You knew I’d eventually have to talk about farming. I love finding new ways to automate farming processes in Minecraft, especially when playing with mods. As I’ve been playing with Rotarycraft, I’ve been  experimenting with several of its farming machines. First and foremost among these machines is the Fan.

The fan uses mechanical energy to push things around with air.

The fan uses Rotarycraft’s mechanical energy to push things around with air.

As you might guess, the Fan creates a column of air that pushes items and mobs in a direction. The reach and speed of the gust of air depends on the power you put into the fan. This is useful, since this means that you can micromanage your farms. And, hey, what is Minecraft without micromanaging? Hmm. What is Minecraft without micromanaging? Well, I guess it’s kind of a directionless first-person RPG-ish game(-like thing?) with bad graphics, a strange levelling system, and a pretty small assortment of items. So micromanaging is pretty essential. And that’s what the Fan let’s you do.

The Fan also harvests and “replants” most crops, in my case canola (added by Rotarycraft), wheat, carrots, and potatoes. Though I am currently playing with very few mods, Fans also harvest the vast majority of mod crops: Natura’s barley, cotton, and berry bushes, Pam’s HarvestCraft crops, Magic Crops, Thaumcraft mana beans, Extra Utilities ender lilies (huzzah!), and flax (originally from RedPower2, but made into its own mod by Talons7731). What this means is that Rotarycraft’s Fans are one of the best and most versatile, if not THE best, harvesting machines available. Plus, they don’t get all derpy like Thaumcraft’s golems.

I think the idea of using a Fan to harvest is that the power of the fan’s wind blows the harvestable segment of the plant off the stalk and lets the stalk regrow. Honestly, I don’t know how this pretension works with carrots and potatoes (both being root crops), but I’m not complaining. A little bit of “realism” in Minecraft is just fine, but I don’t play Minecraft for a comprehensively realistic reproduction of solo survival in the wilderness. Terrafirmacraft is about as far as I care to go in that direction. If I wanted comprehensive realism, I could always turn off my computer. Ha! Just kidding. I wouldn’t really turn off my computer. That’s just nuts.

In the Minecraft mod "real life", punching a tree doesn't chop down the tree. Instead, it gives you bloody knuckles, and who needs bloody knuckles?

In the Minecraft mod “real life”, punching a tree doesn’t chop down the tree. Instead, it gives you bloody knuckles, and who needs bloody knuckles?

One thing Fans won’t harvest, though, is sugar cane/reeds, and this is significant since sugar plays such an important role in Rotarycraft’s early game. As I mentioned in an earlier post, sugar is used with dirt in a Fermenter to make yeast, which is also used in a Fermenter with organic material (including, potentially, sugar cane) to make ethanol crystals. To make it out of the earliest tier of Rotarycraft you really have to have ethanol crystals to power the gasoline engine. So the fact that the Fan doesn’t harvest sugar cane might lead you to think that Rotarycraft can’t contribute to sugar cane production. But you’d be wrong.

A while back, in another post about farm automation, I showed a simple, fully-automatic, vanilla MC sugar cane farm using a block update detector (or BUD), sticky pistons, and a water canal. It works fine and never needs maintenance, but it loses as much as half of the reeds it harvests. If you build a big enough farm, this doesn’t matter. But if you’re like me and like to build things small and efficient, the loss of this much of the sugar cane crop is simply unacceptable.

Vanilla sugar cane farm Mark I: fully automatic but loses half of its crop, because not all the sugar cane falls into the canal.

Now, before I go on with how Rotarycraft solves this problem, there is a way to optimize the efficiency of this farm using only vanilla Minecraft resources. See my post from yesterday about this.

Rotarycraft provides a couple of ways to optimize my sugar cane farm. First of all, you could use an Item Vacuum. This device, when given mechanical energy, sucks in items all around it, making it kind of like a Buildcraft Obsidian Pipe, but better, since it can suck in experience orbs as well as items, and it has a large internal inventory in case you don’t have the means or desire to pump items out immediately. I have used the Item Vacuum in my canola/wheat/carrot farm complex, but for my sugar cane farm I have gone a different route.

