The simple tool named Hawking can quickly remove weeds without damaging surrounding crops. (Video by Atsushi Hara)
Companies high on weed-removal tool invented by Fukuoka farmerThe Asahi Shimbun by ATSUSHI HARA/ Staff Writer July 2, 2018
Takao Furuno draws his Hawking weeding tool over a vegetable field in Keisen, Fukuoka Prefecture. (Atsushi Hara)
KEISEN, Fukuoka Prefecture--A farmer’s simple weeding tool that can save time, money and the backs of farmhands has drawn interest from companies in Japan and overseas.
Takao Furuno, a 67-year-old farmer here, developed Hawking, which consists of four to five metal rakes available for around 1,000 yen ($9.11) each.
Hawking does not require electricity or fuel.
Furuno said he simply drags the tool over his rows of crops, and the rakes’ teeth remove the weeds without damaging the produce, which include spinach and Japanese mustard spinach.
Although the deeper-rooted crops are shaken by the teeth, they remain in the ground.
Furuno said he used to remove weeds with his hands or a hoe, which required two hours per 100 meters. Hawking can complete 100 meters in just a minute, cutting 99 percent off the time of the traditional back-breaking method, Furuno said.
“Hawking can be created even by agricultural workers in poor countries,” Furuno said. “I would like them to use it to rest their bodies and cultivate crops in wider areas so they can increase the yield.”
After Furuno posted footage of Hawking on a video-sharing website late last year, he received inquiries from a publishing company in the United States and a research institute in Switzerland.
An official of Orec Co., which dominates the Japanese market of walk-behind and riding mowers, said the company “definitely wants to market” a weeding machine based on Hawking.
Hawking’s teeth are designed to plow 1 cm into the surface to clear away freshly sprouted weeds that spread their roots to around that depth. Most agricultural products extend their thick roots to 3 cm or deeper under the ground, making them resistant to the teeth.
Furuno has been involved in organic agriculture for 40 years and is famous for having spread the Aigamo duck-rice culture method mainly in Asia.
Under that method, ducks are used to remove insects and weeds from rice paddies.