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Winners and losers in a contracting world
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Little John



Joined: 08 Mar 2008
Posts: 8322
Location: UK

PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2020 9:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Catweazle wrote:
vtsnowedin wrote:
This is a 500KW autonomous GPS guided tractor. It doesn't get into the recharge source but I would imagine grid tied so will become more renewable as the grid does as a whole.
https://horsepowersonline.com/video/john-deere-s-new-autonomous-tractor-concept-is-a-very-compact-electric-drive-unit-the-tractor-has-a-total-output-of-500kw/?fbclid=IwAR1NCWIv9SKBz3HWXdI7zuGlEcShid_CuZ3cCWND_mPDz6yUs4ANFEvPzGY


I'm surprised it took so long to appear, electric tractors have seemed an obvious choice to me. With automatic docking to charge, 24hr work, no worker accommodation needed and the ability to simply be mothballed in the down season they make perfect sense for remote farms.
Electric, autonomous tractors are not merely electric, autonomous tractors. They are electric, autonomous tractors plus the entire edifice of advanced, industrial civilization with all of its other attendant, underlying, technological structures equally advancing alongside in order to support their existence.

At some point, closer than many realize (or want to realize), labour will become cheaper.

To repeat, ever increasing technological innovation and complexity is not predicated on technological feasibility. It is predicated on economic feasibility. Which, itself, is constrained by resource supply and demand dynamics.

When, precisely, this peak-technology point will be reached before technology begins to decline in some, though by no means all, of its forms, I don't know nor do I pretend to.

But, I am certain that it will come and suspect that we are closer to it than is currently recognized.


Last edited by Little John on Mon Aug 03, 2020 11:51 am; edited 3 times in total
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Catweazle



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
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Location: Little England, over the hills

PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2020 10:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You could well be right LJ, it's one future many of us are preparing for, hence the discussions on anvils.
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BritDownUnder



Joined: 21 Sep 2011
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2020 11:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I remember a friend from school was a farmer's son. Basically everything he told me about farming was a bit if a horror story.
From them having to buy ever bigger and more powerful tractors to pull ploughs because the soils were getting so compacted by ever bigger and more powerful tractors to the unbelievable levels of debt and constant borrowing to keep it all going, and then there's the treatment of animals and the chemicals and the things they would do to people who applied them...
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vtsnowedin



Joined: 07 Jan 2011
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Location: New England ,Chelsea Vermont

PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2020 12:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Catweazle wrote:
vtsnowedin wrote:
This is a 500KW autonomous GPS guided tractor. It doesn't get into the recharge source but I would imagine grid tied so will become more renewable as the grid does as a whole.
https://horsepowersonline.com/video/john-deere-s-new-autonomous-tractor-concept-is-a-very-compact-electric-drive-unit-the-tractor-has-a-total-output-of-500kw/?fbclid=IwAR1NCWIv9SKBz3HWXdI7zuGlEcShid_CuZ3cCWND_mPDz6yUs4ANFEvPzGY


I'm surprised it took so long to appear, electric tractors have seemed an obvious choice to me. With automatic docking to charge, 24hr work, no worker accommodation needed and the ability to simply be mothballed in the down season they make perfect sense for remote farms.
Well not 24 hour work as you will have to deduct the charging time.
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adam2
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2020 12:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

In a shrinking world, farming will involve more hand labour than at present.

Ploughing however involves a lot of effort and is well worth mechanising.
Tractors whether fuel burning or electric would be most worthwhile, and simplified versions might be manufactured well into the future.

If coal could be obtained, then steam engines are a possibility, these are slightly lower technology than electric or diesel power.

Horses or other working animals are a possibility, but they eat a lot of food and are labour intensive to look after.

I have seen a demonstration of ploughing with different power sources.
A team of 12 large fit rugby players, pulling a plough by hand and encouraged by free beer, achieved results very inferior to those achieved by one lad and a vintage tractor.
The beer and food consumption was estimated at £200 for a couple of hours work. Payment of the minimum wage would add another £200.
Diesel fuel was estimated at about £5 plus perhaps £15 in wages for two hours. £400 versus £20 for better results.

Prices and wages could be very different in a contracting world, but the above example does illustrate just how expensive human effort is for ploughing and similar labour.

I expect more use of human labour for the lighter tasks on a farm, but not ploughing.
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clv101
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2020 2:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Few comments. We can farm with a lot less ploughing than is currently typical. Also, future farming is likely to use less added pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilisers, all reducing the number of tractor passes.

I also suspect any electrification of agriculture won't just be an electric tractor, but might involve more stationary (cabled) motors pulling implements over the fields - more like how San Francisco's trams work. Any how steam traction engines were originally used?

I think we'll see a bit of a shift from large scale agriculture to human scale horticulture. Whilst far more labour intensive, the yieild per acre can be higher. I know someobe with a horticulture enterprise, uses a 2nd hand electric golf buggy instead of a small tractor!
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Catweazle



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2020 2:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

vtsnowedin wrote:
Well not 24 hour work as you will have to deduct the charging time.


