Full Local Diet

In general, half of OSE technology work focuses on RepLab, and the other half focuses on open source agroecology. Both are connected, and one feeds the other.

Effective food production is critical to post-scarcity, resilient communities. We are doing an experiment to show that it takes 12 hours per person per year for an 8 person community to feed itself.

The basic program involves setting upwell-designed infrastructure. In our temperate zone, this means several parts:

  • An orchard for fruits, nuts, berries, and other undergrowth, with chickens an fowl underneath. Combined with a small nursery, these are self-replicating and can maintain productivity indefinitely.
  • Goats which provide milk and other products, and can self-replicate rapidly. Bees for honey
  • Field crops – grains and beans, sunflower, flax, and many others, plus root crops, sugar crops, fuel crops. We are considering a remote control tractor for cultivating, built upon LifeTrac by adding on a differential GPS remote control module for about $100 plus solenoid valves.
  • Food processing – cheese, honey, canning, drying, seed cleaning, baking, oil expeller, fermentation, etc.
  • Equipment base up to combine and haying equipment – open source, of course – so you can keep up with maintenance easily.
  • Intensive garden with seed-saving.

Here’s the plan for the garden – the central part that could eat up all of your time if not done effectively. Mulch it deeply, and you have weed-free, water rich environment for microbial life and plants. Stake it, fence it, cut lines for planting, plant and walk away until harvest. Can we do this:


(slide from here)

The promise of the above is full diet, year round. Fruits, nuts, and vegetables; grains of all types; animal feed; eggs and milk; cheese and meat. Fruit drinks. Honey, ketchup, mayonnaise. Seasonings. Popcorn and butter. Fish? Of course, one can still go to the store if some luxury food item is missing.

Can we do the above in 6 hours per person per year for the growing part, or about 50 human hours per year? Let’s see. For the chickens, you collect eggs and meat – it’s just harvesting. For goats, one person manages 4 milkers at 1/2 hour per day. Automate this if you like.  The tractors cultivate your fields on auto pilot and the garden is mulched – little or no labor is spent weeding. The total time requirement is therefore 24 human hours for the garden per year, and the rest is planting by tractor (16 hours) for 10 acres of diverse crop, and harvesting by combine (16 hours) followed by seed cleaning (16 hours), as well as haying for the animals 3 times per year (16 hours). and storage requirements (16 hours). The total is about 100 human hours per year, or 12 days of work for one person. The rest is food processing of all sorts. A reasonable scenario for Factor e Farm may be one competent farm manager capable of setting up the above and doing all the agroecology work – in a small fraction of their time once the permaculture is established. Other members can help harvest and process – which would be fun as people gain a deep understanding and connection to their own means of survival.

Most people probably dismiss the above effort requirements as nonsense – as seen by the fact that nobody is doing it. We’re used to centralized production – which does deliver yields as above – but with much compromise. And, the real blocks to our proposal are the skill base and equipment base that could make it happen. The field of open source agroecology is as yet unknown and undefined, and the access to high-performance equipment with option of automation is only just being tapped.

Here is documenation of the mulch job shown in the above slide. First, the problem statement of mulching for next year’s garden:We need to clear some ground:We use the disk initially to knock down weeds and open up the soil slightly:Disking in action:We then put the bale spike on LifeTrac:Use the spike to move bales to the 1/10 acre spot in front of the greenhouse:Here are some of the bales being spread out:Munch the bales with the pulverizer:

Bale Munching with Soil Pulverizer from Marcin Jakubowski on Vimeo.

And there you have a field of mulch, 1-2 feet thick, decomposing for spring planting. To be continued.


  1. Erlend

    Interesting calculations, and the concept resembles the Fukuoka concept of ‘no work’ agriculture. What would interest me most is to find out how well animal productivity will keep up if we leave e.g. reproduction op to the goats or if we for example ignore lice on chickens. Sheep may also be interesting since they supply milk and meet like goats, but in addition can supply wool (open source spinnging and weaving? 🙂

  2. Jeb

    How about soil structure and fertility? I’d say you might turn the goats into that area after it is fenced and let them make pellets out of the straw mulch and weeds. A round of pigs to plow up the roots after that might help too, but takes time. Might not be so available there there, but if you can use a weed-free nitrogen-rich deep mulch like Alfalfa after the goats chew up the seeds in those round bales, you might have way better yield. Are you planting from seed or starts? If starts, they should be ok cutting the mulch and planting without competition, but that adds to the time required. If by seed, I’d be surprised if weeds don’t start and compete effectively in the cuts as well. Great experiment though! Will be interesting.

  3. Erik

    The way I understood it was that most of the “weeds” themselves would be useful. By providing the right mix of plants the useful weeds would be competetive against the useless ones.

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