One Road to SRI Mechanization

In favor of using the “brush cutter” weeder in its various forms for mechanization is that it is widely available and relatively inexpensive.  It represents a first step towards mechanization for many small-holder farmers.  It is faster than a manual weeder, and avoids a push and pull motion that many weeders require for thorough weed removal.

In the USA a simple brush cutter with “string trimmer” can be purchased for about 150 USD for the version where the motor is attached directly to the cutter.  The backpack versions are of higher quality and cost approximately 300 USD and up.

The brush cutter has its challenges, but we believe it can be adapted for use as an effective SRI Weeder.  Here are some of the challenges we see:

The high RPM of the rotor makes the machine difficult to control and this forces the user to expend considerable energy guiding the weeder down the rows to avoiding damaging the rice plants.  Slowing the rotor speed would require a new gearbox.   We have not found a commercially available part/gear box to accomplish this.   Although the brush cutter can be used/adapted for multiple rows, control of the weeder remains difficult, and as the rotor/paddles must then be made much larger to go over the rice plants when doing two or more rows.  For With the multi row weeders, the larger rotors/paddles further increasing the tip speed of the rotor.

We know that Japanese versions of a single row covered weeder, that adds a single blade in a cover/sled, are is commercially available that adds a single blade in a cover/sled. The sled can be plastic or metal. This adaptation uses the commonly available “head” that holds “string” for grass and weed cutting.  We have attached plans for two versions of a single blade version that we are working on.  The added cutting blade will need to be modified to get the best possible weed removal and least damage to the plants.  We will test these in the near future at a farm testing site that has just become available to us.

This covered version has the advantage of covering the blade to a certain extent, taking some of the weight off the farmer, as well as providing some stability and tracking for the weeder.  We are looking forward to doing our construction and testing.

Thanks go to Supachai Pitiwu and the Weekend Farmers Network in Thailand for all the considerable testing and videos they have produced on this weeder:

Brush cutter, Backpack version:


Another advantage of this tool is that it can also be adapted to harvesting with an inexpensive conversion.  The safety of this use is unknown?


Japanese equipment site, (in Japanese):

Picture of plastic version

Picture of metal version

Prices without motor, in yen, 18,000    $160 USD

Prices with motor, in yen, 59,400           $530 USD

Less expensive versions can be purchased from Chinese Manufacturers.

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Six Publications that tell the stories and possibilities of SRI

SRI is a set of sustainable rice farming technologies that can help small farmers to significantly increase their rice yields. It is a low-input technology, which can be flexibly applied based on the local factors and farm conditions.

SRI methodology is based on four main principles that interact with each other:

  • Early, quick and healthy plant establishment
  • Reduced plant density
  • Improved soil conditions through enrichment with organic matter
  • Reduced and controlled water application

Based on these principles, farmers can adapt recommended SRI practices to respond to their agroecological and socioeconomic conditions. Adaptations are often done to accommodate changing weather patterns, soil conditions, labor availability, water control, access to organic inputs, and the decision whether to practice fully organic agriculture or not.

sri-cover1. From The System of Rice Intensification (SRI), Responses to Frequently Asked Questions, Norman Uphoff  Norman Uphoff has lead the worldwide movement to understand and promote SRI,  a work for which he has won numerous awards. His SRI FAQs is just one of an extraordinary number of publications he has produced.


2. SRI has been successfully adapted to many cultures andmore-rice environments. Here is a link to an excellent joint publication which highlights the successes that Oxfam, WWF and AfricaRice have all had with SRI.




3. Here is a link to the worldwide Leisa issue on SRI. This is an excellent introduction to SRI and how it has been adapted to local conditions by farmers, researchers, governmental organizations and NGOs.

4. Here is the SRI-Rice website at Cornell which is the most comprehensive resource in the world. There are academic articles, reports on conferences as well as how SRI has appeared in both the popular and business press worldwide. The site is media rich and it is possible to search for resources by country as well as language.  Monthly updates are provided in several forms.


