Spring 2014 saw a whirlwind of activity at Green Heron Tools; in these early days of summer, our heads are still spinning :-)
First, an update on our tiller, now well over 3 years in development: As many of you know, we were fortunate enough to receive a USDA Small Business Innovation Research Phase II grant in 2010 that funded development of an alternative to the walk-behind rototiller. A redesigned tiller was the highest priority of women farmers who participated in an online survey we posted for > a year, and in focus groups and interviews we heard numerous horror stories about the vibration, weight, difficult maneuverability and general orneriness of conventional tillers. It’s been our goal to design and produce a piece of equipment that’s gentler on the operator, the Earth and the soil, and though it’s taken longer than we’d ever have imagined, we are well on the way to succeeding!
After producing some 20 iterations of what are called “engineering” or “alpha” prototypes (custom-built and often crude machines that test a concept but are worlds away from something that could be mass-produced), we have now graduated to the world of “beta” prototypes. These are machines that are close to what the manufactured version will be, and to build them we’ve teamed up with Specialty Fabrication, a wonderful company and true partner located in Honey Brook, PA. SpecFab’s location means that we can load the tiller in the back of the Subaru and be there in an hour — a great asset when it comes to the ongoing process of testing & tweaking a beta prototype.
Now that our patent applications are all on file, we’re finally able to post a photo of the machine — that’s our beta-2, being tested by local farmer Liz Wagner — and tell you a little about the machine. It uses a brand-new technology — coiled conical blades somewhat similar to augers that till / cultivate and pull the machine forward — is battery-powered (no exhaust in your face, pull-string to struggle with or gas to spill when you transport it on its side like we do :-), has essentially no vibration, and is lighter and far easier to maneuver than a conventional walk-behind tiller. We’ll soon be getting our beta-3, a much more polished, photogenic version that we’ll then be testing like crazy to make sure it’s up to the rigors of years of use on farm or in garden.
Meanwhile, we’re also moving ahead with design of a digging fork that will incorporate many of the features of our popular HERShovel, including our patented ergonomic grip, three shaft sizes to match user height, and a better way to capitalize on lower-body strength. More soon on the partnership that will make this fork possible — and that will hopefully get the fork into your hands by year’s end.
And finally, we’re excited to be transitioning much of the manufacture and assembly of HERS over to SpecFab, which will ensure continued high quality of our signature product.
Whew! See why our heads have been spinning?
Enjoy these early weeks of summer! And as all the best bloggers say, we’ll be keeping you posted :-)