Farmers Fight for Our Right to Hack

It’s true many of us, especially in the States, don’t know or much care about where our food comes from. That’s unfortunate enough but what even less people may be aware of is how cool farming cultures are. Farmers survive by quickly learning how to do many things when they need to + thereby wear many hats. Some of these include electrician, veterinarian, carpenter, botanist, mechanic, businessperson + more. Out of necessity in this high-tech era, they’ve also become hackers.

Farmers’ equipment went high-tech years ago. Their ability to maintain their own implements is currently being challenged, becoming an issue that will impact future generations of farmers, as well as the manufacturers who make the equipment they use.

One might argue there is even more at stake. It’s a larger issue about technology + our consumer rights to fix, modify, augment + tinker with the things we buy.

Huge hat tip to Motherboard for covering this issue so well:

As farm equipment continues to grow in complexity, so do the requirements to repair it as new innovations are introduced into every component at a faster pace each season. Some of the more solutions-oriented farmers are using open-sourced firmware, software freely available on the internet, to work around these limitations in order to be able to fix simple issues themselves, without incurring the high costs + delays so sanctioned by the manufacturers.

Farmers live in a get-sh@t-done kind of culture + prohibiting them from doing that is not a good, customer-focused choice on behalf of these manufacturers.

The right choice is empowering them with the tools they need to both fix their schwack + learn something new that makes them feel awesome. Are these manufacturers going to go the way of other big dinosaur businesses + become extinct because of their inability to change + meet the demands of their customers?

Using community-sourced tools enables individual farmers to diagnose problems + perform repairs more quickly + at exponentially less cost. Without this option, even minor modifications + repairs take way longer + cost much more in order to be performed by a manufacturer-licensed technician all because these manufacturers claim their software is proprietary. Why not encourage innovation? Why not empower their customers?

Like it or not, this old model will die.

Proof: Farmers are pushing back with the right to repair movement + proposed Bills to ensure their rights to repair their own stuff remains legal.

Imagine yourself as a self-powered farmer who just wants to get the job done. What kind of experience does this create for them? Is this product-focused or audience-centric design? This is another big UX FAIL by all of these manufacturers.

From one of Motherboard’s posts:

18 states are currently considering “fair repair” bills, which would require manufacturers to sell repair parts and tools to the masses, would require them to make repair manuals available to the public, and would require them to provide circumvention tools for software locks that are specifically designed to prevent third party repair.

An exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act specifically makes it legal to hack tractors for the purposes of repair. But John Deere makes farmers sign licensing agreements that limit the amount of tinkering they are supposed to do one their equipment; violating it could be considered breach of contract and farmers who do are liable to be sued.

Let’s hope this solution is a simple one. Our rights to modify, tinker + hack the tools we use in our lives is undeniable. Besides, imagine the world in another 10 or 20 years. Tools + technology are improving all the time. What’s next for farmers? Will they have to endure more of these needless obstacles as even more innovations head their way?