Human-powered Shredder

Peter Harrison / Angus Donald Campbell / Naudé Malan / Human-power / Urban Ag / MSE / Human Centred Design

The Participatory Design of a Human-powered Shredder for Urban Farmers in Soweto is a research project undertaken in partial fulfilment of the requirements of an MTech: Industrial Design at the University of Johannesburg by Peter Harrison, supervised by Angus Donald Campbell and co-supervised by Dr. Naudé Malan.

Sowetan urban farmland remains under-utilised in many cases. Lacking appropriate equipment emergent farmers struggle to either maintain or rehabilitate their available soil. Farmers’ current methods of reducing organic waste for composting and mulch materials are laborious and ineffective. Soils therefore often remain infertile, damaged or under-nourished and hence farmers’ are unable to optimise urban small holdings. Despite mankind’s technical achievements, broader illusive issues like climate change, rapid urban sprawl and food insecurity still threaten society. Distant government, irresponsible leadership and aloof affluence cannot pretend that globally significant yet locally felt problems remain inconsequential to them. These historically marginalised emergent Sowetan farmers remain at the forefront of the fight against urban food insecurity in this region.

Experienced Industrial Designer Peter Harrison’s project focuses on the participatory development of a pedal powered shredder. This affords farmers an opportunity to create compost and mulch more efficiently. By deliberately avoiding technology reliant on fossil fuels, farmers and their families can power these products at will. This mechanical agricultural processing technology is purposefully designed to employ multiple operators’ thereby encouraging teamwork and empowerment amongst families and communities alike. The shredder project also aims to ‘nudge’ an increase in personal capacities leading toward greater self-determination. The pedal powered shredder design aims at being accessible, robust, easily understood by newcomers and relatively simple to maintain with standard bicycle tools. Manufacturers were purposefully sourced from local tradesmen and woman in and around Soweto. Thus, shredder cost as a barrier to wider urban farmer adoption and use, has been minimised wherever possible.


This work is based on the research supported in part by the NRF for the Thuthuka grants held by Angus D. Campbell titled Designing Development: An Exploration of Technology Innovation by Small-scale Urban Farmers in Johannesburg and by Dr. Naudé Malan titled Innovation in the Soweto Food System: Engaging with Soweto Agriculture. Any opinion, finding and conclusion or recommendation expressed in this material is that of the authors and the NRF does not accept any liability in this regard.