The great invention of the farmer Damià: his Mallorcan plow will be used by NASA on Mars and the Moon

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In April 2009, two pairs of wheels spun at the same time. Some were on Mars and were moving the Spirit robot. The others pushed Damià Bover’s tractor around his farm Vilafranca (Mallorca). And now, 12 years later, this peculiar spatial butterfly effect has caused a plow invented by this Mallorcan farmer to obtain the certificate for the NASA use it in your alien missions.

At first glance, no one would say that the farm of Son Durí houses a prototype that can travel into space. Greenhouses of organic crops surround an old tile factory where you can now find everything: straw bales, machinery, melons, furniture or a cat moving through the maze of rooms. In the middle of the land, near the busy road between Palma and Manacor, a cabin made of wood and iron serves as an office and workshop on the uneven ground of the field.

Plastics protect the computer where Damià Bover keeps photos and videos from raindrops. Next to him, he places a folder that lists his entire professional career: the student cards, the selectivity card or even a taxi driver’s license in Palma that he took before working for five years in a computer store when computing was in diapers. “I wanted to program, but I did everything but that. In fact, as soon as I arrived, they gave me a screwdriver and made me disassemble a computer ”.

Damià was born, raised and lives in the countryside. First in his native Porreres, then in Llucmajor, Felanitx and from the age of six, in Vilafranca. His family cultivated the land and raised cows until 1992, when they bought a tile factory, a frequent business in the Mallorcan Part Forana until at the beginning of this century almost all the companies collapsed. Working in the secondary sector pushed this farmer to investigate new forms of save on fuel. Gasoline was through the roof and biomass was a much cheaper option. “They gave us the sawdust for free, but it was very difficult to handle. Luckily they advised me to install a frequency variator, which started the motor slowly and allowed the sawdust to be introduced little by little and not all at once ”, says Damiè Bover, in an interview with EL ESPAÑOL.

That little device is key in Bover’s subsequent investigations, which from 2005 again focused on agriculture. “We started farming again, but this time they advised us to go organic. We took several courses and we realized that until then we did not understand agriculture, that we did many things wrong, “he explains, looking at Rafel, his father, who listens to him smiling from the other side of the table. Now the new challenge was to control weeds, “which is 60 or 70% of the work.” “When they are small they need little energy, but from time to time you have to let them grow because they provide minerals, bacteria and fungi. I call it the fertilization of the field ”. That is why Damià began to think about an idea that he has not released since then: mix tractor, plow and solar energy.

A unique invention

The Mallorcan farmer admiring his invention.

The Mallorcan farmer admiring his invention.

The first time it failed because the wheels skidded. But he listened to Beckett and decided to fail better. He did not cease his efforts and invented the double telescopic chassis, to which he later added some tips to reduce energy consumption “thanks to the fact that we went from friction to fixing”. Those simple little tips, which the Americans have dubbed interlocking spikes, are the next big step in the creation of this Mallorcan inventor, a member of the Mallorca Inventors Club.

In 2010, he began to collaborate with an agricultural school in Manresa, in Barcelona, ​​to begin the iterations, that is, to experience possible developments and uses of the plow. “For example, it can move with a tractor, with a hydraulic motor, with wind …” And the following year, everything began to change. He got the patent in July, after three days he published a video on YouTube and, as in Spain he could not get more help, he left in September for two months to Germany to go from museum to museum with the intention of certifying that there was no such thing as an invention. yours. “Before spending the money on the international patent, which cost me between 6,000 and 10,000 euros, I had to confirm it,” recalls Damià, who has been invested in his project about 80,000 euros. “Everything comes from the money of the family and small investors, because we have received almost no support from Spanish institutions. On the other hand, in Germany the government has given subsidies ”.

From that moment on, this Mallorcan peasant who constantly quotes Newton and Goddard (pioneer of the space age) began a long journey of investigation, trial and error, turning his head around. He has had the advice of more than 200 people from the scientific field and university students, especially from Germany and the United States “because here in Mallorca they didn’t see it and they still don’t see it even though there are now patents and certificates.”

The intense connection with Germanic researchers led them to solve the 40 challenges that they posed in 2014 to obtain the American patent, which they finally achieved in September 2015. “Then we discovered that since the Spirit incident on Mars, they were looking for alternative mobility systems and we began to look towards the United States ”, he explains while touching with his fingertips the bald eagle that presides over the seal of his American patent.