5. This Handbook for the Peace Corps was done to provide an Introduction to SRI for West Africans.  It was part of a very successful, multi-year project that expanded SRI in 13 West African countries using groups familiar with SRI as the trainers or “Champions”.  It is an excellent example of how training materials have been used to successfully adapt SRI for countries around the middle of our planet.

feed-the-future6. Here is a link to a major West African SRI project. SRI-RICE at Cornell was a major consultant on the SRI-WAAPP project, which will hopefully have a second phase/expansion. Thanks to Devon Jenkins, returned Peace Corps volunteer, and and Erica Styger for their work on this publication.


Coming Publications

Equipment for small scale farmers that can be built at the village level, for less than 50 USD, by metal workers and blacksmiths is a critical element of the successful adoption and spread of  SRI.  Here is an example of a weeder, called the “Mandava” Weeder that has been successfully used in many countries in flooded rice fields.  Earth Links produced these CAD drawings as part of our work to make these well tested designs available worldwide without cost. Earth Links also contributed some of these early weeder plans to the West Africa project above as well as to Latin American demonstration projects with IICA..

The NGO (SRI Global Inc) which Earth Link helped start, in turn helped to start the NGO, 3ASahel, that was a Champion promoter for Mali.  The first phase of the WAAPP project has successfully ended.


SRI has many benefits such as climate change adaptation and mitigation which is described in the publications above.  An emerging issue and critical health problem is the high levels of Arsenic in some rice. The real reduction in arsenic that appears to be produced by SRI growing techniques (from significant reductions in water use) is an area of research that needs to be done and shared worldwide. Here is a link to the study that should have published results soon.

Stephen Leinau
Executive Director
Earth Links Inc




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Agritechnica 2017

Agritechnica 2015

We are looking forward to Agritechnica 2017 and appreciate the invitation we received to speak at their Worldwide Forum 2015. We are grateful for all their support and the venue was excellent with great staff, presentation equipment, meeting and poster areas as well as monitors to show videos to the passing crowds.  Agritechnica is an extraordinary opportunity to see the fullest possible range of agricultural equipment and professionals. Attendance at the event is approximately 450,000 people over 8 days!


At Agritechnica 2015 I had the pleasure to spend time with Amir Kassam, a champion and eloquent spokesperson for Conservation Agriculture (CA) worldwide.  We are very grateful for his guidance and encouragement in moving SRI closer to Conservation Agriculture and in the process developing tools for SRI rice farming that will decrease the need for tilling/disturbing the soil and increase the use of cover crops and plant residue to build soil health and discourage weed growth.  For those interested in NO-till Farming/CA good places to start are the book “DIRT” and the Conservation Agriculture newsletter; and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations website covering CA,

An excellent source for equipment is at the Conservation Agriculture Technology Link of the FAO;


Josef Kienzle, who developed this technology database, was also presenting at Agritechnica and we would like to thank him for sharing so much equipment  information with us and especially the new publication; Mechanization for Rural Development; A review of patterns and progress from around the world;


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Small SRI Rice Farmers Can Reap Big Benefits with Affordable Tools

500,000,000 Rice farmers worldwide need high-quality, effective tools for transplanting, weeding and harvesting their crops. Earth Links is continuing our collecting and evaluating of well-tested equipment designs that we began in 2014.  We share these tools with NGOs as photos, PDFs, videos and and CAD files. These tools will also be part of our upcoming Open Source Tool Library that will help to meet the needs of small farmers around the world.

As partners in a new grant from Cornell University there will be the opportunity to have key components printed with 3D printers from CAD files that will be shared with researchers and farmers in the field for their evaluation, suggested modifications and then retesting.  These improved equipment designs can then be shared widely with existing networks as well as be very valuable additions to our upcoming tool library.


Cono Weeder


Closeup of critical component.









Inexpensive farm tools fabricated from good, simple, field-tested designs can make a life changing difference to farmers worldwide.

