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Master in Design Engineering at Harvard Collaborative Studio Volume 0















Deans Frank Doyle (SEAS) Mohsen Mostafavi (GSD)

Studio Faculty Jock Herron (GSD) Chuck Hoberman (GSD) Peter Stark (SEAS)

Editors-in-Chief Brian Ho Michael Raspuzzi

Co-Directors Martin Bechthold (GSD) Woodward Yang (SEAS) Program Administrators Janessa Mulepati (GSD) Pamela Wong (SEAS) Student Cohort Zeerak Ahmed Nicole Bakker Jeremy Burke Ngoc Doan Kun Fan Ramon Gras Chao Gu Brian Ho Julie Loiland Chien-Min Lu Terra Moran Santiago Mota Neeti Nayak Michael Raspuzzi Karen Su External Advisory Board Paola Antonelli Sean Chiao Andrew B. Cogan Dana Cho Alberto De Gobbi John R. Dowdle Karen Harris Jonathan Hursh Carrie A. Johnson Dean Kamen David Radcliffe Wolfgang Rieder Randy Swearer Harry West

Teaching Assistant Mike Chieffalo (GSD) Guest Lecturers Glenn Card David Eisenberg Joshua Korzenik Werner Lorke Crista Martin Rob Paarlberg Mark Post Doug Rauch Andres Sevtsuk Ridge Shin Pia Sorensen Noah Wilson-Rich Robert Wood Visiting Critics Joshua Bekenstein Robert Culver Michael Kaufman Eric Kriss Edith Murnane David Saladik Zoe Finch Totten

Design Team Ngoc Doan Chien-Min Lu Karen Su Editing Team Zeerak Ahmed Neeti Nayak Copy Editor Alberto de Salvatierra Printer Thomson Shore


A LETTER FROM THE DEANS Frank Doyle John A. Paulson Dean John A. & Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor SEAS

Mohsen Mostafavi Dean Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design GSD

When we launched the Master of Design Engineering (MDE) program it was, in the best sense of the word, an experiment. For more than two years, faculty from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) explored the idea of collaborating on a completely new professional degree. As a result of expansive, open-ended conversations, they identified an unmet need – deep, broad-based graduate-level training for individuals who aspire to tackle critical, systems-level global challenges. The faculty brainstormed how to build a program that would be innovative and best in class, and that would uniquely prepare graduates to serve and lead private, non-profit and governmental organizations across a range of disciplines. Like all good designers and engineers, the GSD-SEAS faculty team conducted a scan of the competitive landscape, ideated, designed, prototyped, tested, and iterated. They asked what skills and mindsets are most critical for individuals – and for cross-disciplinary teams – to make real and sustainable progress on big, societal challenges. They spent many months working to understand how our schools, with their distinct but complementary cultures and approaches, might partner to create a project-centered curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking and broad, contextualized understanding. Finally, they carefully selected an outstanding cohort of students from diverse educational and cultural backgrounds. One year into our experiment, we are immensely encouraged. There are, not surprisingly, opportunities for improvement, but we are confident that we are on track to creating a fundamentally disruptive, silo-busting, dot-connecting curriculum and pedagogical model. We believe that our experiment has great promise to produce outside-the-box thinkers and doers, a new breed of design engineers who will make a positive difference in the world. As you review the fruits of the inaugural Design Engineering Studio described in this publication, we invite you to learn more, and to become involved in this exciting, unfolding experiment.


This book is dedicated to all of those who work across scales and disciplines for society. — MDE Class of 2018


Table of Contents apĂŠritif Introduction Program Co-Directors Editors

9 11

plates Studio Instructors Guest Lectures Projects Aretian Cuisine Center Fare+Square Microalgae SAM I AM Tastable

24 60 72 104 124 160

digestif Afterword Visiting Critics


17 19








CO-DIRECTORS Martin Bechthold MDE Program Co-Director GSD Woodward Yang MDE Program Co-Director SEAS

Harvard University has a long tradition of excellence in design and in engineering, represented by the Graduate School of Design (GSD) and the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). Both schools have, from different viewpoints and perspectives, educated future generations of leaders in design and engineering. The links between the GSD and SEAS have been consistently strengthened over the past decade with increasing numbers of cross-listed courses and the jointly-led Harvard University Design Challenge in collaboration with the Harvard Innovation Lab. The launch of the Master in Design Engineering (MDE) Program in 2016 highlights the University’s formal recognition that many of today’s most challenging problems require enabling students to look beyond established disciplines and embrace a new fluidity of methods and approaches. The creation of the MDE program is not an indication that Harvard University is abandoning its disciplinary strength and efforts. Far from it—professional design and engineering knowledge remain at the core of the enabling capacities of the MDE program. Its emphasis, however, is on the collaboration of disciplines, and on the creation of an imaginative blend of approaches that allow its graduates to understand and ultimately contribute to solving the vexing, complex problems of the 21st century. Food shortage and waste, aging populations, rapid urbanization, sustainable energy, evolving mobility technology, and rising seawaters are but some of the issues the program is designed to tackle. The teaching emphasizes the means and methods, the techniques and skills needed to understand the fundamental technical issues and architecture of complex problems, the analysis and visualization of related data, engagement with stakeholders, and the development of innovative solutions that ultimately benefit society. Two required classes were newly designed for the MDE program. ‘Integrated Frameworks’ teaches MDE students the conceptual, ethical, legal, political, economic and business context of innovating and problem solving for society in both the private and public sectors. A mix of case studies, lectures and workshops provide an introduction to a myriad of viewpoints to help enlighten and educate future leaders from a broad transdisciplinary perspective. The MDE studio, as the second required class, introduces students to a significant and complex challenge facing society and teaches various approaches for analyzing these sorts of multi-scalar, multi-


layered problems and for developing solutions to purposefully selected sub-domains of the larger area. For this inaugural year of the MDE program, we chose the topic of ‘Food Systems’ as an area that is relevant to society, and touches on crucial aspects of ecology, sustainability, health, mobility and many others. It is both very local and global, can be understood from a personal as well as from a system perspective, and thus provides a rich context for learning to tackle a broad range of complex issues. The new program admitted its first cohort of students in the fall of 2016: 15 individuals from engineering, architecture, industrial design, computer-science, art, economics, and business. The present publication is a summary of their work produced in the inaugural MDE studio, co-taught by Chuck Hoberman, Peter Stark, and Jock Herron. As the founding MDE program directors we would like to thank the instructors for their dedication, the inaugural MDE cohort for their enthusiasm and energy, and also to the many other contributors and collaborators from Harvard University, private industry, and government who generously contributed their time and expertise. The results of the studio are intelligent, creative, yet grounded in reality. They are an encouraging indicator that society will, after all, be able to overcome some of the knotty problems of today’s increasingly complex world.

Professor Yang in the studio.

Professor Bechthold talking with Professor Herron.




EDITORS Brian Ho Editor, MDE Candidate 2018 GSD + SEAS

This preface has been transcribed from a conversation on slack, an online collaborative communication platform that the MDE students have used throughout the year. Michael is in a coffee shop in San Francisco, and Brian is on a train to New York City.

Michael Raspuzzi Editor, MDE Candidate 2018 GSD + SEAS

michael 7:08PM Ready to start the editors’ piece when you are. brian.ho 7:08PM I’m all collected, fired up, and ready to go. Aboard the Amtrak to NYC, so my internet might be going in and out.

michael 7:13PM Yes! It was one of our first conversations: We were determined to use the “book” as a living foundation documenting the inner workings of the experimental studio. We wanted to try to collect all of the different moving parts.

michael 7:09PM Amazing. I’m including GIFs in this. And it’s okay if your internet goes out. My first question to you: Do you remember the first time we talked about the prospects of the MDE studio book?

We then put the idea of the book down and did not pick it up again until later in the second semester: no longer a living growing document, but a continuous archive capturing the ephemeral nature of powerpoint standups and quickly evolving projects.

brian.ho 7:10PM Perfect, although unsure how animated GIFs will translate to the printed page ... I think it was like the first month of school?

7:14PM Is that how you think the final piece has been aggregated? How would you describe where it is now?

We were both settling into the MDE collaborative studio, with pretty ambitious visions of what it might be, but also finding that it’s a tough thing to pin down in practice. And I think we both talked about the book as a chance to give the studio a real manifestation, something that could live on.

brian.ho 7:15PM Good question ... we hoped the book would be a living document of the studio and help push the design process.

7:11PM Is that about right? We might have been working on different pizza supply chains.

7:16PM And I think after two months of grueling effort by about half of the cohort to collect / edit / revise / finish our work and get it into a book, it’s definitely been a living process of some kind! Certainly things got a second look.


7:17PM A lot of translation has happened in order to turn slideshows and fairly gnarly collaborations into something we (probably) want to share with the world. And that translation has been a lot of what we wanted from the book, however belated. michael 7:19PM Haha. Being late is relative. And somehow this effort also speaks to the ambitions and aims of the program as a whole. Using the first year collaborative design engineering studio as a playground/sandbox for complex situations that require different backgrounds to work together because there is no straightforward answer. Even establishing boundaries for problem-solution connections are complex in areas such as the food system. brian.ho 7:20PM A book is some kind of complex system, for sure michael 7:22PM So this medium of a book serves as a microcosm for the larger outer workings of the studio? Who is the audience we hope this hits and how can they expect to find it useful?

/giphy open forum discussion brian.ho 7:23PM Haha yikes — note to the reading public, there’s a very good GIF you’re missing. 7:24PM On that note: I think the audience is probably first and foremost people like us. We're all not quite practitioners, but also not quite content to be students in a more traditional professional master’s program. Certainly a few of us have enough degrees and experience to be considered established professionals ... but in general we’re all people trying to find new ways to design and engineer. Maybe both at the same time.

7:25PM So I think a target audience is others like that: looking to see how a team made up of an architect, a mechanical engineer, a front-end developer, and an UX designer can make stuff happen in new ways, together. ... possibly because they’re trying the same. michael 7:28PM I agree, and I would also add to that by saying this book is for anyone trying to innovate or anymore interested in the active process of collaborating across traditional siloed, professional boundaries. It is about working through complex topics to make something. That something is not limited to the original silo. Because of the one year time frame, the studio is quite long, but it has its own constraints with regards to established knowledge bases, relevant experiences, and financial resources. 7:29PM The contents of this book also speak to one iteration, the first, of both the projects and of the series of studios. brian.ho 7:29PM Yes, absolutely. A lot will—and should—change about the MDE, but the stuff that is most interesting to anyone reading this book will be the nature of the collaboration toward a different outcome. We’re not only collaborating to collectively make things we’ve made before. 7:30PM Maybe this is a good segue to talk about the projects? i.e. what is it that we’ve made, haha. michael 7:36PM How about some context? brian.ho 7:38PM I’ll add a bit of color and texture: I think the transition from preliminary exercises to research clumps was really difficult for all of us.


That’s just an observation and not intended to cast blame! We essentially had to take two or three or four people’s divergent interests in food—which was no one’s specialty—and identify something the whole group would want to research together. 7:39PM That’s hard, to say the least. Especially when you don’t have any expectations (or consensus) about what you want the outcome to be. 7:40PM Slash uncertainty? But there’s also a real tension and dynamism in each project as a result. michael 7:41PM /giphy so much uncertainty brian.ho 7:46PM And let’s be clear, each project evolved a fair amount as a consequence of that tension. My own group went from school kitchens to regional food planning to smartphone app. In about a week! There’s a lot to learn from that— how you handle divergent interests; how you synthesize into something that maybe wasn’t expected by any of the original lines of inquiry. 7:48PM And sure, in our case an app isn’t the newest thing in and of itself, but I think the design of the thing embodies a lot of thought and ambition. michael 7:48PM And for other projects there were explorations into methods of communication and representation (rituals, visualization, mapping, process flow, etc...); as well as prototypes for testing ideas (behavior experiments, user testing groups, and pop up communal dining services) Not to mention quite the breadth of conversations from various advisers and stakeholders including professors from all around the university and food leaders in the local community.



brian.ho 7:50PM Yes! The design processes all encompassed weirdly obsessive system mapping, a ton of stakeholder engagement, user testing, and even a bit of actual food. 7:51PM All things that celebrate the odd and wonderful diversity of approaches in the studio and in this program.








INSTRUCTORS Chuck Hoberman Pierce Anderson Lecturer in Design Engineering GSD Peter Stark Lecturer on Engineering Physics SEAS Jock Herron Instructor in Architecture GSD

Design studios traditionally have well-defined problems intended to elicit creative solutions for real or plausible clients. We took a different approach. We chose a complex and important domain— the food system—and asked students to work together in teams to define a tractable problem and then develop solutions. Solving problems can be hard. Asking the right question—defining the problem and seeing problems as opportunities—is harder. What seems like unbounded freedom can become frustrating, all the more so if the problem is a consequential one. We chose the food system for several reasons. First, it is undeniably consequential. Second, it is a dynamic and reflexive, non-linear complex system meaning that the many moving parts constantly interact with each other with all sorts of feedback loops, bottlenecks, glitches and exogenous shocks like droughts, freezes and errant contamination. Third, it engages both sides of the brain. Science and engineering matter—nutrition, logistics, food safety, genetics, agronomics, stock assessment, thermodynamics, robotics, botany and much more. But so does intuition and an appreciation of the softer disciplines that yield insights into how people actually decide what to eat, where and with whom. Still opaque to outsiders, the food system is coming out of the shadows and changing across its myriad scales. Our approach—imperfect, but it’s a challenging system to understand—had three legs. The first was a set of exercises to introduce students to the food system – a quick charrette where student teams visualized the system off-the-cuff with no recourse to research; a long weekend tracking the respective food chains of a Domino’s pizza, a store-bought frozen pizza and an artisanal pizza; a week addressing challenges presented by Harvard University Dining Services. Teams were shuffled for each of the exercises so students got a chance to know each other. In terms of effectiveness, this was a pedagogically mixed bag—too little time for some, too much time for others, not enough time for feedback—but it was a start. The second leg was a diverse group of speakers who spoke to the class during the first half of the fall semester. Examples included the former chairman of a major restaurant chain, the former CEO of Trader Joe’s, a food scientist from SEAS, a leading gastro-intestinal physician from the Brigham and Women's Hospital, a food systems scholar from the Harvard Kennedy School, a German physicist


interested in food culture, a rotational grazer of grass-fed beef, a Dutch entrepreneur developing artificial meat from stem-cells, and Boston Mayor Menino’s food ‘czar’. The third, longest and most important leg was the projects themselves. To begin, this involved two simultaneous steps — forming teams and beginning to identify problems of interest. In mid-October we used two studio sessions for individual students to make short presentations about what food system problem intrigued them and why. By midterm, teams were largely formed and presentations were made to external reviewers, the studio faculty and a number of others. From early November until the final reviews in late April, the teams and projects were generally set. The next five academic months were dedicated to developing the projects. Outside experts were engaged, project scopes were refined, constructive and occasionally wayward muddling was embraced, desk crits were undertaken, preliminary solution paths morphed into recommendations, cases were made. Along the way, four formal reviews were conducted with different audiences including the deans, the External Advisory Board and outside reviewers. The combination of continuity and discontinuity presented fresh eyes and the hazards of pitching to different audiences with different degrees of familiarity and different expectations. Translating many hours and eventually months of work into presentations ranging from eight minutes to half an hour was a course unto itself. The cutting room floor was filled with both gems and missteps. As a generalization, the more familiar reviewers were with the food system, the deeper the appreciation of the work and insights of the project teams. But often the questions raised by those unfamiliar with the food system were the most penetrating. The final presentations, as reflected in this book, covered a wide territory, reflected well on the students and in two cases led to funding from Harvard’s Office of Sustainability to extend the work on behalf of the university’s dining services. In retrospect, our topic was unrealistically broad. A whole year could have been dedicated to food waste, the future of fishing, behavior modification, applications of the block chain to the food system… any number of ostensibly narrower topics. But for the inaugural MDE year, the topical breadth of the Collaborative Design Studio gave everyone, instructors included, an opportunity to come up to speed on a critically important, if ungainly, system that matters. The collegial attitudes, the curiosity, the work ethic, the imagination, the pragmatism and good humor of the students made all the difference!