First contact with NASA

Damià had the first contact with NASA in 2016.

Damià had the first contact with NASA in 2016.

An American researcher visiting Mallorca, Katie Marascio, recommended that you send an email to a professor at Carnegie Mellon, one of the most prestigious research centers on computing and robotics in the world. “We have a 2% chance that they will answer us, but nothing happens to prove,” he said. And in just 14 hours, they received a message in their inbox. Shortly after, in September 2016, Damià was planted in Detroit invited to a conference program of the International Society for Terrain-Vehicle Systems (ISTVS). And from there he went to Cleveland, where he discovered in situ that the NASA engineer Carl Johnson he was investigating in parallel to create a machine similar to his. “It was a surprise and also a joy, because they went as separate and I had the complete one from the first day. Now for everything that they investigate on this subject from NASA they will have to count on us ”.

Cleveland’s discovery activated the space passion German researchers Volker Nannen, Dieter Zöbel y David Reiser, that from that moment they focused on developing the plow as a future lunar machine. Dozens of experts collaborated in a process that concluded in 2018 when a prototype was built in Germany, where there is funding and technology to do so. “They raise the technical questions because they need to build the knowledge and I implement in practice the designs that create that knowledge,” explains the inventor while fiddling with one of his plows. “This is the one that I usually take to the fairs here in Mallorca, but only children and foreigners stop. The Mallorcan people pass by or at most they ask me if I manufacture solar panels ”.

In June 2019, Damià traveled to the United States again to attend conferences at the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), where he met Robert P. Mueller, head of the space division and NASA researcher. “He told us what we should do to make our project more attractive in the space race and invited us to present ourselves to the following conferences in 2020. We did it, although in 2021 and virtually due to the pandemic. There we obtained the certificate for its use on the Moon ”.

With this document, Damià’s weed plow is closer to being able to plow through our satellite or Mars. “Since there is no gravity, the machines for removing stones or smoothing ground skid, so if you want to make a road, an airstrip or move machinery, you cannot. However, my machine would be digging in its tips and could move without skidding. A tractor needs four points of friction and my single-point plow from the motor distributes the power, ”he explains.

Utopus, a revolution

Damia's contraption is called Utopus.

Damia’s contraption is called Utopus.

Damià’s brilliant contraption, called Utopus, is a good example of the complexity of simplicity and the balance between energy saving and power. “You only lose 2-4% energy nailing and unlocking the tips. The rest goes to what it touches. And the ratio is much higher than that of a tractor: if the vehicle weighs one, it can lift 0.5, but if my plow weighs 1, it can lift four ”.

The Moon or Mars already appear on the horizon, but Bover maintains between eyebrows his original objective: agriculture. “Half of the world’s inhabitants are farmers and of them, 90% do not have access to technology and, even if they did, tractors would not work in many cases in parts of Africa or Central and South America. My machine can be a revolution ”.

This Mallorcan farmer does not stop imagining uses for his invention: “It could help prevent fires or put them out. And it would also help in empty or emptied Spain to bring women to agriculture, because the tractor has always been too masculine. Or if we add robots to it, it would attract the attention of young people, but I don’t have the money to put them on ”. And it is that at the moment the windows of the administrations are walls and the manna of the European funds, supposedly so prone to falling into ecological and sustainable projects, has not passed through Vilafranca. “Sometimes I have to read biographies of inventors to see what I have to do and get mental energy to keep going,” confesses this farmer, who regrets the institutional oblivion that has suffered for years.

“Here in the Balearic Islands they pass us by and the vice president and minister of Energy Transition, Juan Pedro Yllanes (Podemos) now give us long. Let’s see if in another autonomous community, Revilla the one from Cantabria or Moreno the Andalusian who say that he is very sensitive to these issues, is betting on this type of project, ”says Bover, who will continue to seek support in Palma, Madrid and Brussels, although not rules out setting up a start-up in the United States as recommended. “My obligation is that this is known throughout the world, especially in agriculture,” he concludes while putting his documents back in the folder. It no longer rains and the sun’s rays filter through the plastics of his peculiar workshop. Damià touches her plow again.

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