For my Ideas to Enterprise class, my team was assigned to create a soltution for a significant global challenge - how can we solve the ongoing issue of food wastage? Throughout the semester, we went through phases of business mapping, competitor analysis, customer/market analysis, etc.. Because the issue of food wastage is so broad, we decided to narrow in on a main cause of food wastage - climate change. At the end, we came up with a solution that both directly and indirectly helps combat the issue of food wastage – a self sustaining greenhouse!
To begin this project, my team and I looked at our problem: food waste. We did research on different metrics and solutions already put in place to fix the issue. As mentioned before, we chose climate change as a topic to focus in on, but looked at the issue from the aperture of food waste. To combat both issues, we created WasteFuel - an integrated greenhouse system that uses artificial intelligence to help yield healthier crops, control pests, monitor soil and growing conditions and organize data for farmers which will assist them in their agricultural decisions. Users would be able to keep track of their crop growth without worrying about the maintenance. In addition to this, the AI of our greenhouse would help users protect against pests and fungi, grow crops in unique conditions and grow much more in a smaller, more efficient space. This diagram below explains the energy flow of our hypothesized greenhouse.
To confirm that our product would thrive in the real world, we performed a SWOT analysis, competitive petal diagram, value propositions and a market validation, some of which are included below.
Our team's primary focus was on artifacts that enhanced our design solution and overall user experience. As a designer on the team, I was able to create a mockup of the app used to control the AI within the greenhouse, along with a persona to match our user. In the app I designed, users are able to control the temperature and irrigation system, while enabling functions such as watering crops, adjusting lighting and checking energy usage. In addition to this, users can also monitor their crop data within the greenhouse and check metrics such as growth, hydration, sunlight and maturity.
At the end of this class, I truly valued all of the skills I learned. I definitely got more exposure to business practices and how to create a functioning product in society - although this wasn't a design class, the ending product was still a design artifact that my ag-tech background prepared me to make. I always think it's great to gain exposure in working with people outside of your major - I love the tech industry so this project made me feel like I was working on a team within a corporation. Although it was a lengthy timeline and the fun design work didn't come until the end, I thought the final product showed how innovative and entrepreneurial my team was, which was the whole point of the class! Past students who have taken TE 250 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have showed their projects at venture competitions and have received grants to create a start-up with their idea. If we had more room in our busy schedule, I don't doubt that this project would succeed in the real world.