Academic student gardens and backyard gardens have become more common throughout America as the local food and organic food movements gained momentum. Like large growers, these smaller farms tended to use some amount of fertilizers and pesticides, whether it is organic or inorganic, to grow better looking and tasting vegetables. Due to the wide usage of pesticides, herbicides, and artificial fertilizers to increase the productivity and efficiency of farms, the usage of these chemicals and their effects on consumer’s health has become one of the greatest issues concerning the modern industrial food complex in America. Different machines have been invented in order to clean and remove some of these toxic chemicals from the vegetables and fruits. However, these machines tend to be expensive and effective only on large scale production; thus, only large growers are capable of investing the large amount of capital necessary in industrial-sized vegetable washers since they operate on a larger scale. Smaller farms such as backyard gardens and organizations like University of Virginia’s student farm and Morven farms operate on significantly smaller scale thus, it is not economically feasible for them to invest their money on industrial vegetable washers. Small farmers need a more efficient way to clean their vegetables than manually cleaning their vegetables one by one with their hands and a sink.
The purpose of our project is to design a cost-effective and efficient vegetable washing station that will remove dirt, bacteria, and some of the toxic chemicals found in organic and non-organic produce without the use of gas and electricity, while focusing on the question, “What would be the most effective and efficient design from an economic, environmental, and usability perspective of a small farmer?” Other design specifications included in the washing stations’ design are water conservation, environmentally sustainability.
This study investigated the guidelines and requirements for cleaning the fruits and vegetables before consumption and determined that the best way to clean them is to rinse the vegetables and fruits thoroughly on water. We have also researched the infrastructure of University of Virginia’s student garden and Morven farms in order to determine the dynamics between the consumer and producer in the market and possible areas of improvement. We then utilized this criterion to identify the advantages and disadvantages to the farmer’s infrastructure if they were to incorporate our washing station into their farm.
One of the unique features about our vegetable washing station is how versatile it is. Since the base design for the washing station is simple, the design can be easily modified in order to fit the specific needs of the farm. For smaller farms, we have a design that takes up only 8 sq. ft. and costs approximately 63 dollars. This version of the washing station was designed to use common items such that could be found on farms in order to make the washing station easier to build and maintain. Thus the initial cost could be reduced if the farmers already have some of the equipment and materials on their farm already. If a larger washing station is needed, one can easily add wood to make it larger, PVC pipes to distribute the water to more faucets, tires to make it more portable, a conveyor belt to quicken the process, and even change the position of the hand crank to fit different needs. It is also promotes the idea of sustainable and water conservation because the used water is collected and stored in a tub and then recycled as gray water for watering plants or crops. People are always looking for ways to save money and the environment so this is an idea to fit what they want.
Since the design is sustainable and inexpensive, it can be easily implemented in third world countries, where capital and fresh water are limited resources. It is important to note that the cost of the materials can change depending on their location. Farmers in third world countries can collect the water used to water their crops. Thus they do not have to worry about wasting their limited water resources. This has the potential to increase the health of many by simply removing the pesticides or cleaning off the dirt with just water.
We believe this idea can help further the movement of sustainable farming and help farmers deliver their crops straight to the market. Instead of dealing with a middleman, the farmers can pick their crops, wash them on the farm, package them on location, and pack them up in a truck to be delivered. It will save local farmers money and may even boost their sales due to the cleanliness of their product. By reducing the amount of pesticides and herbicides in their produce before it reaches the consumer, the health of the community will improve and trust will foster between the small farmer and its consumers.