AKER proposes open source kits for urban agriculture, for example beehives, chicken houses, compost bins, and hopes to contribute to the widespread growth of Open farming movement.
AKER is an international network of makers, just two years old, who have come together to tackle the decline of bees and find solutions for beekeeping and city-based agriculture.
The initiative emerged in Denver, Colorado with the project Open Source Beehives. In 2013 Tristan Copley Smith and Aaron Makaruk, makers and open source enthusiasts from Open Tech Collaborative, decided to conceive a project for beehives to be fabricated by CNC and monitored remotely. They launched the initiative on Indiegogo and brought in additional skills by partnering with Fab Lab Barcelona and the Self Sufficient Lab Valldaura in partnership with the IaaC in Barcelona.
It was a success, crowdfunding targeted 20 000 US Dollars and collected 63 000. The team adapted to the requirements and expanded through discussion forums.
A year after the campaign, hundreds of beehives are scattered around the globe, from New Zealand to Belgium. And the sensors to monitor the health of a bee colony and post the data on the Internet are almost ready.
AKER works with the Smart Citizen Kit (SCK), an open source platform developed at Fab Lab Barcelona, that consists of three layers of technology: hardware, a site with an API, and also a mobile application. The circuit is compatible with Arduino and has on-board sensors to measure the make-up of the air (CO and NO2), temperature, light intensity, sound levels and humidity.
The team behind Open Source Beehives expanded in the course of one year, with more designers from Portugal, Spain and Gustavo Arriaga at Fab Lab El Paso, Texas joining the project.
And as beekeeping is a specific field, other ideas have since come to the collective mind of these makers concerned with autonomy. Their goal: to propose a set of self-assembly kits or open source tools for producing food. The project is known under the name AKER.
The objective of AKER is to combine the maker movements groundbreaking inventiveness and the need for both centralization and to relocate food production systems. AKER wishes to promote getting back control over the food we eat: according to them, food multinationals are not acting responsibly regarding health and the environment.
AKER recognizes that for busy city dwellers prosumer culture can be intimidating. “There is a lot to know about growing plants, not to mention the handcraft skills to build your own raised beds or your chicken coop. And there is also the issue of space – if someone lives in an apartment building, how can they realistically participate in food production?” recognizes Tristan Copley Smith.
AKER have designed kits that are understandable to people who are not good with their hands, that quickly fit together without screws or glue. “If you don’t have much space, the system uses as much vertical space as possible to maximize your growing area. The system also includes modularity, which means that you can connect multiple kits to suit larger spaces, like Lego but for agriculture.”
AKER is in the final days of a new Indiegogo campaign. For Gustavo Arriaga, in charge of the design of the WormHaus composting bin, “this Indiegogo campaign allows us to prototype the hardware (which is expensive) and to continue to develop the kits until they reach a truly permanent design.”
AKER also offers online networking between AKER prosumers, both to find the urban agriculture suppliers in a neighborhood and to kick-start food sharing networks. Tristan Copley Smith thinks that partnered with Open Farm, a Wikipedia for open agriculture, the culture of fabricating urban farms could eventually profoundly change our way of life.