Crista Martin speaks to MDE students.

Pia Sorensen Lecturer in Science and Cooking Instructor, Harvard Extension School Lead Course Developer, Harvardx September 2, 2016

Crista Martin Director for Marketing and Communications, Harvard University Dining Services September 7, 2016

Pia Sorensen introduced the class to flavor perception. She brought a wealth of knowledge from her academic background in chemical biology and her current pursuits in instructing the popular Harvard undergraduate course, Science and Cooking, which has weekly public lectures from visiting top chefs from around the world. Sorensen explained how people taste and why flavor perception is important. She outlined how flavor is not just what we taste on our tongue, but that it also includes retronasal aromas, gustatory cues, and is hypothesized to include other senses, such as vision, audition, and oral. Different influences on multisensory flavor perception from a biological and chemical perspective were introduced as well as the organizational tool of the flavor matrix wheel. The class discussed how different sensory flavor perceptions could be used to create a “feeling full” sensation—potentially treating obesity. Having worked for Harvard for over twenty years, Crista Martin is a key player in serving 25,000 meals at Harvard each day. Her talk was the class’s introduction to the vast span of Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS). Martin outlined the logistical considerations of operating such a large and demanding service as well as the initiatives for improving nutrition, local engagement, and food literacy. Menus are developed to serve thousands of students with diverse dietary needs, cultural backgrounds, and the latest research around eating trends. Martin explained the challenges surrounding serving local food and the evident need to do so when possible.


Robert Paarlberg Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College Adjunct Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School Associate at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs September 14, 2016

Ridge Shinn Co-founder of Hardwick Beef Rotational Grazing Farmer and Consultant September 21, 2016

Robert Paarlberg is the author of several books on food policy, most notably: Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know and The United States of Excess: Gluttony and The Dark Side of American Exceptionalism. He has extensive experience in political science and policy, with an emphasis on agriculture, farming, and food trade. Paarlberg commented on the truth of publicized food trends, globalization through the falling cost of transport and information, the de-politicization of food, and lower food prices through increased farm productivity. His talk emphasized the need for government intervention in the food system for the sake of public health. He stressed an urgency to address the negative effects of climate change, animal welfare, and the rise in US obesity. Paarlberg gave several examples of interventions and agreements that seek to address these implications, but fall short. An experienced farmer, Ridge Shinn has explored and refined the art of rotational grazing. He has consulted on grass-fed beef production in New Zealand, England, Uruguay, Argentina and throughout North America, and is a manager of a highly regarded herd of Devon cattle. This has allowed him to demonstrate the advantages of soil remediation, invasive species control, healthy Omega-6 / Omega-3 ratios and better taste. Shinn provided a necessary and unique perspective on the implications of the industrialized food system. He examined the benefits to eating grass fed beef, and how rotational grazing can provide a well-rounded and efficient food production cycle. Shinn outlined how this approach goes beyond animal rights and improved taste: the rotational grazing helps improve soil remediation to reduce flooding and prevent overgrazed land, while the increased nutrients in grass-fed beef can improve the health in those who eat beef and reduce the likelihood of cardiovascular disease.

Andres Sevtsuk Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design Founding Director of City Form Research Group, MIT Lecturer at MIT September 28, 2016

Andres Sevtsuk develops new spatially-focused analytic tools that can be used to evaluate the social and economic impact of urban design, planning, and policy. He lectures at both Harvard and MIT, and studies how people influence city form, and how city form is influenced by people. Sevtsuk showed the class how evidence-based and network analysis can be used to evaluate Social Accessibility. He outlined different indices that can be used as metrics: Reach Accessibility Index, Gravity Index, and Betweenness. Sevtsuk also explained different kinds of retail theory, and how complementary and competitive clustering of retail businesses naturally occur. Through these different analysis insights and exposures to various tools, the cohort learned how insight could be implemented to influence social accessibility.


Mark Post Professor of Vascular Physiology at University of Maastricht Netherlands September 28, 2016

Doug Rauch Former CEO of Trader Joe’s Founder of The Daily Table October 5, 2016

Werner Lorke Professor for New Materials and Technologies at the University of Art and Design at HfG Offenbach Founder of iO Interdisziplinare Objekte October 10, 2016



Mark Post is the first person to develop a cell-cultured hamburger, with a majority of the muscle fibers grown in media with fetal bovine serum. This important milestone in cellular agriculture showed that created cultured meat was scientifically possible. Professor Post outlined the process of growing cultured meat, and described his personal journey to study this interesting and unique field. He explained how his interest goes beyond the scientific fascination, and extends into the social impact of cultured meat. The class discussed barriers in scaling and cost-efficiency, and how social acceptance could dictate if this sort of futuristic approach will catch-on. Doug Rauch helped grow Trader Joe’s from nine stores in Southern California to 340 stores throughout the US. After retiring, he then became a Senior Fellow at Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Institute, where he served as the board chairman of Conscious Capitalism. During his time at Harvard, he developed the concept for The Daily Table: a retail store that aggregates primary ingredients at or near their ‘sell by’ date from food wholesalers and creates ready-made meals for purchase. Rauch provided the class with an economically viable example of a socially-conscious business. Through his extensive business expertise, he was able to identify areas for efficiencies in the industry and turn these areas into improvements for the underserved. The Daily Table’s design significantly considers social factors, and recognizes how shoppers want to experience a grocery store trip and what really matters when money and time are limited. Through this real-world example, Rauch showed how food is an integrated system, and not many independent processes. Werner Lorke is a German physicist and founder of IO Interdisziplinare Objekte, a creative consultancy with clients in the food, chemical, and aerospace industries. Prior to the lecture, Professor Lorke had each MDE student reflect on one of their favorite meals, and identify any cultural or social influences that impacted this selection. He then explained how our culture can impact what we eat, and how memories influence how good—or bad—something is perceived. Following the material presented, the students hosted a spoon full of culture dinner where entire dishes with cultural significance for the individuals were designed to be experienced in one bite. The spoons included Canadian poutine, stamppot boerenkool met rookworst (Dutch smashed farmer’s kale with sausage), Indian gol-gappa (watery bread), Montanan bison, shuǐ jiǎo (Taiwanese boiled dumplings), jiān jiǎo (Chinese fried dumplings), xôi gấc (Vietnamese red sticky rice), and New York maple pumpkin cheesecake.


Joshua Korzenik Gastroenterologist Director of BWH Crohn’s and Colitis Center Founder and Inventor of Colonary Concepts

October 19, 2016

Glenn Card Beekeeper, Merrimack Valley Apiaries October 26, 2016

Robert Wood Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences at SEAS Founding Core Faculty Member at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering October 26, 2016

Noah Wilson-Rich Chief Scientific Officer of Best Bees Research Affiliate with the Mediated Matter Group at the MIT Media Lab October 26, 2016

Joshua Korzenik is a gastroenterology doctor who has been practicing for 30 years. He is a leading Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) researcher, and is Director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Crohn's and Colitis Center. Korzenik is the founder and inventor of Colonary Concepts, a clinical-stage pharmaceutical firm that focuses on technology platforms to promote gastrointestinal health. Korzenik introduced the class to his viewpoint of food as medicine, and the roles that gut microbiomes play in disease and health. He outlined what determines an individual’s microbiome and how diet could have an impact on it. Korzenik then explained various approaches that have been used to manipulate the microbiome, including antibiotics, probiotics, prebiotics, and fecal transplants. Glenn Card is a third generation beekeeper backed by fifty years of experience. He graduated from the University of Vermont, and now continues his family farm, which originally started with just one colony. Glenn narrated the transformation in the demand for bees. Commercial pollination began in the 1950’s, and the colony rental market became a popular option. Pollination seasons differ, and different months are spent in different locations, depending on growing season, products, and bee activity. Glenn transports his bees all over the country, and runs a very intricate schedule, juggling factors like weather, pesticides, and food sources. Robert Wood’s research in biomimicry is motivated by the impressive feats accomplished by small, maneuverable creatures, like insects. He looks at physical movement such as the technicalities of flight mechanisms, as well as relationships in social behavior. Wood’s group designs microrobots at unique scales, which are produced by pop-up folding models. In a joint talk with Glenn Card, Wood explained his interest and motivation for completing research in designing from the biology of insects such as bees. These include technical considerations such as actuation, motion control, and the selection of two wings versus a propeller. The class then discussed how the robots — often called, RoboBees — could be used for crop and air monitoring, threat detection, or pollination. Noah Wilson-Rich is a behavioral ecologist who has studied the mysteries of the social insect world for several years. He is the author of The Bees: A Natural History, and started Best Bees while in graduate school, with the intention of raising money for research. The business grew into a mission of expanding the honey bee population whilst improving the overall health and safety of bees nationwide. Wilson-Rich introduced the class to the impeding importance of honey bees across the globe. He




explained how there are underutilized spaces in cities, and showed examples of how beehives can be incorporated into community gardens. David Eisenberg Associate Professor of Nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Executive Vice President for Health Research and Education at the Samueli Institute Founder of Healthy Kitchens/ Healthy Lives October 10, 2016

Dana Cho giving a guest lecture titled "Humanizing Technology."

David Eisenberg is an advocate for preventative medicine, backed by decades of experience in this area. He has served on many academic boards, has taught at (and attended) the Harvard Medical School, was a director at the Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and has been an advisor for the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and the Federation of State Medical Boards. Eisenberg described his experience going to China as the first U.S. medical exchange student. From this experience, he learned the value of preventative medicine and carried this passion throughout his career and into the Healthy Kitchens/Healthy Lives conference—an event that teaches doctors and participants about the value in cooking a healthy meal—specifically focused around the Mediterranean diet. He concluded by emphasizing that if people understood how food affects their bodies, they would be more conscious of food choices, and more likely to make healthier decisions.



ARETIAN AGRICULTURAL FOUNDATION The Aretian Agricultural Foundation proposes a series of networked food processing facilities which serve as shared infrastructure to support the production and distribution of food from small and mid-sized farms throughout the Northeast. The network of facilities will support and ensure food security within the region and create a healthier and more robust alternative to larger scale corporate farms which currently dominate the market. The farming scene has been increasingly dominated by large scale operations since the 1970s, when the US Department of Agriculture led by Earl Butz promoted policy shifts which favored high volume corporate farming and the end of New Deal programs. Such policies urged farmers to plant commodity crops, propelling both the rise of major agribusiness corporations, and the declining financial stability of the small family farm. The extreme consolidation and commoditization processes and the lack of strategic investment in physical infrastructure shifted the focus of production, and severely jeopardized the financial feasibility of small and mid-size farms, which according to the USDA, produce around 50% of the healthiest specialty crops and products, and capture roughly 20% of industry profits. The shift to high volume crop production also changed the way in which food became a product to push on consumers — and thus changing American society’s food consumption habits. The study presents a solution to address the long-term viability for endangered mid- and small-sized farms throughout the Northeast due to low prices, restricted access to markets, and uneven competition from corporate agribusiness. The project is inspired on the successful experience of the Wine Cathedrals in Catalonia, Spain. Jeremy Burke, Ramon Gras


Perspective view of the Aretian Agricultural Foundation.

Introduction The farming scene in the US Northeast has suffered severe transformations, most notably since the 1970s when USDA policies began to favor larger corporate farming. Such policies, eloquently summarized by Earl Butz’s infamous quote to “get big or get out,” urged farmers to plant commodity crops, facilitated the rise of major agribusiness corporations, and enabled a cultural shift by changing the way in which the American society’s food consumption patterns. As a consequence, the farming scene has been increasingly dominated by large scale operations, so that food sourcing relies in products being farmed increasingly far away from its final consumption point, thus endangering their nutritional value, and overall quality.


Aretian Agricultural Foundation


The studio project develops a sophisticated spatial analytics framework to identify opportunities for mid- and small-size farms to use the platform to take advantage of food agglomeration and economies of scale, acquire a high degree of control over the food supply chain via vertical integration, increase the value of their goods through secondary processing, branding strategies, expanding markets, and facilitating access to markets in major cities and metropolitan areas. Shared infrastructure will vary from cluster to cluster, but examples within a site specific campus would include FDA approved cold storage buildings, value added food processing facilities, slaughterhouses, food science research laboratories, and training and community social centers. Connected to each campus would be a larger network of wholesale and retail markets, as well as agritourism-based restaurants, hotels and seasonal festivals.


The challenge and project purpose The development of large scale farming operations throughout the United States has put the mid- and small-sized farmer at a distinct disadvantage to large scale and corporate commodity farms. Small farms make up the majority of farms within the United States, yet they receive a disproportionately small percentage of the total sales within the market. The unbalanced distribution of sales illustrates the strain under which small farms must operate their business. Without a support network to process and distribute their food similar to the large-scale farming operations, the small family farm will always be at a disadvantage. 1 In addition to the lack of food processing facilities and access distribution networks, small scale farmers also have a more difficult time managing their farming operations. The number of employees grows and shrinks during seasonal harvests. Without the resources to access expensive machinery to help with crop gathering, small farmers must manage new employees and volunteers, and work extended hours to complete necessary tasks. They must invest and maintain their own farm equipment, which becomes increasingly complex and expensive with new technological features added every year. As crops are ready to be sold, they must be transported into farmers markets, institutions, and cities. Each journey can

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% of Total Farms


>$1,000,000 Large Family Farms

>$1,000,000 Large Family Farms

Measure Names % of Total Farms % Production % Value of Sales


Comparison between generic and specialty crops distribution in the state of Massachusetts.5

Aretian Agricultural Foundation


require a full day trip to complete the sales and distribution of their product. Branding, identity and marketing are also up to the owner. Packaging and labeling services can be complex and require more resources to complete. 3 On the demand side, food consumption habits can suffer without access to local, healthy food. A joint research group between Spain and the US studied a food system supply chain comparative case between the cities of Madrid and Baltimore. Evidence showed that while 77% of the population of Madrid had access to retail stores with fresh and healthy food within 200m of their residence, only 1% of the population in Baltimore was able to access locally sourced food within the same distance.4 The main goals of the project are to establish a food processing facility which acts as a networked system, connecting farmers with their community while providing the necessary business and processing facilities to manage their products. The Aretian Agricultural Foundation is a shared platform, which farmers can access as needed by contributing a monthly fee to the foundation. In order to best help farmers throughout the New England, the study began to look at land use patterns first in Massachusetts to establish a template and a series of metrics which could be applied to other regions in New England and beyond.


Distribution of gastronomic Mezzo Regions susceptible to host Aretian Clusters in the US Northeast.

Defining Mezzo Regions In order to define the proper regions in which to place a food processing facility, the first part of the studio developed a methodology to classify and group zip codes based on land use patterns. These certified zones were defined as Mezzo Regions since the classification was based on farming zones with a common cultural and gastronomic identity, focused on the production of high quality specialty crops such as vegetables, fruits, and meat production. In addition, farming tends to occur within specific geographic conditions and watersheds, which do not always fall within state boundaries. Through spatial analysis of GIS land use maps, transportation infrastructure, and business location data, the studio was able to establish a set of metrics by which we could clearly define zip codes as areas of interest. Each Mezzo Region will be named based on the current and historical identity of the place, and will establish a shared identity that each farmer can use to bolster their market identity. The regions will help to build stronger connections between the urban and the rural communities and help to shift food culture to from a generic concept of produce to region specific products known for their quality and good practices. The project is inspired on the successful experience of the Wine Cathedrals in Catalonia, Spain.


