Designers will use the power of human-centered design to effectuate social change. We must recognize the challenges around implementation and deliver comprehensive prototypes (solutions) with clear, actionable plans. Our team's topic: Factory Farming
What Is Design For Social Impact?
Designing for social change is about looking into the future and delivering tangible impact and meaningful results. It is about going beyond the screen and not limiting ourselves within the world of apps or websites. We think about balancing the needs of the individual with the needs of the overall community. On every design project, we consider the triple bottom line and take into account social, environmental, and economic impact.
Over the last two decades, small-and medium-scale agricultural farms have given way to massive factory farms that export their merchandise all around the world. The number of large-scale farming operations continues to grow, creating more waste and negatively impacting the environment .
We developed a conceptual grocery store experience where customers can hand pick their produce directly from the source in an urban rooftop setting. We named the store Harvest. Harvest is designed to improve local access to fresh food, promote a just and sustainable food system, while creating an unforgettable shopping experience. This project was all about reminding ourselves that UX goes beyond digital design experiences and were encouraged to think outside of the box.
Understanding the in's and out's of Factory Farming
In order to develop our MVP, our first course of action was to narrow down what sub-sector within Factory Farming we wanted to focus on. To accomplish this, we went to the whiteboard and began sketching an affinity map with Factory Farming at the epicenter. From here we broke out and did some initial online research to understand the landscape of these various challenges in more detail.
As a team we reconvened and decided that Industrial Agriculture, and more specifically Waste, was an area within Factory Farming where we not only felt the most passion, but where we could potentially drive the most impact.
Analysis Of Current System
We broke down the traditional model we have today — how your typical produce travels from where it is grown to your local grocery aisle — and depicted it visually.
Competitive + Comparative Analysis
Now that we had a better idea of what the traditional grocery store model looked like, it was time for us to hop to the other side of the fence and look at more progressive agriculture models. We did this through online research with a particular emphasis on Urban Farms. We came across two key players: The Farmery and Lufa Farms. Like our concept for Harvest, The Farmery is a conceptual idea for an urban farm grocery experience. Lufa Farms, on the other hand, is the first commercial rooftop greenhouse to exist and a real mover and shaker in the space. We deconstructed both of these grocery models, and took a closer look at how their businesses handle various aspects of waste management.
The Five Why's
To explore the cause and effect relationships underlying industrial agriculture we used the 5 Why Technique. To show how Harvest might influence the root cause and effect change, we created a series infographics.
A Deep-Dive into User-Behavior
Before we dove into ideation, we wanted to take a closer look at user behavior. The goal here was to understand the motives behind shopping at a Farmers Markets, and get a sense what users might look for in an even more progressive grocery store experience (such as Harvest). This would provide us with a human element in the equation, allowing us to emphasize and form a deeper connection. Not only would we be solving a social issue, we would understand “why” and most importantly, “who” we’re solving it for.
Taking a break from our research and ideation, we conducted a field trip to a couple local urban farms. We visited Lazybone, a boutique/garden in Santa Monica, and The Cook’s Garden, a true urban farm in the heart of Venice. We felt we needed to get a first hand look at urban farms — the benefits and the potential solutions they provided. From both locations, we were able to get a visceral sense of the passion growers have for the food they create. It was enlightening for us to see how connected they were to their produce and the local communities they serve.
Hydroponic and aeroponic planting tower technology allows you to grow plants “in an air or mist environment without the use of soil. It uses both water and air to produce more colorful, better tasting, better smelling, and nutritious fruits and vegetables.”
But is it scalable? According to research we’ve done, what you can grow in 43,560 square feet (or one acre of land), you can grow in only 4,000 square feet with the tower gardens. One tower can grow anywhere from 20–44 produce items and if you are using a tower with a capability of growing 44 plants and had 40 towers, you theoretically could grow up to 1,760 different plants. Growing vertically allows you to grow so much more compared to growing out. This becomes critical when considering the already limited space in metropolitan areas.
Personas + Scenarios
Based off of the patterns and research trends we gathered from our initial survey and visiting various field sites, we came up with three personas, and focused on their pain points and what they needed from Harvest.
User-Flow and Design Exploration
In our proposed flow, all of the produce would be grown in-house — with low energy usage (solar panels, LED lighting, etc), and low water waste (any unused water is reclaimed and put back into the system). There would be no need for transport as well as the items would be sold where they are grown.
The shopping experience is enhanced compared to the traditional method. Our shopper will be bombarded with the sight and smells. They will be immersed and brought closer to the produce they eat as they can see the crops in various stages of growth. They will interact with their food differently as well.
Rather than the the typical sterile supermarket experience, consumers can now be a part of the process, plucking their fruits and vegetables straight from the stem.
How This Solves Our Problem
Creating that unforgettable shopping experience…where else are they able to freshly pick their own produce?
Strengthening our emotional ties to food — bringing our consumers closer to nature via Harvest where they can see plants growing will increase awareness that food is NOT unlimited therefore giving them the appreciation they deserve
Providing green-spaces in the city while enhancing the image — people will also give their community more respect being able to access and eat food grown right in their neighborhood
Integrating the ecosystem into shopping where they are immersed in an environment that expresses health & life to create a new standard in “fresh”
Promoting an education aspect — test kitchen to test out and learn new recipes, infographics around the store (or even an app) highlighting important points/facts, community outreach and volunteer work, tours & speakers
Inspiration and Next Steps
Blue Sky Ideation
Part of the ideation process was collecting images that inspired us from similar urban farms. Here are some of the most influential ones we found:
In order to represent the user flow, we designed a journey map of the Harvest experience. We took into consideration of Alice’s need of fresh fruit in the Apple and Citrus Grove, Joaquin’s need of fresh herbs in the Herb Garden, and Alice’s need of a fun educational experience in our Test Kitchen.
Take a closer look at the economics involved with developing and building Harvest. How could we create a business model that is accessible to people in all economic classes?
Make a professional rendering of the Harvest concept — we would need to consult with an architect on this.
Consult with urban farmers, landscape architects, and city planners to discuss the feasibility of the project.
Explore the legalities and policies for a market like Harvest to exist in Los Angeles.
Conduct more interviews to see what features of Harvest would be most beneficial to our target demographics.
We would also need to explore the scalability of the project — how much would Harvest produce? Is it practical feeding a city? How would we overcome roadblocks such as running out of inventory?
Present this idea to the design community and garner feedback.