Archive for Open Source Economic Development

Distributive Enterprise

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4 Years of Factor e Farm

Factor e Farm, our land-based facility for Global Village Construction Set development, has now been alive for 4 years. We encountered the place as an empty soybean field abused by commercial agriculture. This video shows in 4 minutes what has happened in the last 4 years – and points to the plans for the next 2 years. These are exciting times indeed.

4 Years oif Factor e Farm in 4 Minutes from Open Source Ecology on Vimeo.

The current plan is 50/2/2 – the entire set of 50 Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) technologies to be completed in 2 years within a $2.4M budget in a scenario of rapid, parallel development. By year-end 2012, we want to be done with the basic GVCS shown above, so we can move on to applications – such as the infrastructure for a real community. This is a big, hairy, audacious goal. It requires that a large parallel development team is recruited, that a scalable development process is realized, and that the organizational infrastructure to support this task is established.

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Oberlin Videos

Here is a followup from Brad Masi from the Oberlin lecture tour, who videotaped an interview and the Oberlin lecture. These are decent overviews of the latest progress, and the 30 minute Oberlin lecture shows a good flavor of our present status.

I’ve taken a few steps to keep us stewing on the open source ecology ideas that Marcin presented and how we might begin to form some collaborative networks between Cleveland, Oberlin, and elsewhere to enact some of these ideas in the region.

Now that we’ve had a few days to reflect and assimilate some of the information from the Cleveland and Oberlin sessions, take a few minutes in the next few days to do the following to keep in touch and keep the ideas flowing:
1) WATCH REFRESHER VIDEO!  I put together a short refresher video of open-source ecology following an interview with Marcin in Oberlin. Click here to check it out and re-aquaint yourself to some of the Open Source Ecology (OSE) concepts. Feel free to post the link on your facebook page to share the ideas with your friends.

2) FILL OUT THIS SURVEY! To gauge interest and encourage further discussion, after watching the refresher video, click here to fill out this brief survey on NEOFoodWeb of your ideas and interests in OSE so that we can get a better sense of what skills and knowledge people can contribute to OSE efforts.
3) JOIN OSE AFFINITY GROUP! I put together an “affinity group” for Open Source Ecology on www.neofoodweb.org . I put together NEOFoodWeb as a part of a regional local foods assessment that we just completed for Northeast Ohio. An affinity group is a regional group of individuals interested in working collaboratively to advance a particular aspect of the local food economy in Northeast Ohio. We can use the affinity group to facilitate discussions and share information about OSE. Click here to join the food web. When you log into your account, you can select for affinity group preference, scroll toward the bottom of the list for “supporting businesses” and select “Open Source Ecology”. I have posted a forum discussion there to start conversation on next steps for OSE activities. For those of you that are already members of the NEOFoodWeb, we are going to enable people to sign up for multiple affinity groups, although it might take a day or two to get this set-up. Share your thoughts in the forum on next steps!
4) INVITE YOUR FRIENDS! Invite your friends to participate in this discussion. I have posted Marcin’s full talk at Oberlin College here. Feel free to share this link to any of your friends that couldn’t make the presentations, but might find this topic of interest. Encourage them to join the affinity group and fill out the survey as well!

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Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Over the holidays, I got a chance to meet Juliet Schor (author of Plenitude) in New York City. Juliet teaches at Boston College, and she co-founded the Center for the New American Dream. She wrote about Factor e Farm in her recent book, Plenitude: The Economics of True Wealth. She recently got a McArthur Foundation grant to do a case study on Factor e Farm. What I love about Juliet is that her core message is a mouthpiece for the practical work of Factor e Farm. I feel like I am listening to myself speak when I listen to Juliet. Her core message is that we can improve the economic system far beyond its present morasse of inefficiency and artificial scarcity.

Juliet Schor and Plenitude from Marcin Jakubowski on Vimeo.

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Honey Extractor Tractor: The Craziest Thing Done with LifeTrac So Far

LifeTrac, our open source tractor, features extreme flexibility by design. We just used LifeTrac as a honey extractor. We mounted our universal rotor on the front-end loader, and used it to extract honey from comb. The process starts with a hot knife to open up the comb. We made the hot knife from a heat shrink heat gun coupled to a tube with a sharpened blade of 1/8″ steel welded to the tube, and the hole of the tube was reduced by welding on a bolt washer. The blade gets hot and cuts the comb relatively well, though this is not as user-friendly as a standard electric knife because your hands get too messy with honey all over, so the heat gun risks getting flooded with honey. We request help with the open-sourcing of a hot knife if anyone has explicit ideas on how to make one. While a fed dollars in parts, hot knives run for $90 at the store.

The honey extraction process involves centrifuging combs of honey, which are opened with a hot knife as above. See our operation in action:

Open Source Honey Extractor from Marcin Jakubowski on Vimeo.

Here’s an operational performance review. Read the rest of this entry »

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Full Product Release

Note: We no longer consider this to be a Full Product Release because this is an older version of the machine. Further prototypes and improvements have been made, see update post of Sep. 24, 2012

We are pleased to announce the official, Full Product Release of The Liberator, the high-performance, open source, Compressed Earth Brick (CEB) press. We are releasing it under the OSE License for post-scarcity economics, and we are now taking orders. You can see the plans here.

