product designer

Eco

Urban Farming Co Interview

Today, I had a day trip to Edinburgh to spend the afternoon at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, where I had the pleasure of meeting Jason Morenikeji of Urban Farming Co. Founded by Jason, the Urban Farming Company was established in response to the growing social demands for food sovereignty and a sustainable low-carbon circular food economy.

During my visit, Jason kindly shared two of his past and present work streams. The first, TableFarm, explores how in our digital age of online experiences and virtual existences, there is an increasing disconnection between ourselves and nature. TableFarm is a smart growing device for children; which could be conceived as the Tamagotchi for real living plants, uses an engaging gamified plant growing experience via an app.

This project reminded me of a very interesting point Alasdair curator at the botanical garden’s made last week- that few children understand where their food comes from. As Jason put it “How many children don’t know that spaghetti grows on trees or milk if from melting icebergs?”

This is something I find almost quite upsetting. Personally, I like to know the origin and ethics surrounding the food I eat. Not only does it support fair trade along product chains, but also increases awareness about the chemicals that may- or may not have been used on the produce you consume.

The second Jason shared with me MicroFarm, addresses the increasing cultural demand for fresh and local food. MicroFarm is a modular low-carbon greenhouse that uses a zero-waste and zero carbon operating system. Interestingly, the greenhouse has the transformative capacity to grow food throughout the year without the financial expense of fossil fuel.

Again, I also find this project fascinating. It reminded me of some points I gathered while studying the curriculum for excellence in schools. Essentially, MicroFarm green houses are outdoor classrooms that offer an engaging way to encourage school children to understand the natural environment and where their food comes from. What I found really great about this project, is that it highlights the psychological benefices of the outdoors. Again, it also relates to another important point Alasdair made last week- the importance of teaching children about seasonal and annual cycles alongside plant systems.

Chatting with Jason was a fantastic opportunity to get some feedback and interesting directions for my project. Jason asked me a very important question- is my product for lifestyle or yield? At that point, I wasn’t all too sure to be honest. Jason suggested answering this question would really help direct my project- and he was right!

 'Grass Lamp' is an example of a 'lifestyle' product

'Grass Lamp' is an example of a 'lifestyle' product

 This hydroponic farm is an example of a 'yield' product

This hydroponic farm is an example of a 'yield' product

Although by the end of our conversation, I wasn’t one hundred percent sure what my product actually is, but more importantly I now know what it’s not; which is a product designed for yield. And by this I mean it’s not a product designed to sustain food production or to act as an independent, reliable source of food for someone. Instead, it’s just for fun- all though I’m not quite sure what that is right now.

Rebecca Williamson