Redesigning agriculture: New perspectives on farming

agri meets design222

It’s late at night when we arrive at Cape Town Airport. We are here to explore the possibilities of Agri meets Design in a South African context. The adventure starts when we are faced with a first challenge: driving on the left hand side of the road. A new perspective on driving, which will be the start of more than one changing perspective we encounter.

Changing your perspective is actually what Agri meets Design is all about. From connecting farmers and designers, our initiative sprouts a whole new world of ideas, possibilities and solutions. Agri meets Design offers a welcome collaboration for the challenging issues in food and agriculture.

One of these challenges, in a local context, is the Philippi Horticulture Area (PHA) – a 3,300 hectare section of farmland in the middle of Cape Town. With suburbs and city on all sides, large-scale farms in the area cultivate around 50% of the fresh produce consumed by the inhabitants of Cape Town. It could very well be the world’s largest urban farming area.

Farming here not only has to resist the fierce Cape wind, but also deals with land reform and distribution challenges. We arrive at site and talk to Nazeer a Sonday, one of the farmers of Philippi. From his 50 ha land, he distributes around 70% of his produce through formal retail.

Almost 30% of produce is micro-distributed in an informal local market. Looking forward, it’s this local market especially that he values from a business perspective. So how can Nazeer reposition himself in order to increase its local market share?

This case is just one example of possibilities of design-thinking put in practice. The different outcomes of the challenge are illustrative for the Agri meets Design working method which offers a wide range of new ideas, of which none of are the answer to the problem. Rather, they are all valuable perspectives from which we can build and co-create further by offering a ‘plug-in’ for scientists, active citizens, farmers, professionals, businesses and government officials to seek opportunities and co-operation.

As we leave Philippi, we drive pass a street vendor selling fresh fruit and vegetables from the area. We stop and load up bags with pumpkins and tomatoes. Driving back, we imagine the design of a Philippi-label for street vendors who are proud to sell local produce, and herewith position themselves in the local market. The outcomes of creative-thinking can be endless!

Learn more about Agri meets Design at FARM:LAB taking place at Department of Design on Tuesday the 8th of July. Participating designers include Design4Development, The Shift, Keith Nash, Studio Ruigwerk (NL) and Thingking. Follow @agrimeetsdesign #AgmDSA

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