Nu-tan, a holistic tool for organic farmers

Students design organic farming product for the Japanese manufacturer.

Organic farm bed preparation is labor-intensive and time-consuming. Achieving and maintaining soil quality without the use of pesticides is very important. Composting and bed preparation is often outsourced and farms are reluctant to use heavy machinery due to impact on land and increased carbon emission.

In Collaboration with Japanese manufacturer Yanmar, the Kyoto Institute of Technology, the SUGAR Network, and Design Factory Melbourne (DFM) has created a time-saving product for organic farmers which is designed by Students Melanie Calleja, Melanie Phillips and Ethan Lankshear, with colleagues from New Zealand and Japan.

Nu-tan, a soil supplement spreader helps the organic farmer to transport, spread and dispense compost in a single action.

Exploded view drawing of Nu-tan, image supplied by Design Factory Melbourne
Exploded view drawing of Nu-tan, image supplied by Design Factory Melbourne

The organic farming industry faces many challenges in upscaling production, including access to land, soil quality, infrastructure, and labor. This creates enormous opportunity for new products and services in the organic sector,” says Ms. Calleja.

Yanmar proposed a design focus on supporting organic farming for fruits and vegetables for the academic year 2018-19. Students found it challenging to develop a new product that will provide quality and holistic user experience for organic farmers. Students visited local organic farms and researched organic farming experience to identify all requirements and opportunities that improve the lives of farmers, workers, and farm productivity.

Final Nu-tan working prototype, image supplied by Design Factory Melbourne
Final Nu-tan working prototype, image supplied by Design Factory Melbourne

The challenge was to create a solution for small scale organic farmers of ground grown product that keeps them connected to their crops. We wanted to reduce physical labor and maximize output for organic farmers by making soil preparation efficient and enjoyable,” explains Ms. Phillips.

Nu –tan is designed to help organic farmers in bed preparation, combining dispensing and evenly spreading supplements which in turn saves farmers time and physical effort.

Nu-tan being filled with organic supplement, image supplied by Design Factory Melbourne
Nu-tan being filled with an organic supplement, image supplied by Design Factory Melbourne

It gives organic farmers time to do the crop handling activities they enjoy,” Ms. Phillips says.

There is a lack of agricultural machinery suited to small scale organic farming. It’s very labor-intensive and time-consuming. Nu-tan addresses this gap in the market. No two organic farms are the same. Nu-tan adjusts to farmers’ needs and specific farm configurations, so farmers don’t have to change their farm to suit the tool. It also allows farmers to move and spread heavy loads easily,” Ms. Calleja says.

The team traveled to China to launch the project and traveled to Japan to work together. The final proof of concept prototype was presented at a SUGAR Network EXPO in San Francisco.

The team at Yanmar in Japan, image supplied by Design Factory Melbourne
The team at Yanmar in Japan, image supplied by Design Factory Melbourne

Yanmar selected Nu-Tan as its favored product idea and DFM is confident that Nu-Tan will be developed by Yanmar in support of the organic farming industry.

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