We chose three ideas to explore further after our initial brainstorm session with Restoring Roots: a physical product, a digital product, and a community product.
The Community Product : Create a New Co-op Farming Business Structure
People want to grow organic food in the city but there is not a proven cooperative business structure to enable people to participate in urban agriculture at a commercial scale.
- Do farmers want to do landscaping?
- Is a steady income a barrier of entry to farming?
- What market is there for locally grown organic foods from small urban farms/farm networks?
- Would Restoring Roots’ expertise be sufficient to play a supporting role, without fully managing the farms?
The basic premise of this idea is to enable more individuals to come into the cooperative structure by providing the opportunity to both farm and perform landscaping work. The landscaping work provides a financial buffer to those that otherwise could not afford to farm for a season and wait until harvest for income. The additional workers would enable Restoring Roots to grow more food and take on more clients. Cooperative farms would be hybrid consumer/worker cooperatives with a few different types of members. Restoring Roots would provide tools and equipment, group buying and distribution, and supplemental income for farmers.
Few people want to join a cooperative of generalists. If we create a hybrid coop model that allows for several membership types, we can provide a less risky way to engage in urban farming because risk of crop failure and lack of stable income are major barriers to entry in urban farming. We could test our ideas by interviewing potential farmers to gauge their willingness to perform landscaping and their receptiveness to participating in the new cooperative model.
The Digital Product: Permaculture Game
Games are an effective and fun way to communicate the co-ops values and mission, reach new clients, and educate the next generation. A game could be a way to collect information about potential clients and could lead and inform marketing activities.
- Do clients enjoy playing videogames about plants and gardening? do they play games for learning
- Would there be any resistance to “social” features of the game (as this requires sharing data about themselves)?
The purpose of this project is to create a game interface to introduce clients to the value propositions of Restoring Roots. The game would teach players about the basics of plant care and farming and stress the importance of permaculture and its ecological values. The successful implementation will also encourage clients to share the experience and increase brand recognition of the cooperative. Moreover, it will allow them to introduce new ideas and products. The basic game could be free and would encourage people to set up a consultation, but there could also be a version for clients that would provide access to useful information about their specific plants and reduce the correspondence burden on Restoring Roots. Data could be collected from the game about the players and their surroundings. Furthermore, the game will encourage customers to share user-generated content. They will take photographs of plants they would like to have and share them on the game platform.
The Physical Product: Garden Water Management System
If people could monitor the moisture levels in their gardens, know when to water them, and have them watered automatically, their gardens would be healthier and they would save time, water, and worry.
- Are customers willing to pay for device(s) that will help them to use the right amount of water at the right time?
- Are customers aware of water catchment benefits?
- Do customers agree with sharing the data collected by the devices?
Clients often contact Restoring Roots with questions about watering their new landscaping installations. They’re worried about protecting their investments and preserving the health and beauty of their gardens, but they’re also concerned about using too much water to maintain their gardens.
We were able to come up with several solid value propositions for this idea, as well as gather ideas for different potential customer types to interview so that we can validate our assumptions.
Noah initially thought that most of the value to Restoring Roots would come through fees for the labor of installing the sensors, the controllers, the irrigation tubing, and the water catchment system as part of landscape design work, but we realized that this idea could scale more readily if customers could install the sensors and controllers themselves. This product is a bit complicated, and involves many components, some of which have high upfront costs to both the customer and Restoring Roots. We think it would be worth exploring how to break the product down into simpler components.