FLORA​

Year-Round Urban Gardening

2018

NATIONAL

HOUSEWARES

COMPETITION

Project Overview

SUMMARY

Flora was a 4 month project with the goal of empowering individuals at the local level to increase sustainability efforts. 

My initial exploration led me to the massive sustainability potential behind Urban Farming. From this discovery, I explored 100s of concepts that could encourage small scale Urban Farmers to use winter farming techniques to increase their output by extending their growing season.

SKILLS

Industrial Design

User Research

User Testing

CONCEPTS

100

INTERVIEWEES

3

PROTOTYPES

3

Purpose

Downfalls of Industrialized Agriculture

25% of ozone depletion results from Industrialized Agriculture

DEFINING INDUSTRIALIZED AGRICULTURE

"This mass consolidated production of food which requires large scale deforestation and relies on pollutant food transportation is largely responsible for climate change and is having drastic effects on our environment"

-Climate and Land Use Alliance

Preliminary Research

ANNUAL C02 EMISSIONS FROM INDUSTRIALIZED AGRICULTURE

Industrialized agricultural methods, including hundreds of thousands of food transportation, account for 24% of the world's annual C02 emissions. 

https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1044&context=mes_capstones

https://cuesa.org/learn/how-far-does-your-food-travel-get-your-plate

CARBON EMISSIONS OF FOOD TRANSPORTATION

In San Francisco, the difference in travel distance of produce available in the grocery store vs. a local farmers market can be as much as 2000 miles. 

One truckload traveling 2,000 miles releases 3.3 metric tons of C02.

The Benefits of Urban Farming.

HOW URBAN AGRICULTURE CAN HELP

Modern urban agriculture techniques can remove an estimated 7.87 metric tons annually from the city of Toronto. 

This is equivalent to nearly eight, 30 foot diameter air balloons of C02.

Defining Target Users

URBAN AGRICULTURE: A GROWING TREND

1 in 3 Americans currently grow food at home - accounting for more than 42 million households

In 2017, 6 million people took up the hobby of becoming 'small scale' urban farmers

5 million of those individuals were Millenials, establishing this as a long term behavioral shift

SMALL SCALE URBAN FARMERS

In the winter, Urban Farmers in snowy regions must employ expensive and complex strategies, or give up their crop entirely -- often losing up to 30% of potential productivity. 

Pictured to the right, I mapped the growing season of Urban Farmers I observed and interview within the greater Chicago Area

Designing to maximize growing season.

PROBLEM SCOPING

The obvious environmental benefits of Urban Farming can only be reaped if we aid those at the ground level of the movement - the Urban Farmers. Often facing economic and environmental plight, many struggle to maintain a balance of time and effort

allows Urban Farming to be beneficial to them as individuals. 

This project attempted to empower those Urban Farmers to build a more productive food system.

Traditional Urban Farming Methods

HOOP HOUSE

Plastic wrapped frame that retains heat, preventing plants inside from freezing or being covered in heavy snowfall. 

HYDROPONICS

Process of growing plants indoors by submerging the roots in nutrient-filled water. 

Pictured to the left is a Hydroponic System, a common method deployed for growing plants indoors, 

Pictured to the right is a Hoop House used to grow food or plants outdoors during colder months

HOMESTEAD GARDENER

Pictured to the left is a Hydroponic System, a common method deployed for growing plants indoors, 

Land

.5 Acres

Purpose

Personal Consumption

Budget 

$5,000

Growing Season 

7 Months

CHARITY GARDENER

Land

2 Acres

Pictured to the left is a Hydroponic System, a common method deployed for growing plants indoors, 

Purpose

Charitable Donations

Budget 

$18,000

Growing Season 

9 Months

MARKET GARDENER

Land

10 Acres

Pictured to the left is a Hydroponic System, a common method deployed for growing plants indoors

Purpose

Marketplace Sales

Budget 

$25,000

Growing Season 

11 Months

Insights

Expensive, Time-Intensive Nature of Urban Farming

ACCESSING PLANTS IN HOOP HOUSES

Self-built hoop houses must be deconstructed to water, pick, and attend to plants inside. This is a burdensome task, requiring Urban Farmers multiple hours a day outside in freezing temperatures and snowfall. 

HYDRATING INDOOR PLANTS

Microgreens and other plants grown indoors must be watered multiple times a day becoming a burdensome task for a part-time Urban Farmer

Hydroponic systems also are high maintenance as their water needs to be refilled daily. 

PLANTS NEED MORE WATER

With less moisture available in the air during winter, plants need to be watered very frequently.  

This requires a high time commitment for many Urban Farmers unable to afford expensive, anti-freeze sprinkler systems.

