Subject PDPPosted: May 25, 2017
My final year has started with one of my major projects for the subject part of the course. I have been approached by a local farm looking to increase their profits. Customer had an idea of using dried vegetables to produce instant soups. The idea was to use vegetables grown at the farm.
I have started by learning about the customer and the way in which the business operates. I have evaluated customers website which was one of the main sources of sales along side of a weekly market stall. I have quickly noticed that the website doesn’t sell the produce very well, the product is poorly advertised on the website and there is no real choice of produce for the customer. I thought that improving those aspects of the business will also be important and have a positive impact on the profits. I have also created a list of questions for the customer which gave me more insights of the business and the farms constraints.
I have began my ideation process by thinking about the problem first and how it can be resolved. I thought that instant soups can not be the only way in which a farm can improve profits. I have started to explore other ideas which will help raise profits. Some solutions have included vertical farming, increasing the amount of produce will increase sales which increases profits, however this is only true if the demand for the product is existent. I also thought that improving the market stall would reflect on profits. My idea was to have a more appealing and eye catching stand with controlled environment for display and transportation to ensure freshness of the produce which would be a unique selling point. Some other ideas have included opening up a local veg shop or entering a different market, for example, crisps.
Once I have generated My ideas I decided to review them with the customer, during our meeting the customer has complimented the ideas, however, he was set on the idea of dried soups. He also gave me more information and showed me a business plan which he has generated for the dried soup product. After looking at the calculation and being convinced by the customer he has a strong USP (80% veg content in comparison to super market soups with much lower veg content at 20%-30%). I have decided to go back to research stage and look into dehydration and explore the process.
My client has outlined that the farm is off grid however some power can be purchased at the start of the business to get the business going. Another constraint was the fact that there is only one person working at the farm and the dehydrator would have to be relatively large in order to dry a sufficient amount of veg in order to make enough soup making it hard to move, load etc. Client would also like the dehydrator to be cheap to produce or even possibly made out of reclaimed materials in order to keep costs low. My client also wanted to share the plan and business idea with other small, local farms around the UK in order to help them boost their profits also. I believe the dehydrator files should also be available to download.
I have therefore gone back to the research stage to learn about the process of dehydration and different types in which it can be carried out as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each type of process in order to find the best solution for dehydration. This helped me understand the design process and made me realise that being able to converge and diverge in between ideation and research leads to a better design and practising this will make me a better designer.
during my research I have also expanded my sustainable energy knowledge and learnt about a process of anaerobic bio-digestion which is a perfect way for farm to reduce their waste and save money on energy. This process uses food waste to create energy. Explaining it simply, The wasted food is digested by microorganisms in absence of oxygen causing fermentation which creates bio-gasses and water. Bio-gasses can then be combusted to create energy.
My final design uses minimal fixtures, controls and mainly press fit components making the design simple to use and maintain on a low budged. The dehydrator size can be easily increased and decreased by stacking more trays on top of each other. Cleaning is made easy as the tray and mesh simply push out. The product can be easily moved around the farm and transported easily in a small van as the entire product comes apart easily.
This project taught me first insights of working with a real client. I have enjoyed the experience and enjoyed the fact that I have received feedback on designs and ideas from the actual user of the product, someone with knowledge of the subject.
If I was to do the project again I would have definitely liked to do more experimenting as well as having more meetings with the client in order to improve the product more.