Generic crop land use in Massachusetts.

Specialty crops land use in Massachusetts.

Aretian Agricultural Foundation



The Aretian Agricultural Foundation The Aretian Agricultural Foundation constitutes a new model of production and distribution of food products based on: â&#x20AC;˘ concentrating infrastructure and services in food clusters strategically located within gastronomic Mezzo Regions with a common cultural identity â&#x20AC;˘ increasing economies of scale and scope while vertically integrating the supply chain â&#x20AC;˘ innovating farming and industrial practices and promoting sophisticated products. The foundation will be primarily supported by its partners, a pool of primarily mid-sized farmers operating at a regional level who are willing to improve their services, and aims to promote the creation of a number of food clusters scattered throughout the US Northeast, operating in a network, to take advantage of potential synergies between them. The criteria adopted to design the clusters will aim to harmonize the three main design principles: AGGREGATION Focus on geographic areas with high specialty crop concentration, highly diverse product space, and a predominance of mid- and small-size farming. VERTICAL INTEGRATION & INNOVATION Opportunities to take advantage of economies of scale and scope, vertical integration, potential expansion of land use devoted to specialty products, and consolidation of industrial processes such as slaughterhouses and refrigerated warehousing. IDENTITY & BRANDING Focus on areas with a common gastronomic and cultural identity, relatively homogeneous product quality standards, and opportunities for product refinement and sophistication. The foundation project applies a sophisticated spatial analytics framework to identify opportunities for mid-size farmers to use the platform to take advantage of food agglomeration and economies of scale, acquire a high degree of control over the food supply chain via vertical integration, increase the value of their goods through secondary processing, branding strategies, expanding markets, and facilitating access to markets in major cities and metropolitan areas. Shared infrastructure will vary from cluster to cluster, but examples would include cold storage, FDA approved slaughterhouses, valueadded food processing, wholesale and retail markets, agritourism, food science research, and training and community social facilities.


Aerial and perspective views of the proposed Aretian Agricultural Foundation's cluster prototype facility.

Aretian Agricultural Foundation



Combined process flows and distribution logic within a single Aretian facility.


Aretian Agricultural Foundation


The Aretian Agricultural Foundation will offer a unique opportunity for mid-size farmers to join efforts in building a strong community, characterized by shared values and homogeneous gastronomic quality standards, able to raise food production output and product quality, offer opportunities for product sophistication, increase market reach by integrating those products in a streamlined supply chain, and to strengthen the regional brand recognition and prestige among potential customers. Each Aretian cluster will integrate a number of production streams designed for the specific needs of the region in which it is located. The Mezzo Region chosen is the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts, primarily for two reasons: 1. The State of Massachusetts provides a large and very complete geospatial database, including plenty of meaningful data sources regarding agricultural activities and food system businesses. 2. The Boston area presents a low level of food self-sufficiency, what makes it especially susceptible to benefit from hosting a network of Aretian clusters within gastronomic Mezzo Regions serving the three main urban areas: Boston, Worcester and Springfield. The prototype integrates production streams including specialty cropsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; processing of fruits and vegetables, meat production, dairy product facilities, hydroponics and aquaponics, and algae production. Partner farmers engaged in the Aretian community will periodically access the centralized facilities to unload their products, and eventually participate in some of the activities being deployed at the cluster. Once the products are been delivered to the cluster, they are cleaned and processed if required. They are then packaged, labeled, stored, and distributed by means of the cluster-centric supply chain. The advantages of concentrating production are far beyond raising quality standards and taking advantage of economies of scale: by the law of large numbers, such concentration and consolidation techniques will significantly decrease uncertainty in production quantities by leveraging fresh, local food output per season. The managerial team will ensure the operational model is adjusted so that seasonality patterns inform the marketing strategy to reinforce the value of locally sourced, seasonal, healthier products.



Aretian Agricultural Foundation


The architecture of each cluster is based on a modular architecture system which allows the facility to grow and be customized for each location. The Pioneer Valley facility contains vegetable and fruit processing, dairy production, slaughterhouse, packaging, labeling, storage, and a distribution center. In addition, there are also hydroponic facilities to mitigate the seasonal pressures and provide year round income for the community. This new farming technology will be researched and developed to create new products and opportunities for farmers within the region. The organization of the buildings is based on campuses, each of which are dedicated to a single function or process. This separation will allow for the managers to ensure quality control, isolate functions, and optimize efficiencies. The central building, a modern interpretation of the New England Barn, will act as a gathering place for the community to hold educational workshops, share meals, and create a sense of place and identity to the Aretian facilities. The campus is designed to be a comfortable working environment that invites the public to learn about where their food comes from and how it is processed. Yearly festivals will promote the local brands and help connect the public to the community which helps feed them. As facilities develop throughout the Northeast, each campus design will respond to the needs of each region, changing in size, orientation, and layout, while still maintaining the overall structure and human-centric proportioning and organization.

The Aretian facility is grouped into different campuses to meet the needs of different value streams.


Methodology The study developed a series of metrics and visualization tools to analyze where the Aretian Clusters should be located to maximize their impact, discern which farming communities will benefit the most from the new platform, and guide criteria to develop an operation and innovation strategy to ensure the feasibility and success of the venture. Regions at a mezzo, or middle, scale, which are larger than single zip codes and smaller than state boundaries, define zones which are well sized to encompass a majority of farms within a naturally occurring geographic area. These Mezzo Regions regions vary in total area â&#x20AC;&#x201D; they relate to geographic similarities such as watersheds, valleys or coastal regions. Due to this classification, Mezzo regions often cross state boundaries and allow for a new conception of land organization. At this middle level, geography defines agriculture: farmers within a defined Mezzo Region tend to grow similar fruits and vegetables and the common practices inform the types of food processing facilities that will be required to meet the farmers needs. This


Meat processing stream for the Aretian Cluster prototype.

Aretian Agricultural Foundation


method, which compares the ratios of specialty crops to commodity crops, urban development, or forest coverage, can be applied to other regions of a similar scale throughout the United States.6 Cluster designs can then be easily prototyped and optimized to meet the regionâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s needs by creating models and simulations of different use case scenarios. Once there is a common understanding and direction based on conversations with Aretian Agricultural Foundation partners and the local community, the design can be implemented while business and distribution contracts are established and confirmed. The facility is sized to meet the seasonal demands of the crop yields within the region. Vertical integration and modern processing techniques allow for efficient and clean processing, packaging, and distribution of produce, meat, and dairy products under a common brand identity to nearby communities. As a food hub, the facilities will be large enough in scale to process and distribute food to many businesses, institutions, and families, while at the same time capable of addressing the needs of each farmer in the region through shared educational classes, equipment rentals, and distribution requirements. Farmers will benefit from greater sales as surrounding communities become familiar with the high quality food produced within each Mezzo Region.


Pinell de Brai Wine Cathedral in Catalonia, Spain.

Source of Inspiration: Wine Cathedrals The Aretian Agricultural Foundation's vision is tributary of a unique source of inspiration: the experience of the Wine Cathedrals in Catalonia which originate from the early 20th Century. The modernist wineries of Catalonia were the community-driven response to the worst ecological crisis to hit the Catalan countryside: the phylloxera plague. After ruining French vineyards and spreading throughout most of Europe, the phylloxera insect appeared in EmpordĂ in 1879 and within two decades arrived in the rural inland comarques of Tarragona. By the end of the first decade of the twentieth century, the region had lost all its grapevine plantations.7

As in so many other areas of Catalonia, the communities of Priorat, Terra Alta, Conca de Barberà , Baix Camp and Tarragonès decided to leave for the city to work in the thriving textile mills. Even though the countryside had lost a majority of its workforce not everyone left for the factories. The future, they considered, required the farmer and non-farmer alike to cooperate in order to survive and maintain their culture. This gave rise to the cooperative movement, and the industry decided to pool production and all associated supply chain services from purchasing and insurance to marketing to help one another.8 Key to the movement was the ability to find consensus among big landowners and small farmers. The Catalan countryside


was revitalized through this contract and it allowed the community to modernize the wine production process through sharing information with one another and collaboration towards a common goal. The bond that formed was so strong that even today, amid the rustic landscape of rural Catalonia, the modernist wineries still exist and remain unique in the world. By establishing a community focused industrial process, the winemakers acquired competency in operating this promising industry. New buildings were erected to bring identity and a sense of pride to the community. The the writer Àngel Guimerà would call them ‘cathedrals of wine’ because of their majesty and semblance to temples, and the fact that they helped reverse the

Aretian Agricultural Foundation


low moral and economic hardship from the phylloxera crisis by boosting the farmers’s self esteem and giving the community a product to be proud of. This turnaround was a message that is oft-quoted as a cliche but hardly ever manifested: unity, indeed, reaps strength. The architectural construction helped spur a new generation of architects, disciples of the great exponents of modernist and noucentisme movements, to contribute to the cultural heritage of Catalonia. The most important of them all was undoubtedly Cèsar Martinell (Valls, 1888 - Barcelona, 1973), a pupil of Domènech i Muntaner and disciple of Antoni Gaudí, and the architect of several Wine Cathedrals in the provinces of Tarragona and Barcelona.9


Analysis and metrics In order to define the design criteria for the individual clusters within the Aretian Agricultural Foundation, the project team designed three meaningful metrics and visualizations to address each of the three main strategies covered: AGGREGATION: define who can benefit from the platform and what processes • Product quality • Product diversity • Farm size VERTICAL INTEGRATION: define how to integrate them and maximize the positive synergies between the different processes • Economies of scale • Economies of scope • Financial feasibility LOCATION: define where to strategically locate the clusters • Cultural identity • Logistics and accessibility • Potential expansion By focusing on the particular case of the State of Massachusetts, an analytical framework could be provided to address the design of a representative prototype in the US Northeast. The metrics defined are as the following: Aggregation: product quality metric The authors considered the differentiation between generic and specialty products, according to the USDA classification system, to serve as a meaningful proxy to discern where the healthier, higher quality crops and products are currently being harvested and produced in the context of the State of Massachusetts.10 The depiction of the percentage of total land use devoted to specialty crops (fruits and vegetables) immediately highlighted certain regions that concentrate the higher quality food products being harvested. The total farm production breakdown in Massachusetts served to provide an order of magnitude of the role and relevance of Specialty Crops (fruits and vegetables) within the total food production scene.


Aretian Agricultural Foundation

Quality Metric: Specialty Crops (% of total land use)

Map based on Longitude (generated) and Latitude (generated). Color shows sum of SPECIALTY %. Details are shown for ZIP.

Specialty Crops as a percent of total land use.

Farm Production breakdown in Massachusetts.11




Diversity Metric | Number of types of Specialty Products 1 2 Abc 4 Abc 6 Abc 8 Abc 9 Abc Abc

Diversity metric | Number of Specialty Crop types


Map based on Longitude (generated) and Latitude (generated). Color shows sum of SPECIALTY_DIVERSITY. Size shows sum of SPECIALTY_DIVERSITY. Details are shown for ZIPCODE.

Specialty Fruits & Vegetables Farms. Geographical distribution of crop typologies in Massachusetts, by land use and zipcode.13

Abc Abc


1 2 4

Diversity Metric | Number of types of Specialty Products

Abc 6 Abc 8 Abc 9


SIC code Diversity Abc 1 Abc 5 Abc 10 Abc 15 Abc 18 SIC code Diversity 1 18

Map based on Longitude (generated) and Latitude (generated). Color shows sum of SIC code Diversity. Size shows sum of SIC code Diversity. The marks are labeled by sum of BC3 Diversity. Details are shown for ZIP.

Aggregation: product diversity metric

Map based on Longitude (generated) and Latitude (generated). Color shows sum of SIC code Diversity. Size shows sum of SIC code Diversity. The marks are

CIALTY_DIVERSITY. Size shows sum of SPECIALTY_DIVERSITY. Details are shownare for shown ZIPCODE.for ZIP. labeled by sum of BC3 Diversity. Details

Food production consolidation and concentration processes occurred in a large scale in the United States since 1970s, which affected particularly Generic Crop harvesting trends, diminished the traditional diversity of products being generated within a region.12 By describing the number of specialty crops and products being produced per zip code we can identify the areas currently hosting more diverse, traditional farming techniques and local specialties. A total of 12 Specialty Crops (fruits and vegetables) and 30 Specialty Products (including dairy and meat products) are currently being produced throughout the State of Massachusetts. By measuring their spatial distribution, we can assess to what extent a particular region presents a diverse gastronomic scene. In Massachusetts, potential Mezzo Regions susceptible to host Aretian clusters will typically host anywhere between 5 and 10 specialty crops and between 10 and 20 specialty products per zipcode.

SIC code Diversity Abc 1 Abc 5 Abc 10 Abc 15 Abc 18 SIC code Diversity 1 18

Aretian Agricultural Foundation


Aggregation: farm size metric According to the USDA, mid- and small-size family farms account for over 93% of agricultural production businesses in the US and produce over 72% of the total output (including the majority of specialty products). Mid- and small-size farms, however, capture less than 45% of the sales in the industry. In the particular case of Massachusetts, currently over 63% of farms â&#x20AC;&#x201D; mostly mid- and small-size companies â&#x20AC;&#x201D; are operating at a loss despite having a fundamental role in growing most of the healthiest products in the market. The small family farms are at a disadvantaged position due to the high degree of market commoditization over their products, their inability to affect or control their position within the supply chain, and particularly because they do not operate at the aggregation phases of the logistics structure where the majority of the profits are made therefore hindering their financial success and ability to remain competitive and successful businesses.14 As a proxy to understand the supply chain within Massachusetts, this project looked at the size of food-related companies by the number of employees to determine any correlations. While many other factors need to be considered, it is clear that companies dealing in aggregation and distribution are more established and have more successful business operations. This can be determined by sales volume and their ability to support a greater number of employees. Therefore, by focusing on enhancing long-term viability for those small and midsize family farms that have the potential to contribute to increase food self sufficiency in the US Northeast, the Aretian Clusters can serve a dual role to facilitate a cultural shift towards inducing healthier food consumption habits and towards promoting a more sustainable locally sourced restaurant scene.

Businesses across the food chain: the distribution of number of employees by the sales volume per company within the Massachusetts food system.15 Industries Sales per Size

SALESVOL SALESVOL 0 0 100.000 100.000 200.000 343.662 200.000



Business Category 3 343.662 Administrative and Support Services Animal Production and Aquaculture Business Category 3 Beverage and Tobacco Product Manufacturing Administrative and Support Services Crop Production Animal Production Fishing, Hunting and Trappingand Aquaculture FoodBeverage and Beverage Stores and Tobacco Product Manufacturing Food Manufacturing Crop Production Forestry and Logging Support Activities for Agriculture and Forestry Fishing, Hunting and Trapping Support Activities for Transportation Food and Beverage Stores Warehousing and Storage Food Manufacturing Waste Management and Remediation Services


60K SALESVOL (USD 1000s)

es per Size




Forestry and Logging Support Activities for Agriculture and Forestry Support Activities for Transportation Warehousing and Storage Waste Management and Remediation Services




0K -10




















EMPNUM EMPNUM vs. SALESVOL. Color shows details about Business Category 3. Size shows sum of SALESVOL. Details are shown for Business Category 6, Business Category 5 and Business Category 4. The data is filtered on STATE and Business Category 2. The STATE filter keeps MA. The Business Category 2 filter excludes Health Care and Social Assistance and Wholesale Trade. The view is filtered on Business Category 6, Business Category 3, Exclusions (Business Category 3,Business Category 4,Business Category 5,Business Category 6,EMPNUM,SALESVOL) and Exclusions (Business Category 4,Business Category 5,Business Category 6,EMPNUM,SALESVOL). The Business Category 6 filter keeps 111 members. The Business Category 3 filter excludes 6 members. The Exclusions (Business Category 3,Business Category 4,Business Category 5,Business Category 6,EMPNUM,SALESVOL) filter keeps 36.495 members. The Exclusions (Business Category 4,Business Category 5,Business Category 6,EMPNUM,SALESVOL) filter keeps 36.490 members.



