Ashland inventor creates electric weeder
An inveterate tinkerer, inventor and startup businessman, Fred Marken has come up with a planet-friendly garden tiller that’s quiet, affordable, battery-powered and weighs only 3.2 pounds, so it’s friendly on the back too.
Marken, 74, the creator of the once-thriving Grilla Bites organic food restaurants, is launching his cordless Royal Weeder from offices on Williamson Way in Ashland and boasting it doesn’t spew noxious greenhouse gases, like so many gas-powered yard machines, and doesn’t weigh much more than a hoe, which, let’s face it, takes a lot of muscle power and is kinda back-breaking.
Marken says there’s nothing on the market like it — and that all it needs is to get in the pipeline of garden bloggers who will recommend his website, www.royalweeder.com or Kickstarter, which has a $45,000 goal and an Aug. 11 deadline. Donors of $120 get one of the machines as a “reward.” It’s at www.kickstarter.com/projects/royalweeder/the-royal-weeder-a-lightweight-cordless-weeder-til.
“One day, he notes in his Kickstarter pitch, “I looked at my heavy gas-powered tiller and thought: ‘I want a tiller that has only one tiller blade, and I don’t want a gas-powered engine that can be difficult to start. I also don’t like mixing oil and gas before filling the tank, which is messy and can spill on the ground.’”
The result was this trigger-operated weed tiller with adjustable length handle, which is designed to uproot young weeds before they turn into giant ones that you need a machete to whack.
With mystery novel author, Tidings columnist and former TV personality Susanne Severeid, also an Ashland resident, as his model and assistant, Marken has taken the tiller to the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas and is ordering product from factories in China that ban child labor and manufacture only planet-friendly, sustainable goods, he says.
Driving by Southern Oregon University’s sustainable garden recently, Marken spied a young man sweating over an old hoe (the kind with no motor), whacking at weeds and wearing himself out. He says he pulled one of his Royal Weeders out of his car and gave it to the project, with the previously overworked student now whipping smoothly through his very large food garden.
A native of Chico, California, Marken came to Ashland for the plays, fell in love with the region, moved here in 1991 and now maintains his home and organic gardens, raising corn and flowers in the Colestin Valley.
Keenly aware of theft of intellectual property on the global market, he has trademarked and copyrighted his tiller and offers it for sale only on his website and Amazon, where “I keep the price as low as I can.”
About his many enterprises and startups — including a pasta sauce he claims was the first organic product ever sold at Costco and Trader Joe’s — Marken jokes, “You start poor, then you build it up so, even if you aren’t rich, you have a decent income, then you go broke because you don’t have enough capital, then you start another one. Failure is a good lesson. You just have to keep a positive attitude.”
John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Ash