Twenty percent of produce grown in America never make it to the grocery stores and are thrown out due to cosmetic defects (i.e. size, shape, color) despite the fact that these "ugly" fruits and vegetables are perfectly fine to eat.
With the high prices of today’s perfect produce, we were inspired by its counterpart—"ugly produce"—and strived to create an innovative farm-to-grocery store experience that would allow users physical and financial access to a more sustainable, healthy lifestyle.
Priyanka Saha (IxD), Chaitrali Bhide (IxD), Irene Ti (IXD)
Chris Risdon (Prototyping)
II. THE RESEARCH
To better our understanding of the existing landscape, we conducted a couple rounds of user interviews, fly-on-the-way observations of existing grocery stores and farmers markets as well as some secondary research into innovative shopping experiences (i.e. Amazon Go in Seattle and Tesco in South Korea). During our research, we came across the idea of “ugly produce”—fruits and vegetables that are discarded due to minor cosmetic details (i.e. shape, color, size) and contributes to the growing waste in America.
This is a major issue as a recent survey done in 2017 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed that 15 million households in America struggle with food security—a 0.5% increase from 2016. Since half of imperfect produce is thrown out, the price tag for these fruits and vegetables is much lower and can create a point of entry to healthy living for those struggling with food security.
Currently, access to sustainable and healthy foods exists in the form of co-ops, which are only local to their origins (i.e. Rainbow), expensive health food stores such as Whole Foods, and online subscription services such as Imperfect Produce. All of these options either have a financial or physical barrier, which limits access to sustainable and healthy living.
We saw how convenient and seamless these shopping experiences were and strived to apply that same concept to our farm-to-grocery store idea while providing better physical and financial access to a healthy, sustainable, and affordable lifestyle.
III. THE INSIGHTS
1. Quality and Price
Pricing and the quality of produce are equally important factors when it comes to grocery shopping. A good balance between the two is ideal but when facing financial difficulties, price is the most important thing—even at the cost of health.
2. Openness & Freshness
The open-air nature of farmer’s market makes the produce feel more fresh and natural as opposed to the cold steel look of grocery stores. It is also a good space for families to gather and spend time together.
3. Seasonal Produce
Discovering seasonal and unique produce is a highlight at farmers’ market and piques people’s interest since there is something new every week.
Barcodes & RFIDs
During early discussions, we realized that we would run into an issue involving the checkout process as freshly grown produce do not come with a barcode. It was important to us to deliver a seamless experience that embodied the farm-to-grocery store concept fully. Further research led us to the idea of smart baskets and smart crates that would utilize RFIDs, which replace our need for barcodes.
Integrating Human Contact
Once we came up with the idea of RFIDs, we were elated but were once again stumped when we realized that the check out process would reduce the need for human employees. Our goal was to create physical and financial access to sustainable and healthy lifestyles but we also wanted to create a community around healthy food.
That’s when we realized that we could do exactly that and rally a community about healthy living through cooking classes that would utilize fresh produce from Grow to make delicious foods. I also realized that with the addition feature of picking your own produce means that customers might be left with many questions about picking and growing produce. This creates a great opportunity introduce further human contact through helpful employees and educate people about sustainable food networks (i.e. local farmers, co-ops, personal gardens,etc.).
The concept of Grow
is to create more access to sustainable food networks as well as promote healthy, green lifestyles. We are focused on the farm-to-table concept and target customers who value understanding and knowing where their food comes from. Grow aims to create a community based on sustainability to help combat the growing issue of food waste.
V. THE PROCESS
Business Origami Mapping
Building off from this vision, we used the business origami technique and started to map out the experience so that we could visualize the space as well as understand how customers would navigate their way around the store. This was an easy way for us to see where all of the interactions would happen and identify the touchpoints.
Once we identify the touch points, we were able to start to design how these interactions would occur and what the overall experience would be like. The paper also allowed us to make any changes relatively quickly and this also furthered our understandings on how to design the touch points and layout of the store so that it is community-centric and focused on connecting people with nature.
VI. Building the Prototype
VII. FINAL CONCEPT
VIII. Next steps
1. Scalability (Urban, Suburban, Rural Areas)
When designing for Grow, we initially imagined a suburban setting as it would provide the ample amount of space it would need. However, we would also like to take it further and re-imagine our farm-to-grocery store concept in areas that are struggling with food security which ranges from highly populated cities such as Detroit to more rural areas such as Wayne county in Michigan.
2. Partnerships For Compost
The idea of Grow is to reduce as much waste as possible while promoting sustainability and we do this mainly through redirecting “ugly produce” that would otherwise go to waste towards consumers. We would like to take this a step further and look into existing waste managements’ organic compost programs and partner with them. Through these partnerships, Grow hopes to not only utilize locally-produced compost but also to teach others about the importances of composting and how to do it at home.
3. Solidifying Community
In addition to our goal of creating more access to a healthy and sustainable lifestyle, we also strived to create a community centered around this ideology. One of the ways we tried to incorporate this is through the cooking classes Grow offers. We would like to take a deeper look at what does it mean to create and be a part of a community.