Economies of scope: opportunities to consolidate food production facilities within Massachusetts.17

Aretian Agricultural Foundation


Vertical integration: economies of scope metric The centralization of food production processes within Aretian clusters enables the partners of the community to take advantage of synergies between industrial processes involving different food streams. In the current context, characterized by a high degree of atomization of food system services, with multiple processes scattered throughout the territory, the system suffers from severe operational inefficiencies, leading to worsening lead times and poorly managed inventory management policies. One of the major advantages of the aggregation and centralization policies will be to vertically integrate most food production processes, thus consolidating warehousing, cold storage, packaging and labeling facilities, logistics and transportation services to increase their efficiency and market reach.

System dynamics model to define the flows between industrial processes within the Pioneer Valley cluster.

A complex system dynamics model has been developed to maximize potential synergies between the processes being developed within each food production stream, so that outputs from a certain phase can be used as inputs for another purpose, thus increasing internal efficiency and minimizing environmental footprint. Animal methane and carbon dioxide emissions produced during cattle feeding phases waste will be captured using backpack devices for the biogas to be transformed into heat and power by means of a centralized CHP plant. Such heat and electricity can be used not only to feed the power system of the entire cluster, but also to regulate the temperature in hydroponic growing centers. At the same time, animal waste and manure can be used as fertilizer by the farms partnering with an Aretian cluster.


Vertical integration: economies of scale metric The majority of the profits generated within in the food system are being captured by large family businesses and large corporations in the aggregation phases â&#x20AC;&#x201D; primarily wholesale consolidators and food retailers.16 Such a scenario leaves very little room for the mid- and small-size farmers who produce most Specialty Crops and products to remain competitive and financially viable. On top of being highly commoditized, mid- and small-size farmers typically absorb the overwhelming majority of the uncertainty in the food system supply chain due to their lack of control over seasonal weather trends or market price oscillations which result from global economic trends that affect commodity markets. By generating aggregation nodes within clusters, and centralizing strategic phases of the food production and distribution value chain, communities can take advantage of economies of scale and benefit from bargaining power when dealing with key suppliers or customers.

Economies of scale: profits captured at each phase of the Food System supply chain within Massachusetts.


Aretian Agricultural Foundation


Vertical integration: financial feasibility metric

Profitability and free cash flow analysis: break even and net present value for the Pioneer Valley cluster. Revenue captured by each phase of the supply chain in the food system in Massachusetts.18

The farming scene in the northeast US presents increasingly challenging financial constraints that the small and midsize farmers have to deal with on a regular basis, because of their inherently weak position within the Food System. In the particular case of Massachusetts, over 63% of the farms, mostly small and midsize companies, are technically operating at a loss. By building an Aretian Cluster community, farmers will be able to take advantage of shared food processing services at affordable prices, and acquire higher control over their product post-processing and distribution phases. For example, the establishment of the Pioneer Valley Aretian cluster (encompassing Franklin and Hampshire counties) would allow the vast majority of farmers to become profitable, whilst generating steadily growing profits for the overall shareholder team. With an estimated capital investment budget around $50 million, representing around $20 million in equity required to launch the venture, the financial model developed based on benchmarks from the industry suggests the project would reach break-even between the fourth and fifth year, and the overall profitability of the entire cluster would be on the order of 3-4%, representing a massive improvement with respect to the current situation. This could allow shareholders to attract more potential partners and refine their products.




K-means clustering analysis to

identify potentialand Mezzo Regions within Color shows ed on Longitude (generated) Latitude (generated). details aboutcultural CATEGORY. Details are shown for ZIP. Location: identity Massachusetts at the zipcode level.

about CATEGORY. Details are shown for ZIP.

In order to identify the potential Mezzo Regions, susceptible to host an Aretian cluster, the authors integrated the metrics designed into an geospatial analytical model, to provide insights regarding underlying trends, characterize the main territory typologies based on its relationship with the farming scene, and identify potential the areas that present the most attractive incentives to host Aretian Agricultural Foundation clusters. The data analytics clustering technique used revealed the emergence of four areas with common characteristics: 1. Urban areas hosting the majority of the population and potential markets 2. Woodland areas overwhelmingly occupied by forests, grasslands and meadowlands 3. Generic agricultural regions, hosting most areas devoted to produce generic crops 4. Mezzo Regions: focus on specialty agricultural activities

K-means clustering analysis to identify the potential gastronomic Mezzo Regions hosting Aretian clusters.

The analytical model exposed the presence of three main geographically concentrated areas susceptible to constitute Mezzo Regions in Massachusetts, characterized by: a common gastronomic identity, overwhelming predominance of mid- and small-size farming, an emphasis on Specialty Crops, deploying more sustainable processes than corporate agribusinesses, featuring a high degree of product diversity, and consistency in quality standards:



Aretian Agricultural Foundation


1. Pioneer Valley (Franklin and Hampshire counties) 2. Southeastern MA (Plymouth county) 3. Greater Boston (Middlesex county)

Heatmap for accessibility: optimal location areas for the Pioneer Valley Mezzo Region.

Location: logistics and accessibility metric The specific location of the Aretian cluster represents a fundamental piece of design criteria that will have a major impact on the development of the venture. The authors performed accessibility analysis to discern what areas present the center of gravity for transportation purposes, thus offering the optimal locations to minimize trips between the partner farms engaged in the community and the central cluster within the Mezzo Region. Alongside with internal transportation considerations, the cluster site was chosen taking into consideration variables such as easy access to major highway accesses, short travel times to main urban areas, proximity to the food science research hub located at UMassAmherst, and access to relevant suppliers in the region. A thoughtful Aretian cluster location methodology will serve a dual purpose: on the one hand, it will raise internal efficiencies within the community, facilitate access to the cluster and strategic markets â&#x20AC;&#x201D; thus saving time, cost and minimizing the environmental footprint. On the other hand, it will enable fruitful collaborations with institutions nearby such as UMass-Amherst, involved in food science research that could potentially open a door to fruitful collaborations in enhancing innovation within the cluster.


Expansion Summary

Potential Expansion by Zipcode in Pioneer Valley (Franklin & Hampshire)







197.500.823 Measure Names Specialty Crops Expansion Phase 1 Expansion Phase 2 Expansion Phase 3




Value in Sq Ft

Value in Sq Ft

14M 12M 10M

140M 120M 100M 80M






20M 0M





























Specialty Crops, Expansion Phase 1, Expansion Phase 2 and Expansion Phase 3. Color shows details about Specialty Crops, Expansion Phase 1, Expansion Phase 2 and Expansion Phase 3. Size shows sum of Generic Cropland. The data is filtered on Zipcode, which excludes Null.

Expansion Phase 1, Expansion Phase 2, Expansion Phase 3 and Specialty Crops for each Zipcode. Color shows details about Expansion Phase 1, Expansion Phase 2, Expansion Phase 3 and Specialty Crops. Siz Expansion Phase 1. The view is filtered on Zipcode, which excludes Null.

Potential expansion per zipcode within the Franklin and Hampshire Mezzo Region.

Location: potential expansion metric The State of Massachusetts presents a level of self-sufficiency around 32%: toughly one third of the food consumed in Massachusetts is actually produced within the boundaries of the Commonwealth. The establishment of a long-term strategy to maximize capacity utilization of the scarce high quality, arable soil available for agricultural purposes in Massachusetts would allow the combined effect of the 3 potential Mezzo Regions to boost the degree of self-sufficiency beyond the 50% threshold. The following chart shows that the order of magnitude for maximum potential expansion of specialty cropland farms in the context of the Pioneer Valley Mezzo Region is 105 million sq ft, roughly four times the current area of 27 million sq ft.19 Among other things, raising the level of food self-sufficiency would allow for a significant decrease in environmental impact in terms of CO2 emissions per truck. Being able to capture part of the market share currently dominated by California, Florida and to a lesser extent the Midwest, would dramatically decrease CO2 emissions per cargo vehicle. Driving a truck from California to Boston can produce up to 35 times more emissions than driving a truck from Western Massachusetts.


Aretian Agricultural Foundation


Prototype implementation: a network of Aretian clusters In order to provide specific design criteria and guidelines for the network of clusters in the Aretian Agricultural Foundation, the authors developed a prototype for one of the top three Mezzo Region candidates in Massachusetts: the Pioneer Valley cluster spanning Franklin and Hampshire counties. This Mezzo Region currently hosts 1,579 farms, run by 2,500 principal operators, with 92 acres on average per farm, producing 12 specialty fruits and vegetables, and has average sales of $65,000 per farm per annum. The trademark agricultural products in this Mezzo Region include squash, apples, blueberries, pumpkin, carrots, meat and dairy products (both cattle and poultry). With a population of around 225,000 inhabitants, it produces agricultural products able to feed nearly 500.000 citizens. Its closest major urban area is Springfield, and is less than two hours away from Worcester and Boston.20 The map on the next page highlights the Pioneer Valley Mezzo Region in the context of Massachusetts, displaying a set of nodes that could eventually become long-term customers for the cluster given their inherent interest in locally sourced procurement, and promoting healthier lifestyles. Such institutions could serve as anchors to facilitate the success of the project in its early stages, including: educational institutions, healthcare centers and hospitals, research and higher education centers, and public institutions. By enhancing a long-term cropland growth strategy, the Pioneer Valley Mezzo Region could raise its production levels, from the current ability to feed around 520,000 inhabitants to nearly 1 million inhabitants. The studio project proposes that equivalent processes in the other two Massachusetts based Mezzo Regions could boost food self-sufficiency levels from 32% to over 60%. The proximity of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and its Food Research center offers plenty of opportunities to develop joint research and innovation ventures between the Aretian cluster and the university.21

Capital investment estimates for the Pioneer Valley Aretian cluster prototype.

With an capital investment budget of 50 million dollars, a ratio of 40% equity to 60% debt, and a construction phase of around 2 years, this proposal estimates that after roughly 4 years the cluster would reach a break-even point. The Pioneer Valley facility would become a major disruption in the Food System production scene and introduce a new type of business model and community building center. In terms of investment prioritization, the facilities are most able to impact the meat processing supply chain. Composed of animal feeding, animal slaughtering, cold storage, packaging and labeling. This first step could deeply transform the business model for livestock farmers in the region, and help support the fruit and vegetable processing campuses.



Aretian Agricultural Foundation


Potential future impact Strategic location for the Pioneer Valley Aretian Agricultural cluster within the Franklin and Hampshire counties.

The Aretian Agricultural Foundation has the potential to become a platform for small and mid scale farmers to access the tools, facilities, and business and educational programs to more effectively run their farms. As the foundation develops and expands into new regions and territories, the platform will evolve into a complex infrastructure supporting a system of localized food production. An established network of clusters has the potential to strengthen communities by bringing factory, service, and transportation jobs to rural and urban communities. The Mezzo Region branding campaign will create a clear identity for the promotion and sale of food products and brands, which communities will be able to take pride in through their enhanced product sophistication. Consumers of the regional brands will be supporting their local community and eating food which is held to a high quality standard. Costs will be kept low due to a vertically integrated supply chain as well as long term purchasing agreements to give farmers the security to invest in proper farming practices. Major customer relationships will be built with institutions including public schools, universities, businesses and hospitals. Restaurants and grocery stores will be able to place orders and support seasonal menu offerings. Eventually, the Aretian Agricultural Foundation will establish its own distribution in cities to give communities more options for purchasing local food. The foundation hopes to shift the gastronomic culture within cities to promote healthy, fresh options at an affordable price. The increase in local food will decentralize food production in the United States and provide a more robust and secure system to feed the countryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s growing population. A closely monitored food production and distribution platform will be able to ensure that farming practices do minimal harm to the environment. The Aretian clusters can contribute to reduce the environmental footprint of greenhouse gases by capturing methane and CO2 emissions generated in animal farming processes. The gases can also produce heat and power to serve the cluster, enabling a more sustainable regional energy system. The network of clusters will also improve the management of scarcity of high quality soil, by facilitating land acquisition that improves food selfsufficiency in the US Northeast. The Aretian Agricultural Foundation presents a vision for healthy and sustainable future for food production and consumption in the United States, and the model has the potential to positively impact the social and financial well being of rural and urban communities while supporting sustainable, healthy lifestyles.


Jeremy Burke’s interest in creating and building new products began with his studies as a design student at Cornell University’s Bachelor of Architecture program. He studied how data can inform design languages and traveled throughout Europe and South America sketching the built environment. Upon graduating, he co-founded the design collective Hither Yon in Berlin, Germany and exhibited the group’s collaborative digital and analogue drawings and installations in Torino, Italy, Berlin, Germany, and Copenhagen, Denmark. Jeremy has also worked for Kennedy Violich Architecture, BRU Architects, and Alon Development to design sustainable, smart houses, and large-scale resorts, and modern renovations within historical contexts. His current interests focus on systems design to help cities and industry tackle complex problems through innovation and new technology to create sustainable communities. Ramon Gras is a civil engineer and city planner from Barcelona, and his early research focused on bridge design, high performance materials, and nanotechnology applications for structural engineering. His thesis at MIT addressed the consolidation problem in air freight transportation by designing an advanced Business Intelligence platform. After working on several major infrastructure projects, Ramon joined Ferrovial’s Innovation office in London, where he led projects at the London Heathrow Airport and the London Underground. Ramon is interested in enhancing innovation around cities, technology and infrastructure, by designing creative and rigorous interdisciplinary solutions to address large, complex challenges facing the cities of the future.


References 1. Margaret Sova McCabe & Joanne Burke, "The New England Food System in 2060: Envisioning Tomorrow's Policy through Today's Assessments," 65 ME. L. REV 549 (2012-2013). 2. 2012 Census of Agricultural Highlights, Small Farms - 88 percent of U.S. farms, 48 percent of farmland, 20 percent of sales, United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. September 2016. Online_Resources/Highlights/SmallFamilyFarms.pdf 3. Mount, P. Agric Hum Values (2012) 29: 107. doi:10.1007/s10460-0119331-0 4. Díez J et al. “Understanding differences in the local food environment across countries: A case study in Madrid (Spain) and Baltimore (USA).” August 2016. US National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health. 5. “MassGIS Data - Land Use (2005),”, June 2009. application-serv/office-of-geographic-information-massgis/datalayers/ lus2005.html 6. Kubi Ackerman et al. The Northeast Regional Food System: Collaborative Strategies to Scale the Production of Higher Quality Food to Promote Healthier People, Communities and Habitats. Tarrytown, NY, April 23, 2014. PDF e-book. 7. “Phylloxera,” Wikipedia, accessed November 11, 2016, https:// 8. The Wine Cathedrals of Terra Alta - Fruit of Union - Symbol of Strength. Tarragona, Spain: Centro Comercial de la Terra Alta, 2017. http://www. 9. Llorens, J. Wine cathedrals: making the most of masonry. "Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Construction materials", Juliol 2013, vol. 166, núm. 6, p. 329-342. 10. Agricultural Marketing Service, “What is a Specialty Crop,” United State Department of Agriculture, June 22, 0217, https://www.ams. 11. Wombold, Lynn. Methodology Statement: 2016 Esri US Business Locations and Business Summary Data. Redlands - California: USA 2016. PDF e-book. 12. “Earl Butz,” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, June 22, 2017. https:// 13. “MassGIS Data - Land Use (2005),”, June 2009. application-serv/office-of-geographic-information-massgis/datalayers/ lus2005.html 14. 2012 Census of Agricultural Highlights, Small Farms - 88 percent of U.S. farms, 48 percent of farmland, 20 percent of sales, United States Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. September 2016. Online_Resources/Highlights/SmallFamilyFarms.pdf 15. Wombold, Lynn. Methodology Statement: 2016 Esri US Business Locations and Business Summary Data. Redlands - California: USA 2016. PDF e-book. 16. Mike Hammond - Pacific Market Category Manager - Sysco Corporation, Interview, November 21, 2016. 17. Wombold, Lynn. Methodology Statement: 2016 Esri US Business Locations and Business Summary Data. Redlands - California: USA 2016. PDF e-book. 18. Wombold, Lynn. Methodology Statement: 2016 Esri US Business

Aretian Agricultural Foundation


Locations and Business Summary Data. Redlands - California: USA 2016. PDF e-book. 19. David Holm, Richard Rogers, and Daniel Lass, Food Self-Sufficiency in the New England States, 1975–1997 (Department of Resource Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Massachusetts) accessed on November 13, 2016. publications/studies/pdf/foodself00.pdf. 20. “MassGIS Online Mapping,” Administration and Finance -, accessed November 30, 2016, 21. David Holm, Richard Rogers, and Daniel Lass, Food Self-Sufficiency in the New England States, 1975–1997 (Department of Resource Economics, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Massachusetts) accessed on November 13, 2016. publications/studies/pdf/foodself00.pdf.