  • Equipment that encourages deep roots, soil health, minimal soil disturbance and water conservation creates a Climate-smart Agriculture and promotes soil conservation.
  • Small, efficient engines can be added to equipment to allow farmers to respond to labor shortages and increase their income and food security.
  • Women-friendly versions of tools with lighter weight materials and smaller sizes will increase productivity and decrease serious injuries.
  • CAD software allows tools to be resized and modified for local conditions as well as helps to select the best materials and the accurate reproduction of equipment.

Mechanized rice harvester based on “brush cutter”.


Close up view.







Our Open-Source Library of Tools will help small rice farmers in many countries in their move to food security and sustainability. These equipment designs have been created over hundreds of thousands of hours by farmers as well as by agricultural engineers, equipment manufacturers and researchers.  When possible, these tools are best fabricated at the local level by blacksmiths and metal workers so that money remains in the community and the tools can be quickly repaired, tested, modified and improved.  Well tested tool designs, when made freely available, become vital elements in the successful introduction and use of agroecology techniques such as The System of Rice intensification (SRI), The System of Crop Intensification (SCI) and Conservation Agriculture (CA).

This is important work; Rice cultivation is the largest occupation in the world.  A well-managed acre of SRI rice and effective tools can produce over 5,000 pounds of food, while adapting to and mitigating climate change as well as using far less chemical inputs, water and seed than traditional farming techniques.


























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“Saving 20 Gallons Every Day” is our Water Conservation Music Video

3up-cards — ZunZun has a new website for their water awareness work and shows. Their school based education program now includes a beautiful set of cards, designed by Doug Ross, to inspire children to think about the water cycle, watersheds and conservation.


Over 100,00 children use this video each year as part classroom activities through the support of their local Northern California water districts. These districts include Davis, Napa, Contra Costa, Marin Sonoma, San jose, Alameda and More…

We all need to learn how to Save Water, and to remember to do it Every Day! With this new song and dance video, it’s simple to remember to wash your hair with a five minute shower”, ”brush your teeth with the faucet off”, and much more.

All videos utilize multimodal learning (movement, visuals, music, language). The Accompanying Questions in English and Spanish integrate the videos into basic science curricula currently in use and encourage discussion and problem solving.

ZunZun is a performing arts group that celebrates the environment and cultures of the Americas through music.  These videos are part of their work creating memorable, easy to use songs and movements to celebrate and educate about water. These videos have been tested and refined over years of shows and school assemblies throughout California which reach 100,000 children annually.

Saving Water is easy when you remember these dance moves and math!

“H2O Go With The Flow” was our first music video

This unique, highly participatory, fun, and covers important topics in water education.  It was the first collaborative

“H2O Go With The Flow”,

  • Provides water awareness information in a fun, active, multi-modal format (watershed, properties of water, water cycle).
  • Provides teachers with a movement activity to be used throughout the year. (physical education, creative arts)
  • Provides a starting point for discussion about important water issues. (droughts, water conservation, clean watershed)

Alameda County, Marin County and other Water Districts have used this video very successfully by providing copies to teachers to use in the classroom.  Along with movement education,“Saving 20 gallons Every Day” and “H2O Go With The Flow” builds skills and competence in:

  • Physical Education
  • Math
  • Science
  • Language Arts

This is wonderful TBL (total body learning), with a combination of audio, text, and movement reinforcing the message and introducing new vocabulary The CD includes a Spanish-language version of the songs, which is a great aid for English-language learners.

These music videos for students and teachers are part of a series of songs and dances about important water issues such as protecting the watershed and water conservation. The videos support Common Core state education standards in water education and supplement conservation goals of water agencies. Each song highlights easy to use movements that can be used as transitions between subjects for teachers, for physical education activities, and as models for water based curriculum.  Music, Dance, and Water Conservation lessons reach the classrooms that seem to have very little time for subjects outside of standardized tests.

Produced by: Raindancer Media, ZunZun, Earth Links Inc.

Supported by: Three Americas, Inc.

Water Conservation Programs and Water Districts please call or email for bulk purchases of these videos: (831) 457-0414,





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