That depends on how many batteries you've got. It's not beyond our tech to design a tractor that docks and picks up a charged battery, the flat battery charges whilst the tractor's working.
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Catweazle



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2020 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

clv101 wrote:
I think we'll see a bit of a shift from large scale agriculture to human scale horticulture. Whilst far more labour intensive, the yieild per acre can be higher. I know someobe with a horticulture enterprise, uses a 2nd hand electric golf buggy instead of a small tractor!


I think I wrote before, I have a broken Camon "2 Wheeled Tractor" which I'd like to convert to electric power. These machines are really useful, they can plow, sow and harvest.
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adam2
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2020 2:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, there is much to be said for reducing ploughing and tractor use, but for most arable farms it cant be eliminated.

Steam ploughing did indeed avoid taking heavy machines onto most of the land. Two engines were used, one each end of the field, and the plough pulled from one engine to the other by a steel cable. After each pass of the plough, the engines were moved by one plough width.

A similar system was trialed with electric power supplied by trailing cables. Possibly in Norway during the last war when oil and coal were in short supply, but hydroelectric power available.

Horses were used to transport the machinery, but the actual ploughing was electric powered.
The main problem was damage and wear to the electric cables.
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adam2
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2020 2:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Catweazle wrote:
clv101 wrote:
I think we'll see a bit of a shift from large scale agriculture to human scale horticulture. Whilst far more labour intensive, the yieild per acre can be higher. I know someobe with a horticulture enterprise, uses a 2nd hand electric golf buggy instead of a small tractor!


I think I wrote before, I have a broken Camon "2 Wheeled Tractor" which I'd like to convert to electric power. These machines are really useful, they can plow, sow and harvest.


Are you thinking of battery power ? or a trailing lead from the mains supply ?
Lead acid batteries have a rather low energy density, lithium batteries are better in this respect but still a bit new, exotic, and dangerous for my taste.

A trailing lead gives almost unlimited power, but does carry some risk. An isolating transformer is prudent, and rather expensive in the size required.
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kenneal - lagger
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2020 3:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This sort of thing is discussed in the latest Archdruid thread. He says that technology will gradually price itself out of existence and be replaced by human power. While power hungry activities like ploughing may be one of the last things to go other assembly jobs now being done robotically might be turned back to manual labour as energy costs rise.

And as Chris says, ploughing may become much less used as we keep fewer animals for food and go over to vegetables more. Turning the soil is not good for the soil fauna and flora so less ploughing and more hoeing would be a good thing.
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Little John



Joined: 08 Mar 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2020 3:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Greer is bang on. I have read his latest. That latest article is what has made me have this topic on my mind quite a bit of late.

Aye well, took delivery of my scythe this spring. Used it a couple of times now to scythe my orchard down. It's actually faster than my brash cutter if the grass is left to grow long before hand.
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vtsnowedin



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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2020 3:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No till farming uses herbicides to control weeds. They experience much less soil erosion than tillage farming but farmers have to choose between erosion or chemical residues that kill beneficial soil organisms.
At present in the American corn belt a tractor pulling moldboard plows uses less then $10.00 per acre covered in diesel fuel. Seeding and combining use less fuel per acre but it all adds of $3.25 for corn and $8.25/b soybeans all costs including rent and herbicides.
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clv101
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2020 5:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Little John wrote:
Greer is bang on. I have read his latest. That latest article is what has made me have this topic on my mind quite a bit of late.

Aye well, took delivery of my scythe this spring. Used it a couple of times now to scythe my orchard down. It's actually faster than my brash cutter if the grass is left to grow long before hand.


I'm a long time scythe mower, one of the main importers of Austrian scythes lives just down the road from us, https://scythecymru.co.uk/. Amazing guy.

I have a range of tools, a powerful petrol brushcutter with mulching blade, makes short work of 8' high bramble and gorse. An electric (solar) line strimmer which works great around raises beds, paths, slopes near house, and the scythe which is the best tool around the orchard and fruit bushes.
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Catweazle



Joined: 17 Feb 2008
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PostPosted: Mon Aug 03, 2020 6:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

adam2 wrote:
Catweazle wrote:
clv101 wrote:
I think we'll see a bit of a shift from large scale agriculture to human scale horticulture. Whilst far more labour intensive, the yieild per acre can be higher. I know someobe with a horticulture enterprise, uses a 2nd hand electric golf buggy instead of a small tractor!


I think I wrote before, I have a broken Camon "2 Wheeled Tractor" which I'd like to convert to electric power. These machines are really useful, they can plow, sow and harvest.


Are you thinking of battery power ? or a trailing lead from the mains supply ?
Lead acid batteries have a rather low energy density, lithium batteries are better in this respect but still a bit new, exotic, and dangerous for my taste.

A trailing lead gives almost unlimited power, but does carry some risk. An isolating transformer is prudent, and rather expensive in the size required.


I will probably use a bank of lithium batteries in order to have a higher voltage available for electronic controllers and motors.
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