Anyone who loves to garden knows that all that time spent stooped over ploughing, planting, and weeding doesn't always sit (stand?) so well with the back. Enter the Wunda Weeder, a solar-powered contraption that lets gardeners take their back-breaking work lying down.
Australian inventors Brendan Corry and Peter Sargent conceived of the Wunda Weeder as a new, environmentally friendly answer to an old problem: manual farming tasks can take their toll, especially on those who tend to large fields. Lying on the machine in an adjustable "bed" made from a converted outdoor reclining chair, the operator is suspended above the ground and can easily access the soil for seeding, tilling, harvesting, and so on. Forward and reverse movement at a maximum of about 1.8 mph is controlled by a single switch from the operating position, as is the steering.
While the Weeder doesn't look particularly comfortable, Corry and Sargent say their one-person machine's been appraised by physiotherapists. They also suggest operators get up to move and stretch every 20 minutes or so, just like you'd ideally do when sitting at a desk for prolonged periods.
The Wunda Weeder's electric motor and drive system is run by onboard batteries that are recharged by the large solar panel on top, which also shades operators from sun and rain. An external battery charger pitches in for extra long stints or days when the sun isn't enough to power the machine.
The machine measures about 7.5 feet long by 4 feet wide by 4 feet tall and weighs 220 pounds, which might have some wondering whether dragging the thing around would cause just as much physical strain as leaning over to plant a petunia. When moving the machine to the desired crop row, the operator walks behind it and steers it like a shopping cart, except the electric motor powers the machine via a "dead man" switch on the handle (let go and the machine stops automatically).
The current model of the Wunda Weeder costs almost $8,000, which will probably make the average weekend gardener with a sore back opt for a nice massage. On a larger scale, however, the inventors believe the device has the potential to triple farm productivity and could pay for itself after the first year.