open agroecology lab

Contact: Fernando Castro (ferhcastro@gmail.com)

The open agroecology lab is the outcome of an ongoing dialogue between the Ayllu Coop, CEFIC (Centro de Formación e Investigación Campesina) and members of ReGOSH

This proposal aims to integrate several low cost and open source methods and instruments into a lab to accompany peasants, farmers, students and researchers in the visualization and documentation of changes produced in farms during their transition towards agroecology.

2021 Activities

Background and motivation

For 30 years, agrobusiness has been poisoning our tables destroying our health and the native forest and land of indigenous people and peasants. Today the need to transform the ways in which we relate to the earth, and to each other, to produce our food is evident.

Healthy food can only come from regenerated soil and farmers. We, Cooperativa Ayllu and CEFIC, believe in the need to build a local agro-eco-culture based on appropriating the knowledge of organic, biodynamic, regenerative and indigenous agriculture. We need to take their practices and their science, adapt them to our region, to our crops, we need to experiment and document, compare, systematize, translate and share these lessons learned to facilitate the agroecological transition on other farms.
Jornada en la Escuela Campesina de Agroecología de Jocolí (UST)
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During this process of recovery towards agroecology we have found tons of information about the possible paths, practices and ways to approach and diagnose the detoxification of the land. However, it is difficult for us to find data and experiences that have systematized learning about the agroecological transition in agroecosystems similar to ours; We have not found built experience and we are making this transition quite blindly.

The nearby laboratories are scarse, expensive and they are still in the conventional physical-chemical paradigm. In this paradigm the soil is considered as an inert matrix whose fertility is defined by quantifying the presence of nutrients (NPK). In the agroecological paradigm, the soil is a living system and therefore its health is evaluated in biological terms (i.e. diversity and microbiological activity, organic matter).

Open source tools for the agroecological transition

For some years, together with the members of the ReGOSH node, and particularly with the Mendoza and Chile nodes, we have been experimenting with open/free laboratory instruments and low-cost analytical methods. We believe that open technologies can be instrumental to accompany agroecological transition processes in their practical and pedagogical dimensions, both in the evaluation of soils and ammendments, and later, to advance in the analysis of primary productions or derived manufactures. 
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Open technologies present the opportunity to co-create the designs of the tools necessary to produce knowledge, taking advantage of the experience of other projects in different parts of the world, recreating what works and modifying what does not to return to useful design in context. We consider that this plasticity and potential for appropriation of open technologies is what we need to systematize the learnings of the local agroecological transition. For this we need to generate instances where we can put the designs to the test in the field, in dialogue with local actors, to adapt or develop new methods and instruments that are useful to users and in each particular context.

Our objective

Prototype an open laboratory to develop and test open and low-cost technologies that allow the co-production of knowledge and to systematize the learning of the agroecological transition, based on the dialogue between various actors, their current practices, their visions for the future and the concrete challenges that the transition presents; and to document the experience so that it is useful to others in the region.

Initial Stage – Prototyping

The prototyping process requires being able to iterate the preliminary developments in dialogue with a diversity of actors, until achieving a certain stability of practices, designs, methods and instruments both in terms of scope and replicability and usability.

The specific space that we propose to develop this initial stage (12 months) is the Barrancas farm of Ayllu Coop where we began to recover, 3 years ago, a 2-hectare vineyard of creole grapes that we use to make juice. 

Second stage – Proliferation

In this stage, the proofs of concept prototyped in the previous stage materialize in the assembly of easy-to-use kits accompanied by detailed documentation on their scope and use. 

The development of joint assembly workshops allows users to become familiar with the kits, initiating a systematic monitoring program on their use and exchange of user experiences and data throughout the process. In this last sense, we are exploring the potential coupling with Participatory Guarantee Systems.

Proposed technologies

BAsic tools for chemical and physical analysis

Based on low-cost sensors (pH, conductivity, humidity, temperature, nitrates), Arduino and mobile phones apps (Kodular). These prototypes are based on the joint work with Co-Sensores

https://gitlab.com/cosensores/ph-metro https://gitlab.com/nanocastro/ColorLabFD

Microbiological analysis based on low-cost high resolution digital microscopy

We will work to adapt previous prototypes (OpenFlexure and Brewermicro) to obtein soil microlandscapes from soil and ammendments (ie. Winogradsky soil landscapes ). (Fernan Federici and Pablo Cremades collaboration)

More info

indirect microbiological analysis through soil respiration chambers

We will continue to work with the prototype developed during the first reGOSH residence in Porto Alegre. (Fernando Castro, Anabela Laudecina, Leandro Mastrantonio y Pablo Cremades)

https://tecnologias.libres.cc/pablocremades/camara-respiracion-suelo

Soil pfeiffer chromatography

We consider this tool as central due to its wide diffusion into several Latam territories and the built knowledge and experience.

https://forum.openhardware.science/t/day-4-soil-chromatography-workshop/1512

ACTIVIDADES 2021

We are a remote residence of UROS project and we are contributing with AgroPacha, an experimental cicle of workshops

Mate chromatography

1 – 2 october – AgroPacha -Soil chromatography workshop

We used this workshop to launch locally the Open Agroecology Utilizamos and to attract the attention of different organizations and producers to start talking about soil vitality

Pictures

October 22 – AgroPacha – DIY microscopy workshop and beneficial fungi isolation

We worked on a basic approach to soil microscopy and also on the isolation of beneficial fungi like tricodherma y baoveria with people from INTA Rama Caída (Eliana García y Laura Martínez).

At the workshop attended students from Colectivo de Agroecología de la FCA UN Cuyo, INTA, producers from Crece desde el pie, Cooperativa Ayllu and UST. We received the visit and collaboration of Pablo Cremades and Nico Mendez from nodo Buenos Aires (reGOSH). During the workshop we played with different versions of Openflexure

Fotos

On the frame of project UROS we collaborated with Julian Chollet, Akvile Paukštytė y Marc Dusselier on the Short guide to soil microscopy

Participants

  • Cooperativa de Trabajo Ayllu.
  • CEFIC. Centro de Educación, Formación e Investigación Campesina (UST-MNCI Somos Tierra). 
  • ReGOSH.
  • Laboratorio de tecnologías libres de FCEN (UN Cuyo). Pablo Cremades 
  • INTA Estación Experimental Luján. Ivan Funes Pinter and Martín Uliarte
  • Cátedra de Tecnología Ambiental y Laboratorio de tecnologías Abiertas de la Facultad Nacional de Agronomía de la Universidad Nacional de Cuyo. 
  • FedericiLab.
  • Grupo CoSensores.
  • RealFoodLab.
  • Hackteria – Humus sapiens.

With the support of: