In February, the U.S. Department of the Treasury approved a request by a new company, Cleber, to be the first U.S.-based company to construct and operate a manufacturing facility in Cuba. The company will manufacture low-tech tractors for small farms, according to a story in Bloomberg. Two retired IBM employees, Horace Clemmons and Saul Berenthal, started the company.
Since getting the go-ahead from the U.S. government, they have been finalizing their first tractor’s design and sourcing materials, manufacturing prototypes to be tested in Cuba, nailing down the construction logistics of their facility, negotiating terms and conditions with the Cuban government, and hoping to raise $15 million in funding. They’re scheduled to begin operations in 2017.
The tractor is called the Oggún. In the Afro-Cuban religion known as Santeria, Oggún is the deity of metalworking. The Oggún may be the world’s first open source tractor. The frame of the Oggún 1.0 base model is an original design but rooted in the Allis-Chalmers Model G, a mainstay of the postwar farming boom of the late 1940s and early ’50s. It’s a bare-bones design, the tubular frame of which is reminiscent of a homemade go-cart — sturdy, simple, and open to the elements. The driver sits high up for visibility; the motor is behind, bolted to the frame between the rear wheels.
The frame of the Oggún can support an 18- to 25-horsepower gas or diesel engine. Cleber has seven manufacturers — American, Japanese, British, German, and Italian — that can supply a compatible motor, allowing more versatility when sourcing. A series of belts drives two hydrostatic transaxles — essentially, axles turned without shifting gears — one for each rear wheel, similar to many lawn tractors. You push the gas pedal and go. The axles can be widened — from 38-60 inches in the front and 36-46 inches in the rear — providing versatility when planting rows of crops, navigating narrow paths, or transporting the tractor in a trailer or the back of a truck. The rear axles can be loosened using hand tools, extended outward, and tightened again. At the front, the frame has notches every two inches. All the farmer has to do is jack it up, remove the bolts, slide the wheels over, and put the bolts back in.
Additional farming implements can be hooked up to the tractor. The more popular ones are likely to be a plow to break the ground, a cultivator to aerate the soil, and a planter to drop in seeds. Under the belly of the tractor is a hitch system for attaching implements.
Only a handful of components makes up the finished tractor: the frame, which is split into two parts that bolt together at the center; the motor and both axles; four rims and tires; the shaft for the front wheels; the steering wheel and column; the seat; hydraulic fuel tanks; and gas.
Oggún 1.0 is expected to retail for $10,000. The parts would initially be manufactured in the U.S., sent to Cuba, and assembled by Cuban workers at a planned 66,000-sq.-ft. facility in Mariel, a burgeoning port and special development zone west of Havana along Cuba’s northern coast.