product designer

Eco

Interview with The Botanics

Today, I visited Dundee University's Botanical Gardens where I had the pleasure of meeting Alasdair Hood; the gardens curator. With my interest of creating a product that would teach children the basics of growing and harvesting plants, I was curious to find out who the gardens audiences are and, their interests and engament during visits. The gardens welcome the general public and regular visits from local schools with an average of two thousand pupils attending annually. 

 Green house at Dundee University's Botanical Gardens

Green house at Dundee University's Botanical Gardens

Usually, these visits are mostly related to their school projects. Primary seven pupils for example, have projects on the rainforest and so the gardens tropical green house is a more interactive, enjoyable environment for them to learn. As students progress, visits are more towards the curriculm for excellence. Secondary school pupils- particularly fifth and sixth years use the gardens when undergoing field studies for biology. With Alasdair being at the forefront of these visits, I was curious to find out his opinion on incorporating basic gardening skills in childrens education. He expressed that by teaching children the basics of gardening, simple science of plants and photosynthesis, children would develop a better understanding of where our food comes from.

 Rice grown at the botanics

Rice grown at the botanics

 Unmodified bananas grown at the botanics 

Unmodified bananas grown at the botanics 

 Citrus fruit grown at the botanics

Citrus fruit grown at the botanics

As Alasdair and I spoke, he showed me around the gardens green houses; which hosts many of these school visits. I was intrigued by them and their abililty to house and nourish plants which would otherwise seize to survive in Scottish weather. Surprisingly, the green houses don't use much technologies in terms of monitoring ph and oxygen levels etc. Although, they do have a temprature gauge which enables tempratures to be adjusted according to issues related to season and outdoor weather conditions, etc. I was also curious to find out how the garden manages waste. Alasdair explained the gardens thorough composting system where plant debry is composted to process nutrients back into the soil.

With my previous research on indoor farming in mind, I figured this would be a great opportunity to gather some insights on the constraints of growing indoors. Alasdair explained issues are mainly around light, temprature and space. Although, indoor growing also has its benefits. Alasdair explaned that it can offer greenery to areas deprived from nature, which helps encourage better health and mindfullness. 

I was also curious to find out if Alasdair had any experience working with hydroponics before. Although he has worked with the technology before, he explained that the technology was fairly underdeveloped at the time with difficulties arising from monitoring difficulties. 

As my interview with Alasdair came to an end, I was curious to find out his opinion on why more people aren't growing their own crops for consumption. He made a few very interesting points:

  • Supermarkets offer cheap ready-to-eat fruit and vegetables- why bother?
  • Considered/ stereotyped as unfashionable
  • People are often more focused and interested in technology

From my conversation with Alasdair, I have highlighted two possible directions for my project.

  1. A product that would be easy/ efficient enough to use, as going to the supermarket would be
  2. An automated system that requires little time/ maintenance 
Rebecca Williamson