tech might conjure images of robots and satellite-driven tractors plowing vast acreages, some innovators are focusing their ingenuity on the needs of smaller-scale farmers. That’s in part thanks to the 4th annual Small Farm Innovation Challenge, whose winners were announced this week, as well the Small Farm Tech Expo taking place March 1st in Madera, CA, which will showcase new tools for Ag that don’t require scaling up.
The Innovation Challenge invites farmers, entrepreneurs, students, hackers and anyone anywhere to propose a tech-based innovation that will uniquely help small-scale agriculture compete and thrive. This year’s winners, who will receive cash prizes, represent the many nuanced needs on a farm and display particularly creative applications of emerging technology.
Winning in the Software category, PastuRX takes mapping and business management technology and applies it to the growing field of prescribed grazing for wildfire prevention and land restoration. The tool helps practitioners coordinate both their livestock as well as relations with landowners to streamline operations, supporting new livelihoods in ecosystem stewardship. Submitted by Shepherdess Land and Livestock Co. of Ojai, CA.
In the Hardware category, this year’s award goes to the Trusty Trucker of Paka Electric, an e-bike uniquely designed for the farm: stripped of unnecessary frills, offering a lower price point, and prioritizing durability, ruggedness and cargo. For those on a smaller-scale, this smaller-scale mode of transportation will offer a quick, easy and affordable way to get around the farm.
And in the DIY category, which recognizes simple Do-It-Yourself hacks, the award goes to Drying Rack designed by Greathouse Garden of Hillsboro, Missouri. This rack can be easily built, transported to the field, and loaded up with half a ton of crops such as onion and garlic for drying, saving time and energy.
Honorable mentions went to the Gardener’s Gold Wool Pellets that use animal fiber as soil amendment, Farm Ally innovating with AI for small business management, Smart Agricultural Robot bullDOG designed by students at Fresno State, and Off Grid Irrigation & a Mobile Solar cart, both designed by farmers who lacked infrastructure on their farm sites.
More innovations like these will be showcased at the upcoming Small Farm Tech Expo at Madera Community College on March 1st. The annual event, which includes workshops and networking opportunities, will immerse attendees in a day of tech uniquely tailored for small-scale farmers.