Aretian Agricultural Foundation

Woodward Yang How will you focus on creating identity through separating labels? How do you maintain quality: one farmer decides to spray a certain pesticide and one does not spray? Robert Pietrusko This is similar to wine for what is aggregated into an appellation, where to be part of a certain region you need to agree to a certain set of ideals and practices. How do other industries focus on maintaining an identity of a region? Andrew Witt Along with the regulations that each campus will need with specific industry resourcesâ&#x20AC;Ś. There is a question of transportation and infrastructure between slaughterhouse and cold storage. It will change the configuration of each campus and will decide what is private and what is public: what the public sees.




CUISINE CENTER As more and more foreign students go to the US to study, demands increases for a taste of authentic food from back home. This project surveyed Chinese students in the US, and identified problems related to food and culture for foreign students at large. Of more than 10,000 foreign students in Cambridge, few have access to culturally authentic food â&#x20AC;&#x201D; or a space in which to establish a community with other foreign students from different countries. This project proposes a Cuisine Center and an educational Food Lab aimed to serve foreign students. Students can join the center and learn how to cook both authentic food and innovative dishes. The project involves the design of a physical space, a digital interface and a business model. The center is proposed as gathering place: labs and a shared space where students can meet and make friends from different countries. Additionally, a phone and computer app have been designed for students to register for and participate in the center. Both these apps and an embedded AI could help students participate and further enjoy this center. Finally, calculations of expected cost and revenue, as well as the prospective break-even point suggest possibilities to find investors and stakeholders for the center. Peter Fan


Mapping the food system As our very first project in this studio we attempted to map our basic understanding of the food system. And even before we had deeply investigated the issues addressed through this compilation, it became clear that the production of food was complex, layered, and hard to map. The cohort split into groups of 3 and each took a different approach. We mapped the food system as a cycle of energy production and usage, as a confluence of various industrial mechanisms, as a force of culture and social fabric, and also as method of production of consumable goods. Each diagram took a slightly different approach to density and flow of information. Each map managed to tell one part of the story, but it quickly became clear that embedded in any visualization of the food system is an understanding or belief that colors a predisposition of how we view the system, or reflects a desire to highlight a certain view of the system by imagining it abstractly in a particular way. For the first half of the year, I attempted to take these diverse viewpoints of the food system and lay these out in a holistic graphic of how we as a team looked at food. Drawing on the very first exercise, I took a linear rendition and built on top of it. The spine of this diagram presents a view of food as produced from raw materials down through distribution channels and retail, to consumption and post-consumption processes. This product-centric lens fails, however, to communicate the impact of food on other systems and the impact of other systems on itâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;regulation, energy, waste, climate, health, information, finance and culture. And an

An early sketch of the food system, depicted as a largely linear system of production from raw materials to food. Drawn with Brian Ho and Julie Loiland.


Cuisine Center


attempt to make this diagram a more holistic representation of food adds bidirectional relationships between the linear production spine and the systems around it. Another promising approach that became quite imbued in our discussions as we formed our projects was the notion of food as an emblem of energy flow. Or to look at it an opposite way: of the production and management of waste.

A collaborative mapping of the food system by the entire MDE cohort.

Together these diagrams provide a glimpse into a system of immense complexity. And their presentation together is a testament to their own incompleteness. Each of our projects takes a position on what the food system is and what it should be. At the same time, however, we acknowledge that each project is only part of large, complex, networked system. In a sense just as these diagrams went from an effort to completely describe a system to an acknowledgment that this is impossible, our own projects began to address idealistic goals with realistic ambitionâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;change grounded in movable elements. Change that we could believe was possible.


Focusing on foreign students and immigration The maps took our discussions around food and attempted to place them in an abstract picture of the system as a whole. The motivation to develop this work further was to take this idealized abstraction and study how it plays out with real players. To further develop this work, I wanted to study this abstraction in the real world. My initial desire was to investigate more deeply the supply chains of stores and restaurants in Cambridge and Boston, hoping to make this a longer-term study that could help unravel and optimize supply chains. My recent move from China also made the comparison of operations across my home country and my new adopted home very interesting. Separately, I wished to sketch a speculative future of food with current experimental efforts in technology. Especially drawing from the ideas floating around our studio – as we imagine collaborative cooking spaces, new farming technology and industrial architecture, better policy and data-gathering, and consumer aid through smartphones, can we push further the boundaries of technology to imagine experiences with food in the near future? But perhaps the most powerful guiding motivation for the work that followed, became the human impacts of my own recent migration from China to the US. I saw my own desire for food that was closer to what I grew up eating in China, across a large and growing Chinese student body across the US. And certainly these issues are exacerbated when migration affects those of less means and in positions of greater vulnerability. In a simple way this was a question of how to get authentic Chinese food – or authentic foreign food of any origin – to migrants. But this is not just a question of authenticity. Certainly Chinese food itself is a collection of such varied tastes, ingredients and methods that notions of authenticity are not easy to establish. Every location in the world has their own version of Chinese food. Indian food has morphed as it travels across the world, and in the UK has become an integral part of a foreign cuisine. And it is not uncommon to see foreign or diaspora interpretations of cuisines reflexively affecting the original – Chicken Tikka Masala, or fortune cookies, all alien variations then reimported into local gastronomic traditions. It is hard to define a local, or an original. Authenticity is not the real concern. The concern is the sudden loss of food culture, and with it notions of comfort and community. An absence of support to help migrants adapt to new cultures, to take from their own culture and to learn


Cuisine Center


Research Summary To get a sense of current cultural eating habits of Chinese students, I conducted a questionnaire and received over 130 responses from Chinese students from Harvard, MIT, and other Boston-area schools. Below are some of the results from this survey. 你认为中餐在你的餐饮习惯中重要吗? Is Chinese cuisine important in your daily food choices? Yes, I like eating Chinese food No, I prefer Western food I don't really care about what I eat

你住的地方或者学校附近能很容易买到中餐么? Is it easy to get Chinese food near you? Yes No

你在学校能经常吃到中餐吗? How do you usually get Chinese food around school? 8.3%

Eat at the school dining halls


Try to find Chinese food trucks


Go to Chinese restaurants


Buy ingredients from Asian supermarkets and cook

你认为学校有责任为中国或者亚洲同学提供他们想要的吃的吗? Do you think schools should care about Chinese or other Asian students' food preferences? Yes, they should take our preferences into account No, they're just providing whatever they can Well, they've already taken enough advice from us

你觉得需要怎么建议学校去提高他们为学生的餐饮服务? How would you suggest schools improve their service? 43.5%

Provide more Chinese food in dining halls


Let more Chinese food trucks operate on-campus


Hold events to help students cook together and share


to enjoy their host culture. To put the two together, or to keep them separate. To mingle, or to negotiate. In many cases there is no right answer for how migrants should deal with the shock of losing the way they live their life, but we can surely imagine that wherever the transition might lead, it can be made easier. In a sense this not even a question of adaptability or assimilation, it is about human growth. About ability to provide a welcoming environment to migrants so that they live their lives fully. These became the broad goals of an imagined Cuisine Center – to provide access to various food cultures, to offer space and community to share food, to act as a platform for food events that inculcate migrant participation, to help establish a shared culture in diverse populations that brings together food culture from home and host country, and in cases of constrained need to provide access to food when students have limited time, ability and resources.

Data, technology, and customization The design of this cuisine center is built around three themes that cover the use of speculative technology to better understand the constituents of global cuisines, assistive methods for cooking, and to enhance the joy of eating with new modes of social interaction and food recommendations. DATA: Recent advances in machine learning techniques and work in the pure sciences around food provide a new opportunity to understand what sets apart global cuisines. It is easy to imagine analyzing the chemical composition of ingredients across the globe, and their corresponding physical sensations (texture, aroma, flavor). With a historic amount of information now at our hands about social movement, trends, and preferences – including data about eating as found voluntarily shared across the internet – we have the ability to connect a hitherto unknown understanding of human preferences with a new lens to the science of food. This enables a knowledgebase of food, recipes and recommending logic that discovers new connections across global cuisines and ways for us to adapt food to changing tastes, resources and locales. TECHNOLOGY: Work in robotics, home automation, sensing technologies, and low-power computing has enabled the development of kitchen aids that make cooking easier. These include robotic arms and implements of various kinds that can take on individual cooking process or aid with the entire process, or even simple additions such as screens and assistants that can be used to provide information, advice and entertainment while cooking. Some of this is already finding its way into kitchens, with smarter


This diagrams shows the flow of user experience, from the first page of the app. Within the app, students can capture photos while they are participating in the cuisine center, uploading and sharing their photos to a gallery. The app also manages the registration process: before taking part in the cuisine center, students need to set up a cooking group and chat with each other. This creates opportunities for all students to meet new friends and find others with common food interests.

Cuisine Center



The Cuisine Center contains a shared public space and three labs. A customized sofa featuring built-in tables encourages students to meet and talk while eating; U-shape tables in the space also foster conversations. Monitors on the walls show the cooking process and provide assistance to students cooking both authentic foods or innovative foods. Cuisine Center Interior Design

Cuisine Center with Food Labs + Smart App

Cuisine Center with Food Labs + Smart App

Customerized Sofa with Holding Table for Meals

U-shape Table Designed to Taste the Foods Cooked in Authentic and Innovative Food Labs

Cuisine Center with Food Labs+ Smart App

Monitors on the Walls Assisting Student to Cook both Authentic Foods or Innovative Cuisines

Cuisine Center with Food Labs+ Smart App

appliances and voice-controlled computer assistants. Over the next decade or two we are likely to see the kitchen experience change with new technology. CUSTOMIZATION: As we develop a global food knowledge, more personal computing through smaller, more prevalent devices also allows the development of a more personalized understanding of taste. And as we imagine both recommendations of food and recipes and cooking methods, and the development of new kitchen technology, we are also likely to see with them an improvement


Cuisine Center


in the particularity of the help offered by these implements to each specific person. Just as this could mean for effective recommendations of food we might like, it also means better way for migrants to learn about, adapt to and engage with host cultures, and for those that are disadvantaged or disabled in other ways to receive informational and physical help to eat better. These angles are further played out as part of a Food Lab attached to the Cuisine Center, that offers students and others the chance to learn more about food, to cook better, and to experiment with cuisine. The reason for this speculative vision is to address how disparate, yet quickly-developing and intersecting technological developments can be put to good use to address ordinary human problems. This is one particular imagining, and one can imagine many others. But as with any design, this offers a point of agreement and disagreement upon which a new layer of ideas can be laid. The technology offers not just future opportunity, but even elemental benefits such as novelty that can attract initial interaction, and provide a basic interest upon which migrants and natives may engage over an alien food culture. It also helps to create this interaction when individuals lack the means to do so on their own. And in purely mechanical terms it allows for the provision of food and a cooking environment in more convenient ways. The Cuisine Center and its Food Lab are developed through a physical space, a phone application that provides an interface to communicate with the center, its participants and use the corpus of food knowledge, and a preliminary business plan that investigates how this imagination could be realized in financially sustainable

Kun Fan is an engineer who has studied the mechanics of materials and structure, which has given him a solid foundation for future endeavors. He is interested in addressing problems in the context of various economic systems, and finds beauty and potential in computer code for making the impossible possible. He is also an avid maker and editor of videos, and created a documentary about the daily life of Hutong residents in order to educate the public. Additionally, by recording the fabrication process of a nesting KUKA robot design, he helped his team win first prize in all studios at Tsinghua University.



Cuisine Center

Andrew Witt Prioritize and evaluate the different pieces you presented to establish how they connect to each other to solve the problem of authenticity. David Saladik I would like to know what are the Chinese restaurants are in Cambridge and join for the dinner parties to learn about authentic Chinese cuisine. Joshua Bekenstein You represent a significant part of the consumer market. Classify restaurants to a certain community based on authentic taste. From there, you can select and train the restaurant world saying you need to do better.




FARE+SQUARE Eating healthy food is difficult â&#x20AC;&#x201D; all the more so for those shopping on limited budgets. Navigating prices, dietary preferences and time constraints can overwhelm anyone's motivation to eat better. Eating well is often a matter of making good decisions while balancing competing interests, and dependent on getting the right information at the right time. Our response, Fare+Square, is a smartphone app designed to find more health and value in grocery shopping. Zeerak Ahmed, Brian Ho, Terra Moran, Karen Su



Our team had diverse backgrounds spanning art, architecture, computer science, design and engineering — but shared an interest in how food and policy affect people.

Fare+Square is a digital assistant that helps consumers get the best value—money, time, effort, preference, and nutrition—out of every grocery trip. It is essentially a grocery list. Different from a physical list or a less-smart app, however, Fare+Square offers grocery recommendations, expense tracking, personalized spending tips, and location-based notifications. All these features are integrated into a normal grocery trip to feed users relevant and actionable information at the right moments, maximizing utility while minimizing user input. While the assistant can be helpful for all consumers, it is primarily designed to tackle the complexities facing food insecure individuals. At the beginning of this project, we set out toward a dream where everyone could access nutritious food. After exploring food supply chains, we realized that nominal access might not be enough to change long-term habits. After hearing from food insecure individuals, we found that many people want to eat more healthy, but don’t know how to get there. By focusing on the interface of supply and demand, where food purchases are made, we aim to build toward lifestyle overhauls with everyday food choices. Making one purchase easier—cheaper, quicker, more nutritious—is about making good food easier to access. Increasing the equitable access of food is about making every purchase easier, particularly for those that are most disadvantaged.

Looking at supply: how is our food produced? The path to Fare+Square began with trying to understand the current state of food in urban America. The movement of America, and the world, towards urban settlement1 made this study timely, and Boston is a mid-size city that is archetypal of many fastgrowing cities across the country. With a collective interest in food policy, we chose our site based on access to feedback from active players in the city’s food system. To guide our study, we imagined an overarching dream for food in the city, centered on two dimensions of consideration: - The availability and affordability of a nutritious, diverse diet - Environmentally and economically sustainable food production Boston—supported by a progressive citizenry and a particular interest from city government, under former Mayor Thomas Menino and current Mayor Martin Walsh, in the city’s food infrastructure2—is a city closer to this dream than many others. But even in Boston, there is still work to be done.