Here you an Item Vacuum being powered from the top (it can receive power from any direction). Depending on how much power you give it, it can pull items in from quite a long ways away.

Here you an Item Vacuum being powered from the top (it can receive power from any direction). Depending on how much power you give it, it can pull items in from quite a long ways away.

I initially built this automated farm as a doubled version of my Mark I farm I mentioned earlier. A single BUD switch is fine, since all you really want is for the pistons to activate every now and then when most or all of the sugar cane have grown to two or three blocks high. By the time a single sugar cane has grown to three blocks high, all the others will probably have grown to two or three blocks high, as well.

I started by doubling the size of my sugar cane farm. The BUD is on the right side.

I started by doubling the size of my sugar cane farm. The BUD is on the right side. Also, note the use of GeoStrata’s granite bricks

All of the sugar cane being harvest is sent into a water canal system that funnelled the items to a vertical shaft at the bottom of which is a hopper leading into a chest. This is a simple and inexpensive item transport system that worked for me since most of my base, especially my ethanol production system, is underground (I built the sugar cane farm almost directly above my Fermenters).

This screenshot is from beneath the pistons, between the two rows of sugar cane. On the outside of each row is a water canal. These two canals turn the corner at the end of the row and merge, eventually heading into the covered canal whose entrance you can see through the glass.

This screenshot is from beneath the pistons, between the two rows of sugar cane. On the outside of each row is a water canal. These two canals turn the corner at the end of the row and merge, eventually heading into the covered canal whose entrance you can see through the glass. Notice that there is no glass at the end of the sugar cane row.

But the attrition problem of the Mark I wasn’t significantly improved simply by doubling the size of the farm. Here is where I decided to use two Fans, one for each row of sugar cane. By placing a Fan powered by a DC electric engine on ground level at the the end of each row of sugar cane farthest from the water canal junction, I was able to blow what sugar cane fell on the dirt rather than into the water canal all the way to the end of the row and into the water canal junction. All of a sudden, my sugar cane farm was 100% efficient. The addition of the fans required a slight redesign in the placement of my BUD switch, but that was easy enough to do.

The fan is embedded in the wall and powered by a DC electric engine from the back.

The fan is embedded in the wall and powered by a DC electric engine from the back.

The DC electric engine that powers the Fan. Notice the wool that helps keep the DC electric engines a little quieter.

The DC electric engine that powers the Fan. Notice the wool that helps keep the DC electric engines a little quieter.

Another upgrade to my sugar cane farm permits me to greatly increase my sugar cane production for short periods of time. The Fertilizer uses bone meal or compost (made in the Composter from yeast and organic material, especially zombie flesh) to rapidly increase the speed of growth of surrounding plants. Its range when powered by a DC electric engine (output unmodified by gear boxes) is minimal (being based on torque) but enough to reach most of my sugar cane plants. It also requires a water supply (to dissolve the bone meal and compost). When I run low on ethanol crystals, I just fill up the Fertilizer with bone meal and/or compost and in very little time I have several stacks of sugar cane.

Fertilizers receive power from below (hence the bevel gear). These machines greatly increase the speed of growth of surrounding crops, but they use compost and bonemeal very quickly to do so.

Fertilizers receive power from below (hence the bevel gear connecting the DC electric engine to the Fertilizer). These machines greatly increase the speed of growth of surrounding crops, but they use compost and bonemeal very quickly to do so.

One final note: a great way to improve on what I have built would be to use a steam engine or a few wind turbines to power a water pump and the Fertilizer. The water from the water pump could be used for the steam engine, the Fertilizer, and for two overhead Sprinklers (I’ll talk more about Sprinklers in the next post). This way, you could send more torque into the Fertilizer and increase its range. There’s more farming automation ahead, so stay tuned.

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