FROZEN DRIP IRRIGATION SYSTEM

Drip irrigation systems freeze in the winter, causing farmers to water plants by hand, or undergo tedious efforts of blowing out the pipes with their mouth to clear out the water. 

"I have to spend an hour in heavy snowfall and freezing temperatures just to water my plants" 

- Susan, Homestead Gardener

Ideation

Exploring Time-Saving Innovations.

BRAINSTORMING

The ideation phase involved brainstorming 100 ideas for each design opportunity we identified. I included my top few initial concepts from this phase above. 

Concept Development

Anti-Freeze Drip

Irrigation System

CONCEPT 1

Water is fed through a funnel in the top of the hoop house - and then trickles down through the irrigation System distributing evenly among the plants. The farmer is

Water is fed through a funnel in the top of the hoop house - and then trickles down through the irrigation System distributing evenly among the plants. The farmer is

PROTOTYPING

Prototyping the Anti-Freeze Irrigation System involved perforating holes in the bottom of a PVC pipe structure, and drilling a 2 inch hole at the top center as a place for the pump. 

USER TESTING

I then took my prototype to Susan, a homestead Urban Farmer I interviewed at the beginning of the design process, to test and observe how the system could be useful in her everyday challenge in watering her plants. 

Overall, she was very receptive of the product, addingg that it could save her hours a week in the maintenance of her garden, and would help her extend her growing season by a month or two. 

The main feedback she gave was her fear that because the system was suspended a few feet in the air, the dripping water may form icicles that could clog the irrigation system. 

Concept Development

Retractable Hoop House

CONCEPT 2 

The traditionally shaped hoops are placed on a sliding track, allowing for the farmer to easily slide open and closed the hoop house, giving them easier access to their plants

PROTOTYPING

The prototype was created out of PVC pipe and wood. The pvc pipe was bent in an arch shape using a heat gun, and locked in place with T-elbows that are .15 inches wider in diameter than the wood dowels that make up the foundation

USER TESTING

The retractable Hoop House was also taken to Susan for testing, to observe what role it could play in her daily farming routine.

 

She was enthusiastic about no longer having to deconstruct her hoop house every time she wanted access to the plants. 

Her main feedback was her concern as to how the hoops would lock in place and not slide open in fierce windstorms.

Concept Development

Dehumidifier Powered Hydroponics

CONCEPT 3 

My third concept is a Hydroponic System powered by the water collected from a Dehumidifier.

As users frequently displayed the challenged behind keeping their Hydroponic systems filled with water, I conceived a closed-loop system with an automatic water source that would not require an Urban Farmer's constant maintenance. 

The insights I pulled from User Research was that most hydroponic systems are kept in the basement -- the most humid room within a house, which could produce an ample source of water with a dehumidifier.

PROTOTYPING

Prototyping this hydroponic system included a PVC pipe as a way to suspend the plant while submersing the roots in water. 

I included a drainage pipe that could regulate the water levels fromm getting too high and potentially flooding the basement. 

The Hydroponic prototype was then connected to a dehumidifier with a hose to feed the water source.

USER TESTING

My Hydroponic System was also tested with Susan, who was not fond of the concept due to a few drastic potential negatives to the product.

First, she explained that water that comes from the air is not always clean, and is often polluted -- so a filter would need to be added to the product, creating unnecessary complications.

Second, she explained that the risk to reward of this product was to great, because if there was a day in which the moisture in the air was too great, she would risk flooding her entire basement.

Selection

Anti-Freeze Drip

Irrigation System

CONCEPT 1

My first concept was chosen due to the strength at which it solves my initial design opportunities, as well as it's more complete concept form and fewer flaws.

First, it solves the issue of freezing irrigation drip lines.

Second, it eliminated the need for Urban Farmers to deconstruct their hoop house.

Refine

ANTI-FREEZE DRIP IRRIGATION

The refinement of the Anti-Freeze Drip Irrigation system involved moving the PVC pipe to the floor, based on the feedback from one of the users. 

This refinement allows water to travel to the plants quicker, without the risk of icicles forming from slow drips.

Form Development

PUMP AND FUNNEL

Form development involved creating a funnel shape that elegantly captures water flow from the farmer -- whether they are using a watering bucket or hose. The pump is designed to nestle within the funnel, with rubber touchpoints that remain at a comfortable temperature for the user.

HOOP SHAPE

The orthographic profile of the hoops was explored to discover a comfortable shape for the user to grip and set up.

Final Concept

ANTI-FREEZE DRIP IRRIGATION SYSTEM

Pictured to the left is the final concept for the pump-and funnel equipped, anti freeze irrigation system hoop house.

Renderings