Dr. Marcin Jakubowski, Open Source Ecology

It might be easier to describe who Marcin Jakubowski is by laying out the seeming contradictions he embodies rather than by providing his resume.

He has a degree in the physics of fusion from Princeton, but lives on a farm in Missouri. He's the founder of a revolutionary open source ecology project, but spends many hours welding in a workshop he made from pressed earthen bricks. He speaks four languages and travels the globe addressing crowds of students who sit at rapt attention as they listen to his ideas, and during the same week, he can be found standing ankle deep in mud putting together the elemental bits of a homemade induction furnace. After completing his doctorate in physics at the University of Wisconsin, he started a hydroponic vegetable operation in Madison.

Jakubowski's Factor E Farm is also firmly at the center of what he and his team are calling the Open Source Ecology movement, and he's taken it as his vocation to create designs for the entire array of machines – using readily available tools and materials – which will be capable of recreating the modern comforts of the physical world.

He's no Henry Ford. He's not the next Elon Musk. He has no intention of becoming the next Thomas Edison or James Dyson or Pierre Omidyar. He considers and creates solutions to the problem of making new versions of the most important machines of the modern age, then he gives the plans away. No charge.

But it was what he felt was a glaring lack of practical skills that led him to found Open Source Ecology in 2003. The idea was simple, but a daunting task; come up with a method of construction and tools to make closed-loop manufacturing possible for the common man.

Jakubowski's Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) is made up of what he believes are the 50 most critical industrial machines necessary to build a modern civilization. Thus far, his OSE has completed prototypes of eight of those machines.

Open Source Ecology tools

The first of them, the Compressed Earth Brick Press, was a shot across the bow, and the overall vision includes designs for a wind turbine, cement mixer and a sawmill. He sees the machines and the idea as the spur for the "next economy." He hopes this model will include benefits like optimized production and distribution, less impact to the environment and even social justice.

As critical parts of his tool kit, Jakubowski employs a raft of 3D printers to rapidly prototype and test components for his machines.

"Rapid prototyping allows you to build – at a very low cost – because you're doing it once instead of 10 times," Jakubowski says. "The efficiency is that if we can prototype something before we build it in metal, we're saving ourselves wasted time and parts."

He says the upshot has been that, while it once took three days to build a backhoe he can now build one in a day with rapid prototyping. And to prove his point, he's already built more than a dozen of the 50 machines he plans to finish to complete the collection.

GCVS tractor

"(It's) a modular, DIY, low-cost, high-performance platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts," Jakubowski says. "We're developing open source industrial machines that can be made at a fraction of commercial costs, and sharing our designs online...free."

Last year, Jakubowki and his team used their tractor, brick press, and soil pulverizer to build a functional home they call the Microhouse.

The machines range from a backhoe he says can be built for a bargain-basement price of $4,530 to a Microcombine Harvester at a cost of $11,000. Compare those to the prices of a John Deere BH11 backhoe at $12,692.00 or the tab for a John Deere S550 Combine – a whopping $294,495 – and you can see where he's headed.

It's an audacious project, and you can read more about it at Jakubowski's Global Village Construction Set website.