Full Product Release indicates that the design is sufficiently mature for widespread replication, based on proven functionality and performance of the designs provided. Improvements may be made, but it is not critical for Factor e Farm to lead this effort. The design is sufficient for us to now focus on developing the next products in line – namely the open source tractor, LifeTrac, PowerCube, and others.

We are offering the fully automatic version of The Liberator with 6 foot wide hopper and hopper vibrator for US$8k, FOB at Factor e Farm, Kansas City area, USA. This machine can produce up to 16 bricks per minute. We are offering the manually-controlled version, The Liberator-M, with a small hopper, for US$5k. This machine may produce 5-8 bricks per minute, depending on the dexterity of the operator and the power source. The design of the manual machine is identical to the fully automatic version, minus the large hopper, vibrator, sensors, controller, and solenoid valves. It may be upgraded to the fully automatic version by retrofitting the missing components. Note that our machines do not include the power source, as they can be plugged into any source of hydraulic power. We achieved 16 bricks per minute with a hydraulic power source of 24 gallons per minute. The next competitors with a machine of comparable soil throughput appear to be priced between $45k (Powell and Sons) and $65k (AECT). You can see our full product description and features here. Our price is subject to change, and we have the present capacity to produce 4 machines at one time, with on-demand fabrication lead time of 3 weeks. If you are interested in building with CEBs this season, you may want to consider ordering a machine now. Email us.

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Economy in a Box

We were invited to present at the Bay Area Community Exchange (BACE) Roundtable on Tuesday, June 15, 7 PM, at Noisebridge. BACE focuses on the creation of alternative means of exchange in the San Francisco Bay Area. I will present a talk titled, Economy in a Box. We will discuss how real goods can serve as the backing of local currency. When we consider the economic potential of the  Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) – we think of it as a sufficient basis for an accounting system based on its productivity – or a means of exchange.

The presentation will discuss a subset of the Global Village Construction Set as it pertains to the creation of a prototypical, minimum but sufficient and robust economy based on ubiquitous, local resources. This includes resilience in the basics: food, fuel, energy, housing, and technology. We will propose an economic analysis of such a program, and point to its feasibility using proven and existing technologies. This subset therefore constitutes the substance of a means of exchange, or currency. The program is founded on replicability as the core of its principles.

If you are in the Bay Area, come to the talk, and I would also like to meet any other collaborators on the 15th or 16th. Contact me if you’d like to meet. Our thanks go to Anthony Di Franco from BACE for inviting us. We also recommend this video from The Guardian on the potential of economic swadeshi applied to the modern economy. If you would like to support our work, please consider subscribing to the True Fans.

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Windpower

Just ten miles from Factor e Farm – 100 windmills of 2.1 megawatt capacity were installed over the last two years – with 100 more forthcoming. It’s quite a sight. I asked a couple of local farmers about them – and they told me that don’t like the new sights and slight noise. Apparently, people don’t like them here unless they are getting $3k per year in land lease fees if the windmill is on their land.

I love the sight. Each windmill is generating almost about $200 worth of energy per hour at full output if the energy is sold at 10 cents per kilowatt hour. On average, at 40% duty cycle, this translates to over $300k/year of electricity produced. It looks like a 7 year payback time, if each turbine costs $2M a pop. Read the rest of this entry »

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Bootstrapping and Dedicated Project Visits

We are currently in the phase of fabrication optimization for the high performance, open source, Compressed Earth Brick (CEB) press. This is our route to financial bootstrapping of the research and development efforts. We are looking for people interested in Dedicated Project Visits on flexible fabrication.

Flexible fabrication is a blend of a generally-equipped workshop with the hands of a multi-skilled fabricator. Flexible fabrication in the digital age implies the assist of digital fabrication. To take full advantage of available modern technology, the skilled digital craftsperson has to gain proficiency in the entire process chain from open source design and collaboration, CAD, build, electronics, programming, and other skills as needed.

From the standpoint of resilient communities and the neosubsistence lifestyle, the technology is not the end-all but merely a step to sustainable living. Read the rest of this entry »

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Open Source Induction Furnace Continued

The open source induction furnace project discussed previously is moving forward. We are currently evaluating bids, as you can see at the induction furnace project management site. This marks a point in our organizational history where we are beginning to outsource work, consistent with the proposed open source development pipeline process. Outsourcing is an industry standard for mainstream enterprise, but it can also be useful for scaling open source economic development. In particular, it appears that we found bidders fully capable of handling the project, including possibility of building the actual system. Read the bidding negotiations at the project management site for details.

In its limit, this type of outsourcing process can be an effective route towards open-sourcing the entire economy. All it takes is an organized and funded effort. The technical skill is available, but conversion of technology into open source form requires the nurturing hand of many technologically-literate generalists.

The concept for the OS induction furnace is:

The concept embodies a universal power source for induction melting and heating. The founding principle is Read the rest of this entry »

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