Open-source green technology farm helps the developing world

Credit: Nathaniel Wattenmaker/DVICE

The ECHO Farm in Southwest Florida serves a special purpose. The non-profit helps aid workers in developing countries use the best sustainable farming tools and techniques in ways that would make MacGyver proud.

ECHO chases that goal in a few different ways. At the farm, ECHO workers operate in a tropical Floridian environment that is remarkably similar to the climate of many developing countries. Here, they can work out what crops are best for places as disparate as Costa Rica and Tanzania. After they’ve discovered the best plants, and worked out how to maximize yield, ECHO invites aid workers to come and learn. Once the aid workers have been trained, they scatter like (and with) seeds across the developing world.

That should sound a bit familiar. What ECHO does is operate a farm built around open-source principles. Besides operating a seed bank and freely sharing what are almost certainly valuable farming techniques, ECHO also collects and collates tools that would be useful to aid workers and those they help.

ECHO classifies an appropriate technology as one that matches the needs of a people, fits the materials available, is cost-effective and has a maintenance level that equals the skillset and available tools of a community. ECHO facilitates the development of appropriate technologies by giving them a common home. This is a place where ideas are effectively databased and open-sourced. For example, a smokeless stove may be built with concrete in East Africa, and then once the design makes it to ECHO it is re-engineered to work with ceramics instead. Voila, the same novel design is now equally useful in the mountains of Central America  where ceramic is plentiful and concrete is rare.

Take a look at this appropriate technology and seven more in our gallery below.

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