Many grain and seed crops that can be grown sustainably in New Mexico—including amaranth and hemp—require substantial processing to separate the seed or grain from the chaff. For producers to bring these crops to market, they need a seed cleaner.
Although multiple seed cleaners are available on the market, most are designed for large operations and cost tens of thousands of dollars—beyond the budgets of many small farmers in New Mexico. With an open-source design that can be built for a few hundred dollars or purchased for a few thousand, we can open the New Mexico agricultural markets to grain and seed production by small farmers.
From the foundation of an open-source design for a hemp seed cleaner (https://www.realseeds.co.uk/seedcleaner.html), we have made several improvements, including scaling up the design and adding a suction adjustment control that lets the grain cleaner work with multiple crops and selectively separate different parts of the plant (for example, with hemp, separating the chaff from the bud and the seed at one setting, then separating the bud from the seed at another).
Based on feedback from field testing, we have made small improvements to the design, and we are working on preparing the open-source designs for release.
Seeds germinate within particular soil temperature ranges, and for successful cultivation, seeds need to be planted in the right time window. Climate change is making conventional “safe planting windows” unreliable, so it’s increasingly important to directly monitor soil temperatures to identify appropriate planting times for different crops. Soil temperature sensors can do this.
Currently, two major types of soil temperature sensors are available on the market: simple, inexpensive thermometers that must be operated manually, and expensive, cloud-connected systems that automatically log and transmit data, but that typically cost several hundred dollars or more. Also, the cloud-connected systems currently on the market do not include options to share anonymized or confidential data for scientific research on climate change, which could be an important benefit of these systems.
In partnership with the College of Engineering at New Mexico State University, we have developed a solar-powered, cloud-connected soil temperature sensor that automatically records and logs data, compares its soil temperature readings to safe planting windows, and sends text or email messages letting producers know when soil temperatures and safe planting windows reach appropriate levels for different crops.
Contour-line plows (also called “keyline” plows or “Yeoman” plows) cut deep, narrow grooves into the soil perpendicular to the slope of the land, increasing water infiltration and helping to prevent topsoil loss and the formation of arroyos, which rapidly drain water off of sloped land.
The benefits of a yeoman plow can be augmented with an inoculation system for beneficial soil microbes, such as those produced by a Johnson-Su composting bioreactor.
There are plenty of keyline/contour-line/yeoman plows on the market, but they consistently cost tens of thousands of dollars. Microbial inoculation systems for Johnson-Su compost have been developed for research but not offered commercially.
With a relatively simple conversion plan, an inexpensive ripper plow (often available used for less than $1,000) can be converted into a contour-line plow. An additional simple conversion kit can add an inoculation system for beneficial soil microbes from Johnson-Su composting bioreactors.
High-intensity, low-frequency (HILF) grazing is a cornerstone of sustainable ranching. To achieve HILF grazing, ranchers must use fences to divide large grazing areas into small paddocks through which cattle can be rotated.
In areas where vehicle travel is difficult, the standard approach for stringing barbed wire is to have two people carry a barbed-wire spool between them on a pole. This approach works just fine in areas with little vegetation, but in thick brush, there isn’t enough space for two people to walk abreast. Ranchers who own rough, vegetated land need a system that can let a single person string barbed wire through areas where only one person can pass.
No technologies currently on the market seem to address this need. (The current market is likely small.)
A backpack with wheels and a rod for holding a spool of barbed wire can be pulled or hoisted through terrain that would be impassable to more than a single person. The design was proposed and successfully tested by rancher Lucas Chavez.