The Future of Urban Farming in India
Agriculture and food is one of the most integral part of any community's survival. Over millions of years, agriculture as we know it has been perfected to generate maximum yield. Nations around the globe have devised different techniques of agriculture and farming which have a part of their own culture and history. Agriculture played such a big role in human lives that food has become a very integral symbol of one’s culture.
But in these changing times where we are faced with problems of depleting resources and we can see the adverse effects of mass agriculture, it is important to understand the how the future of agriculture and the food industry might look.
This project aims to explore the future of the agriculture and food sector in India. We used speculative design practices to envision how the future might look and then went on to design a concept service for this predicted future.
The problem with the existing system is that a huge gap exists between what is produced and what finally reaches the consumer. By the time the surplus and fresh produce makes its way to the markets, it has gone through several middlemen, traveled several roads, worsened in quality and increased in price.
Greater opportunities for cultural exchange are also a factor for change. With Indian citizens becoming increasingly influenced by worldwide cultures, unexpected shifts in dietary paradigms are bound to
We can say that food functions symbolically as a communicative practice by which we create, manage and share meanings with others. Understanding culture, habits, rituals and tradition can be explored through food and the way others perceive it.
Rising use of pesticides paints a dire picture of the food people put on their plates and consume on a daily basis. Eating such kinds of food lowers the immune strength of the body making one susceptible to diseases.
The above phase provided a macro view of the vast sector of agriculture and food in India and also proved that there is a need for positive intervention.
The Agriculture and Food Industry is a massive domain and in order to effectively predict and envision the future of such a domain it is important to have a very detailed understanding about each and every stakeholder and their behaviours which can only be gained from the experience of the domain experts.
Conducting expert interviews can help to open up new avenues of interrogation in the domain as the expert can use his/her in-depth knowledge to provide specific insights that come from experience.
"The best way to learn about agriculture is to do it yourself." To save time, we recorded the experiences of those who have devoted their entire life to this domain and know all its intricacies.
The core of farming is the soil: After talking to farmers and rooftop gardeners, we discovered that the soil in which the plant is being grown is a very crucial factor that people forget while farming. For the best yield the soil has to be customized for that particular environment (open farms, balconies , rooftops, etc.)
The Art of Symbiotic Gardening: This is type of sustainable type of urban farming practiced by some individuals where they try to create symbiotic ecosystems in their small spaces, i.e, each plant is strategically placed to fulfill the other’s shortcomings.
The Indian food supply chain is a very complex system involving many stages before produce reaches a users' plate from the farm. Each stage has their own stakeholder working with their own unique motivations and problems.
An unregulated market: Prices increase with the increase in number of hands the produce passes from. This means that consumers pay high prices and none of the farmers enjoy any portion of this profit as they are made to sell their produce at cheaper rates. Thus, the prices of produce are not fixed and fluctuate frequently.
No accountability and quality: From the farmer to the consumer, the produce passes a lot of hands and in this complex supply chain there is no system in place to know where one’s produce is coming from and if it meets quality standards.
In order for us to understand the domain of food, we interviewed experts who could give us an in-depth understanding of both the old and new perception of food. This included changing dietary habits and the effects of the agricultural system on the consumers.
A lack of higher purpose: After our interviews, it was clear that eating sensibly had to be a way of life that was driven by a higher purpose. Achieving this higher purpose was the way to approach the ultimate goal of self-fulfillment.
Genetic Acceptance of Local Food: Both Ayurveda and science of nutri-genomics show us how important it is to eat according to one’s genetic makeup. Our genes have been accustomed to accept the food our ancestors have been eating which is usually the produce found locally.
The inevitability of contaminated food: Most people are aware of the fact that their food is contaminated with harmful chemical fertilizers and insecticides but still they would not stop buying it as they felt that it was an inevitable vice and instead chose to make sure they took the necessary measures while preparing the food.
The above research helped us unearth a variety of interesting factors influencing the system. We understood the importance of customizing soil composition, the dire situation of the country's agricultural supply chain and a rise in the need to grow one’s own food.
This framework visualizes the different alternate futures that can take place in the context of a system. The one that we focused for this project is the most probable scenario i.e. this class of futures contains those which are considered "most likely to happen".
The previous research study focused on the micro behaviours of our users. But in order to predict the future scenario, we had to understand some of the macro-trends disrupting the domain in today’s day and age.
These opportunities would help us achieve our intent of 'sensible living through food'. By combining the emergent insights and the needs of the consumers and changing trends,
we created 'What If' statements.
The soil brewery is a concept service developed for a future landscape of India in the year 2025.
In a world where urban farming is the new norm, this service provides the most essential ingredient required in urban farming, i.e, soil. This service can be divided into two parts-the mobile application and the brewery experience.
The application would be used by urban farmers to get good quality organic soil mix delivered at their doorstep. The soil is customized specifically for the space and environment they are growing their plants in.
1. The app let’s urban farmers get a customized soil composition according to their growing space.
2. The user selects the type of plant they want to grow and where they want to grow it.
The Brewery would be the physical aspect of the service where people can come and interact and experience the different aspects of the service.
1. The Brewery is the heart of the service where all the fertilizers are made according to vedic agricultural practices and other sustainable organic methods, and then sent to the distribution warehouses.
2. The Brewery would also be an experience zone for all kinds of people interested in urban farming to meetup, attend workshops etc. Collaborations with schools could enable children to learn more about sustainable farming practices. The Brewery would also be a hub for extensive research into innovation for sustainable farming practices.
‘We cannot solve today’s problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’ - Albert Einstein
This project was another step into the field of speculative design. As designers, we wanted to unravel the mystery and stereotypes surrounding the field of speculative practices. This project was an experiment to see if speculative practices could be used to help generate opportunities and also to initiate conversations about the disruptions that can be caused due to current trends.