Pilot Model

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Open Source Ecology is entering a phase of pilot projects. At present, the tractor, brick press, Power Cube, and soil pulverizer are machines that are suggested for replication as pilot projects. Pilot projects are intended to test OSE equipment in real working conditions, and are intended to pave the way to distrubuted production as well as to taking these machines to market on a broader scale. We favor establishing local production as a form of an open franschise, which would be intended as a partnership between the local community and OSE. OSE's interest is developing an open source product development pipeline funded by pilot projects that evolve into self-sustaining businesses. We are working on a business model for this open franchise.

Budget Rationale

For Pilot Projects to be self-sustaining, OSE needs to fund and dedicate one full time staff person, preferably an MBA, as a salaried project manager or independent contractor. This person would be responsible for managing several pilot projects full time, and once the Open Source Technology Transfer model is developed and made self-funding, the position should transition to replicating such pilots to many locations. The essential goal is to enable local communities to manufacture their own technology, as part of the open source microindustrial revolution.

The costs associated with a pilot project are:

  • Materials costs for machine to be built ($10k for bare tractor, $4k for bare CEB press, $2k for 27 hp Power Cube, $5k for 50hp Power Cube.
  • Management time for OSE staff. It is estimated that a manager could handle about 4-8 projects at a time, depending on the level of support.
  • Documentation support is critical: documenting the build, issues, lessons learned, field testing, data collection, test results, etc.
  • Travel expenses as needed
  • Technical support in a given pilot location: project manager, mechanic, machine operator
  • Fabrication costs. Preferably, a local team builds the machine. In such a case, an experienced Production Director (from OSE or trained by OSE) can lead a production run with relatively unskilled people who have at a minimum of basic tool use experience. If an OSE person is required to lead the production run, their time and travel need to be covered. There needs to be access to a Basic Workshop or Basic Advanced Workshop. A local build requires access to electricity. In one advanced route, all parts can be cut via CNC Torch Table or laser cutter and local assembly/welding can happen. With CNC, production times are on the order of a 1-2 days. With manual production, production times are on the order of 1-2 weeks - both with a team of either 4 skilled people or 8+ unskilled people under the guidance of a professional.
  • Project kickstarting - typically, it's useful to have the Executive Director of Open Source Ecology or another core member of OSE make an initial visit to make the proper connections and spark the appropriate interest.

Marcin to Carlos - Potential Haiti Collaboration

Our goal would be to develop an effective open source technology transfer protocol with the brick press as a test case.

  1. An introduction
  2. Strong, trusted, local stakeholder on the ground (nonprofit or such)
  3. Local contacts
  4. Documentation support (video, technical - University?)
  5. Hands-on support for running the machine and building process (general contractor, mechanic - including someone familiar with earth contstruction)
  6. Technical support on earthquake proofing of compressed earth structures
  7. Access to the machine - eather shipped or printed on the ground
  8. Ease of physical access (such as Haiti - close to US OSE headquarters)
  9. Access to collaborative grant-writing funding
  10. Access to a hydraulic power unit for the machine, such as tractor or skid loader (we use a Power Cube)
  11. ccess to a soil pulverizer
  12. Access to a tractor for soil loading

The way I see it. Preliminary Budget:

  1. Materials for CEB machine - $4k
  2. Materials for Power Cube - $2k
  3. Materials for Soil Pulverizer - $1k
  4. Option 1: 1 month of preparation to establish local production of brick presses
  5. Travel - $1k
  6. Shipping of machines - $5k
  7. OR local production of machines - $4-8k
  8. OR USA production of machines - $8k
  9. Documentation, OSE - $5k
  10. Management, OSE - $5k
  11. Access to tractor for soil loading - ?
  12. Travel within country? - Need to assure your own logistics.

~$30k capital


  1. Local production capacity of brick presses in Haiti
  2. Documentation on localized build, use, modification, repair of brick presses
  3. First Draft of scalable Open Source Tech Transfer Protocol, with Brick Press as test case

I would propose that we do a collabaritive funding proposal to some trusted source to fund deployment of a pilot.


