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Designing Tools and Agricultural Equipment for Women

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2010 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 20 - June 23, 2010  1009715.(doi:10.13031/2013.29983)
Authors:   Aaron M Yoder, Ann M Adams, Elizabeth A Brensinger, Jesun Hwang, Andris Freivalds
Keywords:   Women, Tools, Equipment, Anthropometric, Design, Penetrometer

The number of women farmers in the U.S. has been rising over the past several decades, with the rate of growth accelerating between the 2002 and 2007 Agricultural Censuses, to nearly 1 million female farm operators in 2007. Tools and equipment function best and are safest and easiest to operate when they fit the user. Tools designed for males will be less-than-optimal for the vast majority of female users. Additionally, some of womens anatomical and physiological characteristics may place them at specific risk for farm injuries. Nonetheless, virtually all tools and equipment on the U.S. market have been designed either for men or for some average user whose size, weight, strength etc. were heavily influenced by the average man. This paper briefly summarizes the literature regarding women farmers and tool and equipment use and describes the engineering design process used to develop a hybrid spade / shovel appropriate for women users. Using a scientifically based design process to develop tools suitable for specific populations is both feasible and important. Gender-based anatomical and physiological differences limit the ability of universal design to adequately serve all populations. The availability and accessibility of anthropometric data; advances in ergonomics; and the utility of lab and field testing are key to the success of such design processes. Consumer input gathered at various stages of the design process e.g., to establish need and priorities at the outset and to test prototype tools is also critical. Lastly, a team approach to design has decided advantages.

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