Our studio’s collective dive into the American food system forced us to confront the realities of industrialized food. The race towards lower consumer prices, and hence reduced costs for production, has driven the food industry into a race for ever-larger scale. We are in the age of mass-produced food, efficiently delivered through huge distribution networks of middlemen and retailers—a system rendered opaque by the sheer untraceability of products as they change form and location through this system.3 As consumers, we struggle to identify all the processes and places our food may have touched before we eat it.4 While a technological obsession with increasing yields has resulted in increased productivity, modern agriculture comes with a cost. Food production can involve toxic chemicals, animal cruelty, massive soil degradation, and colossal amounts of waste—all without public scrutiny or outcry.5 It is clear that the complexity and scale of this food infrastructure are unsustainable. In response to the many issues of size prevalent in the industrialized food system, one major response has been simplified, regionalized, and more transparent food systems—such as the local food movement in Boston. We saw this as the confluence of several concurrent market trends: locally grown food, small farm ownership, a focus on natural and organic growing methods as well as directto-consumer business models. Our engagement with Boston’s food system began with the following questions: will the local food movement cut it? Can the local food movement and derivatives from its principles ensure the availability and affordability of a nutritious, diverse diet for urban populations, and can it ensure environmental and economical sustainability of food production at scale? If it is possible, what must we do to strengthen this infrastructure? If it is not possible, what are the alternative solutions? As we talked with officials in city government and local food producers at farmers markets, it became clear that even at the forefront of a more transparent, natural, local food production lay issues that threatened the dream of a sustainable urban food system. The inherent variability of crop yields intensifies on smallerscale farms, which makes it hard to predict what and how to sell at local farmers markets. Producers often spend much of their time sorting produce to meet arbitrary visual standards that will help them sell. Excess and visually imperfect products are often wasted. And we were surprised to find that many local restaurants buy their supplies at farmers markets just as consumers might. There is no coordinated commercial supply chain linking local farms to the many local food sale operations, beyond a chef walking into the Boston Public Market.


Many values of local food—increased transparency, less chemical use, ethical animal treatment, crop rotation for soil protection, and reduced waste—stem from its small scale.6 Given existing costs of adhering to these standards, producers can’t afford to create a complex supply chain where profits are diluted by middlemen. If they scale up to achieve economies of scale, then local food will naturally fall into the many trappings of industrialized food. But without scaling up, the higher prices and limited accessibility of local foods place them beyond the reach of many consumers and local restaurants.7 Some nutritional assistance programs such as SNAP, more commonly known as food stamps, can be used at farmers markets.8 But often overlooked issues make local food purchases non-trivial. For budget-constrained consumers, it can be hard to tell whether SNAP is accepted, awkward to ask for prices of unmarked products, cumbersome to make special trips to local food markets, and risky to try local produce that they don’t know how to cook. Local governments can sometimes put out additional benefits. Boston's Bounty Bucks program, for example, doubled SNAP value for fresh fruits and vegetables.9 But these extra incentives are unknown to most consumers and are only useful if you can find a farmers market to use them at, which is often not the case. These are complex, systemic issues with multiple players affected by policy, economic viability, and consumer trends. It was clear that sustainable solutions required engagement with each level of the local food system. Our initial ideas were attempts to sketch out a future that would make better food production a more sustainable option for American cities. These included infrastructural improvements that would allow local food producers to deal with issues of variability, waste, and market access. Other ideas included communal preservation facilities, turning local produce into a snack service, and building a shared knowledge-base that would allow producers to analyze of past production and consumption trends.

Our first attempt to map out a food system started with a simple value chain that spanned production, processing and consumption.


Our research revealed a complex network with many participants; each additional member of the chain adding to the cost and processing of food.



A review of these ideas revealed an underlying assumption: we believed that people want to eat local, and that they could easily change their habits. Based on this assumption, our ideas focused on the supply chain to increase the appeal of local foodâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; accessibility, affordability, convenienceâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and expose the problems of industrialized food. By optimizing the local food supply chain, we thought we could stimulate a change in demand and eventually a resultant change in the broader industrialized supply chain. Considering consumer choice and habit change, however, exposed many complications. We believed, and continue to believe from our research, that most people do want to eat healthily. But what we end up eating is not simply defined by what we say we want to eat. Our food choices are driven by much more than just that.

Looking at demand: what drives peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eating habits? Poor eating is the biggest contributor to American death and disability.10 Over two thirds of American adults are obese.11 In the last thirty years, childhood obesity has doubled, and adolescent obesity has quadrupled.12 At the same time, nearly 16 million Americans struggle to find their next meal.13 Despite our desires to eat better, our food is, in fact, killing us. Countless sources say that high-fat, high-sugar diets are bad for our health. Yet we continue to make the same fatal food choices.





We mapped the food interface as a system, utilizing a number of metrics to compare the scale of economic activity across processes of food production and consumption.

As visualized in this parallel coordinates diagram â&#x20AC;&#x201D; where the vertical height of each bar measures dollar amounts, and the horizontal courses track specific segments (i.e. local agriculture) â&#x20AC;&#x201D; the greatest value occurs at the interface.


Information alone is clearly not enough to change behavior. We are subject to a much more complex collection of habits that are built around our own preferences, but also through our environment and how we acquire our food. Although food related health issues are gargantuan, their solutions can lie in small everyday decisions. On average, Americans consume more than twice as much sugar than they should.14 A single can of soda contains one and half times the recommended daily value for sugar—cutting out a single can of soda per day would significantly reduce overall consumption. This logic led us to explore ways of improving everyday food choices. Rather than a one-time overhaul, we want to empower people to make incremental movements towards better health—one food choice at a time. Cities contain a confluence of food producers and consumers— and a variety of interactions between them that are influenced by individual preferences, cultural context and the physical environment. This became our lens to finding and addressing barriers that prevent access to healthy food choices: the interface of food. The interface here has two meanings. It describes both the experience and interactions around food, as well as the conceptual intersection of the supply and demand. We explore interfaces where Americans buy their food, and then dig into how this food acquisition occurs. Small, everyday eating decisions lead to long-term consequences for our health and for the ecosystem of food production. Looking at food from the point of decision-making—through the interface, as we like to call it—exposes the nuances that affect many of these decisions. It also helps illuminate why the interfaces are configured the way they are. The point of intervention—to make people healthy, to imagine a sustainable food infrastructure for our cities—had to lie in something that made it easier to make better everyday decisions about what we eat. To explore the nuances of interface problems, we looked more deeply into three specific interfaces in Boston: cafeterias in public schools, nutritional assistance programs, and local food points of sale. Through exploring these three interfaces, we wanted to explore the following questions: How are food habits formed? How are food choices influenced by constraints? And why do some supposedly desirable choices fail to scale?




Boston Public Schools We visited Boston’s public schools, in collaboration with the Education Lab of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. Examining school lunch as an interface reveals an array of complex, overlapping systems behind an ostensibly simple meal. One example was lunch at the Eliot Lower School, located in Boston's North End. As a consequence of deferred maintenance and limited staffing, the school’s original kitchen was removed and replaced with freezer units, refrigerators and a single warming drawer. Like two thirds of schools in BPS, Eliot Lower School receives prepared meals, made in an off-site facility, and reheats these meals for its students at lunchtime. At Eliot, the meals are packaged in plastic and served on paper trays, and their macronutrient content is regulated under the meal pattern requirements of the National School Lunch Program, which

was originally established to offset farm surpluses. Additionally, because 78% of BPS students qualify for reduced-price or free meals, the entire district falls under the USDA’s Community Eligibility Program. This program provides federal reimbursement for all meals served to BPS students. While an important contributor to food security, this benefit has strange implications: schools receive reimbursement for meals served, not eaten. This quirk of regulations incentivizes rigorous tracking of food service but does little to prevent food waste. As a result, even kindergarten students at Eliot must track their lunch by swiping a plastic card—a precocious behavior—in order to record that a meal has been served, while the school is meanwhile unable to afford compost or utilize measures to keep uneaten food from being thrown out.

Lunch at the Eliot Lower School is prepared in a warming drawer and served as a packaged meal.


SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) 15.8 million US households are food insecure.1 This means that approximately one in seven Americans, including one in five children, have limited access to adequate food.2 Food insecurity is a problem across the nation, but is most prevalent in low-income, single parent, and black and Hispanic communities. In an effort to combat food insecurity, the United States Department of Agriculture leads over a dozen federally funded programs to help food insecure individuals access food. SNAP–the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—is by far the largest, costing $70 billion dollars and reaching more than 44 million people in 2016.3 SNAP has broad impact. Positive implications such as healthier and more financially secure communities are easy to recognize, but the program is also thought to provide a larger economic benefit. Studies have found that one of the fastest ways to provide stimulus to an economy is by expanding SNAP; it has been estimated that $1 invested in SNAP generates $1.73 through the economy. The program also creates between 8,900 and 17,000 jobs, and lifts 4.6 million Americans above the poverty line.4 SNAP is commonly criticized as a handout for those who are unemployed and choose not to work. However, the majority (64%) of participants are children, the elderly, or disabled. And SNAP is designed to be a temporary safety net— participants who are able-bodied and do not meet the required work requirements can only be on SNAP for 3 months in 3 years. The majority of SNAP participants

who can work, do work—more than 75% of households that include a person who is able to work has a job in the year before or after receiving SNAP.5 Many view SNAP as non-inclusive. In general, immigrants who have been in the country for less than five years and those with over $3,250 in countable resources (including savings and a car) are ineligible.6 These two constraints alone, not considering other nuanced restrictions within the program, lead to ineligibility for millions of people who are still food insecure. One of the other biggest criticisms of SNAP is its many limitations on purchases. Obvious items, such as tobacco and alcohol, are not allowed. Household items are also not allowed– SNAP dollars can only be used on food. But in addition to this, hot items, or food for consumption in the location of purchased, are also not allowed. This prevents SNAP users from using their dollars at McDonald’s, and also prevents them from buying items like rotisserie chickens. As a result, while SNAP may help pay for a frozen pizza or a box of mac and cheese, it will not help pay for warm food, ready-made meals or gummy vitamins. Despite these issues, SNAP is an extremely far-reaching and impactful program that America depends on. After speaking with both SNAP recipients and those ineligible for SNAP, but still food insecure, it is evident that government programs of this kind require obvious improvements but are a essential to American well-being.




Local Food We talked to local food producers, distributors, and vendors to identify current issues of operating and scaling local food systems. Many local farmers said that because people buy with their eyes, farmers often spend hours visually inspecting every piece of produce to meet aesthetic demands. To avoid diluting their profits, small producers must manage their own marketing and distribution. They’re also subject to seasonality and weather variability: cold New England winters or unexpected droughts change harvests; popular products run out of stock while surpluses go unsold. All of this speaks to the difficulty of maintaining profitable small-scale food production. On the consumer side, local food is often inaccessible to low-income, foodinsecure populations. Local produce at supermarkets is often marked up compared to its industrialized counterparts. Specialty farmer’s markets can also be intimidating for unprepared shoppers, who might lack knowledge about how to prepare unfamiliar ingredients. As one

local vendor observed, “people know they want local, but are not confident about what to get and what to do with it.” Many local vendors and restaurants are interested in serving customers more local foods, but often can’t afford the associated seasonality, variability and cost. Because local farms tend to sell a limited range of products, local restaurants have to source from 30 to 40 different vendors, rather than a few consolidated industrial suppliers. They also have higher labor costs from having to process the ingredients in-house instead of receiving pre-cut vegetables or processed meats. Customers expect consistent, highquality food at low prices, whenever they want it. The local food system must change the association of high cost and with perceived low value, which stems from our separation from and ignorance of our food production process.

Offerings from a local produce seller at Boston Public Market





Through these investigations we highlight some of the troubles with our food interfaces: in schools, kids are forming their food habits through half-frozen, plastic-wrapped foods. At markets, the most financially constrained might find it harder to eat well even if healthy food is nominally accessible. Local foods is difficult to scale in an economically sustainable way and consumers have come to expect the cheap, consistent foods produced through the environmentally unsustainable industrial system. Through the lens of the interface, we explore why the choice architecture at each setting is constructed the way it isâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;revealing opportunities for potential intervention. There are of course a myriad of directions for possible interventions to address problems within these three interfaces. We played around with dozens. Examples include building the minimum viable satellite kitchen installment to provide warm breakfasts, packaging behavioral study results to create a $50 school cafeteria upgrade kit, creating a local food vending machine to increase accessibility and education about local produce, and designing a software assistant to help people shop on food stamps. While these interventions are specific to particular sites, like schools or local farmers markets, each also addresses larger themes. Easier ways to buy healthy food, for example, help not just SNAP participants but all consumers. Looking at food through the interface can help all of us eat better. Our final choice was made to further this goal explicitly. Can we create an intervention that aims to benefit the most constrained in our cities, but can create positive effects for everyone? Can we improve the interface of food to help people make healthier decisions?

Our exploration of food systems considered their disposition in cities: in this case, we mapped USDA-funded free school lunch service across public schools in Boston against SNAP participation rates, revealing an important network for providing food security. Data from BPS and MONUM.


Fare+Square We believe lifestyle changes are built from everyday decisions, which can be improved by delivering the right information at the right time. This led us to the approach of meeting people where they already are—on their phones. Imagine relevant alerts when you walk into a grocery store. Phones could help us provide more immediately actionable and lightweight information than the USDA website or a grocery store coupon book that’s mailed to your house. While our initial concepts included simple services that may be accessible over SMS from feature phones, recent market analyses showed smartphone penetration at extremely high numbers even in low-income brackets in the US.15 In fact, for many low-income customers the smartphone is the only real source of internet access.16 Coupled with the benefits of a smartphone’s processing power and screen real estate, market trends encouraged us to target our desired audience using a smartphone application.

The healthy food vending machine was one of many early ideas that explored how we might rethink the interface of food — in this case, by bringing easily accessible carrots to the public realm.

Building on our thesis of intervening at the point of everyday decision-making, we researched the experience of buying food while on nutritional assistance. We researched by standing at grocery stores and farmers markets, talking to people we knew on food stamps, interviewing food policy makers and market staff that engaged regularly with customers on nutritional assistance, and by utilizing the City of Boston’s focus groups with low income individuals. From these sources we were able to establish a systematic view of purchasing groceries while using nutritional assistance. An ordinary grocery trip for unconstrained individuals likely involves the following steps: use your preferred means of transport (a car likely, or perhaps public transit), travel to a favorite store, choose a number of items that are bought regularly, some new ones if needed or if they pique interest, and pay using card, cash, or maybe a phone. From our interviews we learned that some people make a physical list before they go to a store, some may buy purely based on what they see in the store, and most people fall somewhere in between. Most of those we talked to at local grocery stores did not look at deals or coupons beforehand. This experience is complicated by many more layers when seen through the lens of someone using a nutritional assistance program such as SNAP. To be eligible for SNAP, your combined savings must be less than $3,200 dollars. A vehicle would be included in this calculation, which implies that most of those on SNAP are unlikely to own a car. Most customers on SNAP are hence likely to take public transit, walk, or share a ride with others. This limits where




and when they can go, as well as what and how much they can buy at once. While customers on SNAP have preferred stores, they are more likely to have to go to multiple stores for a week’s worth of groceries. As every dollar on a small budget becomes important, budget-constrained customers might spend more time chasing a good deal out of will or necessity. But if a low income also means they need multiple jobs to make ends meet, this kind of time might be a luxury and they might have to settle for the cheapest, mostcaloric, but not the healthiest options. Budget stores may sell lower-quality items, and hence it may be worth buying different items from different stores. Many cheap food stores may also not sell other non-food household items, and acquiring those items becomes another trip. Once at a store, SNAP users may not so casually look past the coupon booklet. Of the thousands of items at a store, they must determine the prices, applicable deals, and possible payment methods. Different programs have different regulations. Determining which items are eligible for which programs, and what combination of payment methods, nutritional assistance programs, deals, and incentive programs could provide the best value, is a non-trivial task. Being on nutritional assistance implies constraints beyond money. It also means that you likely have less time since you might be working multiple low or minimum wage jobs, perhaps trying to feed a family. And paradoxically that it may take you longer to purchase and prepare food as you plan out payment methods, go to multiple stores, and cook—since ready-made meals are ineligible for SNAP payment. For many customers on SNAP or other programs, questions such as whether it is worth sacrificing an hour with your child to go across town to buy cheaper vegetables, become very real. There is another tragedy still. Most customers believe that healthier food is more expensive in general.17 In part to help counter this notion, local governmental authorities and other bodies at various levels have enacted programs that incentivize the purchase of healthy items such as fresh fruits and vegetables. But these benefits are often unknown in their target audience and therefore go underutilized.

