Cottage Industry Appropriate Technology

Maya Pedal has quite a few interesting pedal powered machines
Maya Pedal has quite a few interesting pedal powered machines

This blog post lists numerous low cost appropriate tech devices that can be made at the cottage industry scale and sold for profit. As the economy continues to erode, a lot of readers are looking for ways to make extra money. The following list has some ideas to get you thinking. There are many appropriate technology devices, and many different ways to make them. A complete list would fill a book (see Field Guide to Appropriate Technology), so use this blog post as a springboard to discover additional items. Search YouTube for instructional videos.

Bicycle machines: Maya Pedal (incredible, must-see list of machines)
Satellite dish solar cooker
Many more solar oven plans: Solar
Solar water heater BuilditSolar
Barrel oven
Barrel cooker
Barrel smoker has detailed DIY instructions for making this barrel BBQ grill and hundreds of other items has detailed DIY instructions for making this barrel BBQ grill and hundreds of other items

Barrel BBQ grill
Twig stoves
Rocket stove
Rocket stove with oven
Small wood stoves
Biogas plants
Fuel briquettes press
Biomass briquettes
Rice hull kiln for making rice hull charcoal (biochar)
Rice hull gassifier stove
CEB press
Oil expeller/oil press,
Treadle (foot-powered) water pumps
Ram pump
Micro hydro
Pot-in-pot refrigerator
Nut sheller
Corn sheller
EMAS waterpump

Major appropriate technology sites:
For hours or days of interesting reading, check out Ashden Awards for appropriate technology ideas.
Wiki category: Appropriate Technology
Low Tech Magazine
No Tech Magazine
Development Center for Appropriate Technology
Center for Alternative Technology
Journey to Forever

7 thoughts on “Cottage Industry Appropriate Technology”

  1. From Rex:
    Nice post on the different innovative industry tech. The pot in pot cooling system is nice. My mom has a small version that keeps butter for weeks with out a fridge. I cant wait to try it on a bigger scale than the small butter jars I’ve seen. So simple and amazing.

    I have a small freezer that’s converted with a johnson regulator. The regulator lets you set the temperature of the freezer to that of a refrigerator. They work great. It uses very little power, a small solar set up can run it.

  2. Great list. Thanks for posting.

    I nominate the following for you to consider adding to your already excellent list.

    EMAS Bolivia.

    EMAS has very ingenious extremely inexpensive DIY piston water pumps. Built out of simple PVC pipes and glass marbles. Watching the video series of an EMAS pump being constructed for the first time is a special treat. It is amazing engineering utilizing the most minimal materials nearly universally available.
    DIY Well drilling equipment on the cheap.
    DIY water storage tanks.
    DIY water filters.
    and many more fascinating systems.


    The absolute BEST online source for DIY design and construction of electric wind generators on the entire internet.
    (check the “Energy Info” menu on the left side of that page.)

    For every wind turbine project on Otherpower, there is a very long and extremely detailed thread buried on Fieldlines describing exactly how they built every part. Including ideas that they tried that did not work out. They share it all, good and bad, for you to learn from. Fieldlines also has great many experienced builders who will answer questions and guide someone attempting to build an electric wind generator.

    Joseph Jenkins Humanure handbook website seems to belong in your list, although I’m not certain that it would be considered a cottage industry.

    Seed Savers Seed Exchange
    (there are other similar organizations out there as well. Google “Seed Exchange” along with your city/county/state/country/etc , especially if you want to find a local organization specializing in local heirloom seeds adapted to your local climate.)

    • Thanks for sharing. I hope others add to the list. Ferrocement water tanks would make a good cottage industry. Same with water filters. I figured most people would make their own sawdust toilet and so I didn’t include that.

      Part of the fun is figuring out what products will likely be most in demand and then trying to figure out how to build good quality products with low cost local materials that people can afford. Being able to make several products spreads the risk. Maybe certain materials are unavailable at some point. Or maybe a competitor comes up with a better and/or more affordable design, etc.

      Another key point is having good tools that will last and the skill to make a variety of things. You don’t necessarily need big fancy machinery, although that can speed the work in many cases. I’d focus on building a good workshop and getting a variety of tools so you can make and repair most anything. Hmm. Sounds like another topic for a future blog post.

  3. Owen;
    This is a wonderful listing of many possibilities for micro businesses. I do trainings on how to become an entrepreneur (in ways that cost less than $1,000USD). I can offer most of these ideas in the next 6 day training intensive I do.
    Sanitation is of keen interest to me, so I add this idea. In densely populated areas, clean well serviced pay toilets offer a valuable and profitable service.
    You have a knack for pulling together the good ideas afloat “out there”. Thanks.

  4. Scenario: John and Sue have been outfitting their off-grid sustainable home with alternative power devices, low tech stoves, solar hot water heat and bicycle water pump. They’re primarily interested in saving money and protecting the environment. But the skills and knowledge they’ve learned along the way could prove invaluable if there’s an economic crash. Suddenly, thousands of people would be in need of ultra low cost heating, cooking and energy devices. Even 1-2 of these devices could be turned into a profitable small business.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.