Marcin to Peter


We are now ready to do that. Historically, OSE was focused on development, now we're ready for pilots, and that was the nature of my first trip to Haiti this weekend. I established ties with a wide stakeholdership that appears to meet the requirements for a locally-driven pilot project including local fabrication of the machines themselves.

Regarding financing, the basic model that appears to make sense after my experience here in Haiti is:

1. Fund open source technology transfer process up to local fabrication via local foundations, US foundations, or other forms of nonprofit sector activity. We develop tech transfer protocol and support. 2. Local stakeholdership is motivated by clear return on investment. Meeting of real needs or community economic development is the motivator. 3. Local stakeholders contribute back to the OS tech transfer process by knowledge capture including adapted equipment designs, open enterprise model, and complexity mapping. 4. Successful effort as such (marked by, for example, Haiti becoming a leading producer and development center of open source brick presses or tractors) means potential of wide replicability, because our main product is the OS Tech Transfer Protocol/Process with all supporting informations (designs, open business model, etc).

To take it to large scale, i would see something like this:

  1. Finance an open source tech transfer protocol up to local production.
  2. Successful pilot project.
  3. Viral replication.

The devil's in the details. These include gathering a team of stakeholders embodying the correct incentives for distributive, open source economic development. I would see that this is the key, as if the effort is self-funded, this gives lots of leeway.

The main platform here is in generating local production from open source designs, which becomes part of a global collaborative.

Root capital - I see it's a social investment fund. My question would be if the funder is the beneficiary, ie, direct stakeholder, otherwise I see non-optimal incentivization for success. We need to structure the process that the local stakeholders, not outsiders, are funding the project, so they have skin in the game, and no debts to pay off. I think we should stick to the usufruct investment model (the investor is the user or direct stakeholder), whatever the correct terminology is - where we have no investment from outside the community unless there are no strings attached.

Those are my thoughts. I think the best way to make this scalable, perhaps the only way, is to build from within the target community, show a success case, and let the results speak for themselves. Then we function primarily as an open source tech transfer organization.

From Peter

Great to hear from you. Meant that as a question for the panel but glad to continue the dialog via skype. I'm skeptical of high cost open source technology getting virally replicated in emerging markets by distributed actors. We've had trouble with that with small things like Ram Pumps, Bucket Generators, and Hydro load controllers, not costing more than a couple hundred bucks. The idea that it will happen for a tractor or a several thousand dollar compressed brick maker just has me a little concerned. I'd recommend going more commercial with it but keeping your designs open source. My two cents.

Just to clarify a bit about what Root Capital does they provide debt to larger farming cooperatives who use those funds to make infrastructure improvements. They might be able to help people afford that few thousand dollar tractor. I get you want to avoid debt but Root capital has a good payback history and reputation for being flexible with loans. Anyhow they are a large player in Haitian agriculture and worth checking out. I can make an introduction when you are in production.

In terms of funding your manufacturing and getting you into production. You're going to have a tough road on the philanthropic funding with all the competing priorities in Haiti. But if you want I can make an intro to the Lemelson Foundation and see if the bite they are up your alley in appropriate technology, though are not big on open source, they got all their money from a prolific inventor and patents.

If you are going a for profit model there is not much seed investment going on in Haiti, it is more for established companies, and the local angels are sharks so be wary. We've had a seed stage manufacturer that we supported that has had a heck of a time looking for investment since 2010. The other big manufacturer we support (doing a few million in revenue) all but gave up looking for investment and focused on Government contracts. That could be a good strategy for you. There is alot of investment capital flowing into the country right now but there are a lot of government partnerships involved in that so if you can partner with the government there is the opportunity for a large deal. Worth a consideration. I can put you in touch with the folks at Enersa if you want to talk about government sales in Haiti.

Did you talk with Joel Jackson from Mobius motors at Global? More than anybody I think he'd have some great ideas for you as you move forward into commercialization.

Good luck man. I am glad to see you making this step and I am extremely glad to see it happening in Haiti.