We explored the human experience of grocery, considering the elements that influence and shape the process of shopping. This included—among other things— transportation, coupons and price tags.

By the time these constraints are negotiated, and payment is made across various payment methods (cash, personal cards, various benefit programs), it is easy to imagine why finding better nutrition, let alone sustainably produced nutrition, becomes difficult if these criteria are not front of mind.


Funding Source


Daily Routine


SEBASTIAN 35, SNAP participant for three months


Evaluate if SNAP eligible

Get coupons/ Evaluate deals

Gather documents

Get Shopping Cart/Grocery Bag How will I pay for food?

Apply to SNAP

Where do I go to get it?

What can / should I buy?

When will I go?

How do I get there?

Check scheduling

Wait for feedback

Enroute to/from Work


Resolve disputes Make grocery list

Decide on Store

Enroute to/from School


My own car Receive EBT Balance Separate errand trip

Someoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s car



Sebastian works two jobs, and his children qualify for SNAP, but he does not, so he uses income as well as SNAP benefits to pay for his food. Sebastian has very little free time, and does not spend time planning meals, searching for coupons, etc.

We created user journeys to track the experience of grocery shopping, from planning to actually eating the food. Above is one example, documenting the many decisions that inform transportation and purchase.

Sebastian typically coordinates shopping trips by carpooling with other parents. This leads to less frequent trips, and the timing of the trips and store selection is largely dictated by the availability of others. This coordination is done through a series of text messages and phone calls.

We attempted to notate some of these hurdles into a user journey. This exercise was then repeated for four different personas, each of whom we created to represent the diverse range of our target audience, who have very different constraints and needs. This revealed two takeaways. First, that people shop differently. And that differences in habit are formed in response to personal circumstances, and often optimize for particular preferences and constraints. Second, that once formed, habits are hard to change.18 No one wants to think about whether they really have the optimal grocery route unless they have to. And this relates to why we donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t easily change our diets. And yet, most efforts at a societal scale to affect change in consumer eating habits ask for sweeping changes to how we eat as a whole. USDA guidelines tell us how much protein to eat in comparison to grains and vegetables. Nutritional labels have us constantly comparing to a static 2,000 calorie diet. And while more nuanced educational information, even that tailored to recipients of


Arrive at Store

Food Selection


Food Purchase



Food Use / Storage

BOTTLENECK: Sebastian is very busy, and although he wants to eat healthily to set a good example for his family, he has little time to search for deals and go grocery shopping. For this reason, he plans a few large trips once or twice every few weeks, and carpools with other parents that are part of the community. Time is Sebastianâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s largest constraint, and coordinating shopping trips can make this seemingly more efficient shopping method take more time than it needs. Farmerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Market

Cultural Store

Check Price

Go to Check-out

Grocery Store

Check food quality Corner Store

Do I have too much?

Arrive home


Use coupons/ incentives

Bus Check nutrition

Verify EBT balance

Wholesale (BJ)

How do I get home? Car

Do I have everything I need? Food Pantry

Local church/ community organization

Refrigerate / put food in pantry / freeze or make other special arrangements if necessary.

Check SNAP eligibility


Check ability to transport

Put




SNAP giveaway

Unknown/ unfamiliar Stores

Sebastian is part of a tight-knit cultural community, and many foods for his family can only be found at select stores.

nutritional assistance, exists, it remains inaccessible in the web of bureaucratic web pages. We believed that sustainable change in our eating habits comes from the regular movement towards one better decision every day. For many of us this could mean one less soda, or purchasing a couple of pieces of fruit on our next grocery trip. And for someone on SNAP it could just as easily be saving 20 minutes or $5 a week that might make it easier to eat better, or to eat at all. To create one better decision every day, we need to provide the right information at the right time, presented in an actionable format. Many of the constraints of eating on nutritional assistance are defined by the workings of large political and economic systems that we realized were outside our core area of influence. We were not, for example, finding ways to get more money into food stamps. We were also not in the position to make food cheaper. We are however able to help people get the most out of what they do


have. This could mean making grocery planning more convenient or connecting people to existing funding opportunities like the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP). Does this solve the difficulties of being on nutritional assistance? Hardly. But it makes each trip a little bit easier, and we continued to believe in our thesis that this small improvement would add up to big changes in how we eat. Fare+Square is designed to get the best value out of every grocery trip, with value defined as money, time, effort, preference, and nutrition. This is done via the core function of a grocery list. Users can browse for items and deals on their phones, add specific items to their grocery list, and reference that list as they walk into a store. Different from a physical list or a less smart app, however, the list also shows other items that may be relevant. Some of these recommendations include cheaper alternatives, good deals, and possibly even healthier replacements. In our lifetimes we have witnessed the transformational power of technology on our society. We have seen entire industries obliterated, jobs decommissioned, thousands of moments of our every day life now intermediated with technology that we could only have imagined three decades ago. But technology often reflects a lack of self-awareness in its power to fundamentally alter our lives. And as it enables us to do more than we have ever done before, what is the responsibility of technology in what it chooses to enable us to do? Should technology be blind as long as it gives humans more power? Or does technology help us live fuller lives by choosing to help in effective, unobtrusive ways? Fare+Square is designed under the shadow of these questions. In a world of infinite informational capacity, how can we imagine a pathway to sustainable change by selecting and highlighting the right information? These are the fundamental challenges that a world of connectivity and artificial intelligence faces. We have presented a small position that might help think through this.






Fare+Square is designed to get the best value out of every grocery trip, with an emphasis on simplifying the complexities associated with food insecurity. List interface At its core, the app functions as an intelligent grocery list. Items from specific stores can be explicitly added to the list, which the user can then reference as they walk into that store. But the list also recommends other items that may be relevant. This can include substitute items youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve saved from other stores, good deals you might be interested in, cheaper alternatives, or even healthier replacements. The list aims to foreground important information around food costs and accessibility, enabling users to decide what food purchases might best suit their needs, budget and desire. The list interface was designed to make the inevitably large and complex database of available food items and prices legible. Many grocery store prices, particularly sale prices, are listed in flyers published by major store chains. Some apps leverage this fact to crowdsource price data â&#x20AC;&#x201D; such as Basket, made by the creators of Waze, an app which similarly crowdsources traffic information. But most websites and apps that aggregate price information represent that data as a sea of information, with indecipherable images and labels. Users must know exactly what they want; recommendations become lost in context. In Fare+Square, careful attention was paid to the design of the list, from the broad organization of categories down to the individual item card. List elements in the user interface balance a need to clearly display price, potential nutritional value, availability and other per-item specifics with a need to remain legible at a glance. Most importantly, the list shows only the handful of items relevant to the next trip, thereby limiting the volume of presented information.



Browse I

Search & Browse The focus on reducing or simplifying user interaction extends to the app’s search and browse features. Both browse and search return dynamic results, finding best matches for the desired food items, alongside suggested related items. Navigation through the search and browse features a minimal series of screens — allowing users to quickly find and add items to their list, while quickly understanding the cost, nutrition and availability of those items. Fare+Square accommodates a wide range of shopping styles, from the creation of exhaustively detailed lists to intelligent automation of assembling suggested food purchases.

Browse II

Purchase Fare+Square simplifies the interaction of buying groceries. Payments can be made directly through the app, with users linking their credit card, bank account or EBT balance. The app’s payment screen may be accessed to show a QR code, which can be scanned at the checkout counter to receive an itemized receipt. This payment mechanism design requires a point-of-sale terminal upgrade, which is technically feasible but requires coordination with grocery stores. Fare+Square’s payment flow directly addresses a difficulty with SNAP and other benefit programs: the need to sequence which items are purchased under what benefit program to maximize overall value. Fare+Square automates



Budget Management I

Budget Management II

this process: assigning eligible purchases to the appropriate payment methods and alerting users when they can optimize for upcoming deals. If users are running low on SNAP credits but trying to purchase chips, for example, Fare+Square might prompt them to save their remaining SNAP credits to double the value at a farmerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s market. This comprehensive payment system could eventually connect to online services for ordering of groceries, which could be delivered or picked up in a store or at home. Grocery delivery to the home requires changes to logistics and retail infrastructure. Fare+Square is nevertheless designed and positioned to adapt as the industries and consumer demand evolves.



Onboarding In order to provide recommendations that are customized and most helpful to individual users, on first launch the app asks a set of questions. This process is designed to take minimal user effort but gather the key information important for future use. This includes locations of where the user lives and potentially regularly commutes to (so we can find the closest grocery storesâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;this can of course be approximated with a location near your house, the exact address is not needed), eating goals, and a simplified eligibility questionnaire for nutritional assistance. This ensures that all relevant benefits are known and utilized when possible. All of these steps can be skipped and completed later as well.








Notifications Fare+Square makes grocery shopping easy, with a principle of maximizing utility with minimal use. The app features a notification system that provides actionable information at the right moments. We mapped out the various inputs that influence these recommendations, as seen in the diagram on this page. Fare+Square's recommendation engine offers prompts at

convenient times to notify the user of easy actions to save money, time, and effort. This can include a sale on the route home from work or a weekly farmerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s market where you can apply a benefit that may have otherwise gone unused. Fare+Square can operate almost entirely through notifications, providing concrete benefit while also reducing time spent within the app itself.


Userâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s list

Search results

Gamification Fare+Squareâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s design also uses payment as a means to incentivize healthier eating habits. With every payment made or receipt added, purchased items are tallied up and assigned badges that correspond to categories of better eating choices. Certain categories of badge can be specifically selected during the appâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s onboarding experience as explicit diet goals. Reflecting major categories of improved eating that apply to all users, the badges serve as a mechanism for positive reinforcement. Collection of these badges at every purchase provides ongoing reward to encourage better eating.



Simulation We employed simulation to design Fare+Square at the scale of a system. While Fare+Square exists for individuals as a digital interface that improves the experience of grocery shopping, it operates as a whole to improve service delivery for nutritional assistance programs and increase food access. We designed the interface through wireframes, iterations and user testing. The notification system, however, depends on geographic features and the activity of multiple users over timeâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;aspects which cannot be readily tested through visual design. By implementing an agent-based simulation model, we were able to produce a proof of concept for Fare+Squareâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s intended impact on food systems. The simulation is built on simple rules intended to represent a population of consumers and local grocery stores. Grocery stores are randomly placed within a street grid, with each store



categorized as featuring a particular food item or type. Consumers are generated as individual agents within the simulation, moving from a unique origin to a unique destination. Each consumer has an interest in one food item or type. Fare+Square notifies consumers of the availability food items or types at grocery stores, provided those stores are within an appropriate range of the consumer and the food item or type matches consumer interest. Successful notification of consumers about food availability causes a consumer to leave their path and go to the store, increasing food access. The continual performance of Fare+Square can be visualized in the simulation through shading of the street grid, represent levels of food access for a particular area. The simulation also allows for basic interactions, demonstrating that customizing the notification area for specific stores can better direct the impact of Fare+Square.


Brainstorming sessions and research trips. Sketches and early wireframes.




Zeerak Ahmed’s liberal arts education allowed him to make good on a childhood dream to build software while branching out into other interests, including politics, Islam and Near Eastern studies, and sociology. He graduated with a B.S.E. in Computer Science, Public Policy, and International Affairs, and has worked at Microsoft on the design and usage of search products. He aims to study and create methodologies and standards of process that result in better design and use of technology in the public domain. In his spare time, he plays folk rock and writes about politics, design, and pop music.

Brian Ho is an interdisciplinary designer working at the intersection of society, technology and the built environment. He believes design creates joy, community and justice; he loves cities, infrastructure and interfaces. Brian studied architecture at Columbia GSAPP and majored in architecture at Yale University. In professional practice, Brian has collaborated on the development of services, software, buildings and plans in Boston, SF, NYC and NOLA — with a particular focus on design as it relates to the public realm. At Harvard, his studies focus on combining machine intelligence, urban systems and human-centered design. Brian hopes to build better intelligent and interactive systems across the physical and digital.

Terra Moran began her studies in architecture, but switched to mechanical engineering to foster a better understanding of the workings of our physical world. Her studies focused on material science and energy-efficient design, and after a year of experience with a neuroscience research engineering company, she worked for a little over two years as both a materials and a mechanical engineer for a major energy company, utilizing technical-based engineering assessments to provide recommendations and designs for safe and reliable operations. Her ongoing passion for design and problem solving led her to the MDE, where she aims to explore how new materials and manufacturing processes can be used to design accessible solutions to complex, human-centered problems. Born in Western Canada, she has spent the majority of her time in the mountains, and alpine ski raced competitively for many years. Karen Su has a background in software design. In college, she studied computer science to create functionality, visual art to understand style, and philosophy to structure logic. Through internships, she explored each stage of the software development lifecycle—from full-stack web development to user experience design to marketing. Karen worked as a product manager then lead product designer for two startups in San Francisco, where she became increasing interested in the philosophy of technology within today’s data deluge. She joined the MDE program to explore the applications and limitations of software in building ethical, sustainable systems. Growing up in Beijing, Hong Kong, and Boston, Karen enjoys learning about new cultures and identifying common sociological patterns.


References 1. Heilig, Gerhard K. “World urbanization prospects: the 2011 revision.” United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Population Division, Population Estimates and Projections Section, New York (2012). 2. “Food Initiatives.” City of Boston. March 10, 2017. departments/food-initiatives. 3. Norwich BioScience Institutes. (2012, June 1). "Why is it so difficult to trace the origins of food poisoning outbreaks?" ScienceDaily. www. 4. Duffy, Rachel, Andrew Fearne, and Victoria Healing. “Reconnection in the UK food chain: Bridging the communication gap between food producers and consumers.” British Food Journal 107, no. 1 (2005): 17-33. 5. “Industrial Agriculture.” Union of Concerned Scientists. http://www. industrial-agriculture. 6. Mount, Phil. “Growing local food: scale and local food systems governance.” Agriculture and Human Values 29, no. 1 (2012): 107-121. 7. Hinrichs, Clare, and Kathy S. Kremer. “Social inclusion in a Midwest local food system project.” Journal of Poverty 6, no. 1 (2002): 65-90. 8. King, Melissa, Sujata Dixit-Joshi, Keith MacAllum, Michael Steketee, and Stephen Leard. Farmers Market Incentive Provider Study. Prepared by Westat, Inc. For the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, March 2014. Available online at www.fns.usda. gov/research-and-analysis 9. “Healthy Incentive Program.” June 26, 2017. www. 10. Murray, Christopher JL, Jerry Abraham, Mohammed K. Ali, Miriam Alvarado, Charles Atkinson, Larry M. Baddour, David H. Bartels et al. “The state of US health, 1990-2010: burden of diseases, injuries, and risk factors.” Jama 310, no. 6 (2013): 591-606. 11. Ogden, Cynthia L., Margaret D. Carroll, Cheryl D. Fryar, and Katherine M. Flegal. Prevalence of obesity among adults and youth: United States, 2011-2014. US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, 2015. 12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey Data. Hyattsville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” 13. Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Matthew P. Rabbitt, Christian A. Gregory, and Anita Singh. Household Food Security in the United States in 2015, ERR-215, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, September 2016. 14. USDA Sugar and Sweeteners Yearbook Table, data-products/sugar-and-sweeteners-yearbook-tables/ 15. Smith, Aaron, and Dana Page. “The smartphone difference.” Pew Research Center (2015). 16. Horrigan, John, and Maeve Duggan. “Home Broadband 2015.” Pew Research Center (2015). 17. Haws, Kelly L., Rebecca Walker Reczek, and Kevin L. Sample. “Healthy Diets Make Empty Wallets: The Healthy = Expensive Intuition.” Journal of Consumer Research 43, no. 6 (2016): 992-1007. 18. National Research Council. “The problem of changing food habits.” (1943).

References for Visualization 1. Annual Calendar Year Tables, Consumer Expenditure Survey 2015, Bureau of Labor Statistics 2. Food Expenditures by Families and Individuals as a Share of Disposable Personal Income, Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture 3. Insecurity: Coleman-Jensen, A., Rabbitt, M. P., Gregory, C., & Singh, A. (2016). Household Food Security in the United States in 2015. USDA ERS. 4. National School Lunch Program Annual Summary Statistics 5. Per Capita Food Expenditures, Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture 6. Sales of Food at Home by Type of Outlet (including sales tax), Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture 7. Sales of Meals and Snacks Away from Home by Type of Outlet, Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture 8. “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).” Food and Nutrition Service. 9. Johnson, B., B. Thorn, B. McGill, A. Suchman, M. Mendelson, K. L. Patlan, B. Freeman, R. Gotlieb, and P. Connor. WIC Participant and Program Characteristics 2012. Prepared by Insight Policy Research under Contract No. AG-3198-C-11-0010. Alexandria, VA: US Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, 2013. References for Sidebars 1. Coleman-Jensen, Alisha, Matthew P. Rabbitt, Christian A. Gregory, and Anita Singh. Household Food Security in the United States in 2015. Report. Economic Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture. 2. “Child Hunger Facts.” Feeding America. Accessed May 14, 2017. child-hunger/child-hunger-fact-sheet.html. 3. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participation and Costs . Report. Food and Nutrition Service, United States Department of Agriculture. USDA, 2017. 4. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participation and Costs. 5. “Understanding SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly Food Stamps.” Feeding America. Accessed May 15, 2017. federal-hunger-relief-programs/supplemental-nutrition-assistanceprogram.html? 6. “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).” Food and Nutrition Service. 2016. Accessed May 15, 2017. https://www.fns.usda. gov/snap/able-bodied-adults-without-dependents-abawds.





Joshua Bekenstein One unintended consequence is if you have a limited amount of dollars in your pockets, is purchasing for more calories. How do those users think about the right purchase and how do you integrate that into your design? Woodward Yang You need to consider additional control and constraints that you impose beyond the dollar amount. You can prescribe a user drinks water instead of soft drinksâ&#x20AC;Ś. You can look at the ratio of the nutrients desired to target budget. Andrew Witt In a more optimistic way, you can use geospecific nudges to declare targets in a certain way, which can be presented in the shopping list. Can this be more dynamic?






MICRO ALGAE With an expected world population of 9.7 billion people by 2050, business as usual is not an op on. Biotechnology will play a major role in the undertaking to feed, fuel and heal all those people in a world threatened by climate change, soil exhaustion and pollution of water resources. The scope of this project lies within the production side of the food chain, with the New England dairy farmer as a focal point. Microalgae production is proposed to close materials loops to make farming more profitable and sustainable. The implementation of algal products in various industries will help in the effort to detoxify the environment and our bodies, reduce livestock methane, antibiotic use and partly replace chemical fertilizer. High-value microalgae products provide an extra source of income, to increase financial stability of local farmers, and simultaneously offset carbon emissions and the costs for algae biomass applications in feed and fertilizer. Within regional agricultural clusters, as proposed by Are an, the costs and benefits of a microalgae production facility can be shared by the community. A case study of a Dutch dairy farm with algae production is used as an example for farms in New England. Nicole Bakker


Sustainable farming in the circular economy Our current linear economy does not take the negative externalities of extraction, production, distribution, usage, and disposal of (often fossil-fuel based) materials into account. The linear economy is the current, prevailing economic system in which natural resources are extracted and used to create products which are then consumed and subsequently disposed as waste, even if they still contain valuable resources.1 • Already visible problems include, but are not limited to: • The dispersion of toxic materials in the environment, which causes air, land and ocean pollution, destruction of natural environments and extinction of endangered species. • The consequences of the release of anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHG), that change the chemical composition of the atmosphere. This results in more frequent climate change induced natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes and droughts, leading to crop failure and food crises. This is already a reality in some parts of the world. • Public health issues following the exposure to air pollution and toxic materials that dissipate into our bodies throughout the food chain and via consumer products. • Unequal distribution of wealth and resources across the globe.2




Environment Specifically within the space of food production, there are a couple of other externalities that can be added to this list. Industrial farming brought many benefits to society, but the current food system ignores that large scale monoculture can lead to desertification and soil depletion. Mega farms in particular cause water tables to drop, which amplifies this process. Another externality is poor animal welfare. Harvest failures due to extreme weather events and droughts are expected to occur more o en. This makes it harder for farmers to provide a continuous supply and create a stable income. Farmers are blamed for imposing threats on the environment, but no holistic solution is provided.

Health In a discussion paper, researchers at Stanford state that climate change is emerging as the ultimate global health crisis.3 Compared to the 1950s, the nutrient levels in our vegetables has been decreased, due to soil depletion and the use chemical fertilizers.4 The antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides and insecticides affect the microbiome, with allergies and food intolerances as a result. Even if a food product makes it to the digestive system of a human body, it is not guaranteed that the nutrients can be absorbed by the gut. The increased sugar consumption is one of the main reasons why obesity and diabetes rates have gone up. Projecting to the future, there are not enough animal protein sources to feed 9.7 billion people in 2050.5 The population growth results in an increasing demand for food, energy, and materials, especially as a result of a growing middle class in developing countries.


Microalgae and a biobased economy In a biobased economy, biomass is used as a raw material for non-food applications in products, chemicals, fuels, electricity and heat. This generates new jobs, improves food safety, and leads to a reduction of greenhouse gases and dependence on non-renewable energy resources. The European Union pledges to develop coherent policy to foster this transition towards 2020.6 Algae can play an important role in this effort, as it can be processed into a multiplicity of products, ranging from biofuels and food to medicines. However, the value and return on investment of each product differs. In this section, applications for fuel, food, medicine, feed and fertilizer are described.

Algae for fuel With evident signals of climate change and the prospect of depleted fossil fuel resources,7 it is essential for nations to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and shift towards renewable energy sources. In 1989, John Perlin eloquently described the central role of wood in Products from micro-algae.




our technological evolution. Trees have been the principal fuel and building material of every society and history has shown repeatedly that without access to affordable energy, civilizations tend to collapse.8 Under president Obama, the United States committed to a GHG reduction of 83% by 2050.9 In addition to solar and wind power, biomass is needed to supply meet this and overcome problems with energy storage and intermittency. First-generation biofuels are made from the agricultural crops corn, wheat, sugarcane, sugar beet, soybeans and oil palm. Those energy crops require a lot of land area, irrigation and energy. Combined with rising global temperatures, this results in more monoculture and desertification. Harvest failures due to extreme weather events and droughts are expected to occur more often. This makes it harder for farmers to provide a continuous supply and create a stable income. These statistics seem to be a no-brainer in favor of algal fuel production. However, the technology is still immature and microalgae contain valuable nutrients. The mere combustion of algae biomass is a waste of energy. Microbial fuel cells (MFC) are more promising and less energy intensive. Oil yield in L/ha. Microalgae oil content is displayed in % by weight in biomass.10

Land area needed in [M ha] for meeting 50% of all transport fuel needs of the United States.


Algae for food Consumer awareness about chemical additives in food products increases and there is a need for more environmental friendly alternatives. Research shows that obesity, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and mental health are directly related to the microbes in the gut. Indigenous cultures utilize the benefits of healthy microbes by embracing the art of fermentation. Why is a healthy gut flora important? • • • • • •

Gut microbes.

Spirulina products.

Algae are already used as food thickener. The most publicly known algae is spirulina, Athrospiris Plantensis. This is used as a food supplement because of: • •




Undernutrition Obesity Diabetes Brain-gut connection Auto-immune system Synthesizes vitamin B-7 (biotin), B-12, and K

• • •

High protein content High in vitamin K, phosphorous, magnesium, calcium, potassium, pantothenic acid (B5), thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), copper, iron, and manganese Anti-inflammatory properties Helps solving malnutrition in developing countries Binds with heavy metals and toxins and removes them from the body

Spirulina will “bind” with heavy metals and other toxins that a person might have ingested or been exposed to. Spirulina will do just the exact same in the environment where it grows. The algae Closterium moniliferium is proposed to be for nuclear cleanup, for example in Fukushima. Therefore, be cautious of the source of the food supplement, especially when it has been grown in open ponds in regions that have been exposed to radiation. To meet to the demand for a healthier food system in which farmers, the environment, and public health are better protected, policy needs to be rethought. In the US, food and medicines are regulated by the FDA. Surprisingly, nutraceuticals e.g. health supplements, fall outside this spectrum and are not regulated. Spirulina is also sold as a food supplement.



Algae for medicine The proposed microalgae production will be for high-value products, such as: • Medicine • Nutraceuticals • High-value food components • Cosmetic products • Bio-based consumer products

Algae cultivation methods: open pond, vertical tubular photobioreactor and flat plate photobioreactor.

Microalgae can be grown in different ways: open ponds and closed systems. The intended end-use of the algal biomass determines what system is most suitable. For example, microalgae production for food and medicines require a closed system, to prevent contamination and maintain high quality.

Open Ponds

Closed Systems

Risk of Contamination



Investment Costs


relatively high

Water Consumption






Biomass Quality



Production Flexibility





Microalgae production process.




Algae for feed Various studies show that feeding macro or microalgae to livestock reduces methane emissions. According to Australian researchers, the specie Asparagopsis taxiformis is most effective, with a methane reduction up to 99% . Animals still have an intuition for the nutrients their bodies need. Traditionally, cows went to the water to graze seaweed. The Ecoferm farm in the Netherlands also reports that after feeding algae, the cows are healthier and need less antibiotics. Another industry that benefits from algae-based feed is aquaculture.

Algae for fertilizer Agricultural runoff of excessive phosphorus, nitrogen, herbicides and pesticides leads to harmful algae blooms. Nutrient overenrichment from human activities can occur when runoff (e.g., from lawns and farmland), wastewater discharges (e.g., from industry and municipalities), and atmospheric deposition supply nutrients at a rate that “overfeeds” the algae that exist normally in the environment. A small percentage of algal species cause harm to humans and the environment through toxin production or excessive growth— these are the harmful algae and they include both microalgae (microscopic, single celled organisms) and macroalgae (seaweeds). Some types of harmful algae produce potent toxins which cause illness or death in humans and marine organisms—fish, seabirds.11 Blue-green algae as fertilizer: • Fixes atmospheric nitrogen to soil • Increases nutrient availability and uptake in soil • Increases shoot and root length of crops • Cost effective relative to chemical fertilizers. In the Dutch province of Friesland, 30% of the carbon emissions comes from the inclining peatland. The rate of inclination is a startling 1 cm per year. Two factors contribute to this: the use of chemical fertilizers and because farmers lower the groundwater levels. The application of blue-green algae fertilizer could mitigate this.


Algae for green house gas capturing The role of algae in the world’s ecosystem. Algae blooms in ocean. Applicable Environment • Fix CO2 and other greenhouse gases • Heavy industry • Electricity generation • Farms • Clean municipal waste water and polluted lakes • Feed for livestock: methane reductions • Natural fertilizer • Bio-fuels • Algae use CO2 as input source. This can be a CCS (Carbon capture and storage) technology

Potential effects of algae blooms.




Algae production on dairy farms The proposed solution is to develop algae production capacity on New England dairy farms, to make sustainable farming competitive with conventional farming. High-value algae products for medicines offset the costs for on-farm algae biomass in feed and fertilizer. The farm can benefit from algae as a carbon dioxide fixer, water purifier and downstream production capacity for food components, animal feed and effective health supplements. The production of microalgae will be promoted to offset carbon emissions, reduce livestock methane, antibiotic use and partly replace chemical fertilizer. Dairy farms with anaerobic digesters are taken as a starting point for this project for two reasons. First, there are already a couple of success stories from dairy farmers who implemented on-farm algae cultivation. Second, with an anaerobic digester it is possible to feed into a combined heat and power (CHP) generator.

Integration of algae into the dairy farm.


A vision for the food system The farm as asset. Closing loops on a local level. Connected to the global. Circular economy. Offer a solution that is not only better for the environment, but also for the farmer. Projection of future, next steps. Design philosophy: bio-regenerative design. Regeneration noun re路gen路er路a路tion 1. Renewal or restoration of a body, bodily part, or biological system (as a forest) after injury or as a normal process 2. Utilization by special devices of heat or other products that would ordinarily be lost 3. Spiritual renewal or revival

A change in mindset / A different way of thinking / A new social contract is needed to. Long-term strategy over instant gratification. Biodiversity protects natural ecosystems from collapsing. The same principle applies to economic investments; diversification provides a safety net. Why would we bet on one horse when it comes to food production?




Case Study: Ecoferm There are a handful of farmers in the Netherlands that embrace on-farm algae production. Partly because of government incentives and favorable tax policies, but there is also an intrinsic motivation of agribusinesses to make their farm more sustainable. Despite still being in its technological infancy, microalgae can be used to close loops with existing material flows on a farm. The symbiosis results in waste becoming energy for another process. However, the challenge is that algae technology is still expensive and an immature industry. For a successful implementation in the United States, a financially self-sustaining solution needs to be developed. Farmers canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t rely on subsidies available in European countries, to make up for the high investment costs. In Ecofermâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s circular farm system, the liquid and solid waste streams become input for other processes. Liquid waste is collected and the nitrogen is used as feedstock for algae and duckweed pond. Algae and duckweed are used as a feedstock for cattle, which improves their intestinal health and increases milk production. The local production of feed saves 9,000 kg (almost 20,000 lbs) of soy feed, thereby significantly reducing the CO2 emissions of transportation.

Ecoferm as a circular farm system.

Solid waste is collected separately and fed into an anaerobic manure digester, together with other agricultural waste. The biogas is used in combination with a combined heat and power (CHP) plant to generate electricity and heat for the farm. The surplus of electricity is transported to 200 surrounding households and supplies heat for 140 households.

CHARACTERISTICS 5 km of algae tubes Anaerobic manure digester 15,000 kg algae production Saves 9,000 kg soy feed (is also less transportation) OUTPUTS Electricity for 200 households, heat for 140 households Reduction in antibiotics + fertilizer Methane reduction: 80% Ammonia reduction: 50% CO2 footprint reduction: 22%12


Algae Art In Conant Hall, a graduate dormitory built in 1899, right across the street from Maxwell Dworkin, I met a postdoc who studies the day and night rhythm of cyanobacteria. First, I had no idea what that was. Later I figured that the blue-green algae spirulina are also cyanobacteria. As our friendship evolved, my curiosity grew to what happens in biology labs. When I finally realized that she was working with algae, she invited me to play around with some discarded algae from finished experiments. I started drawing on a couple of plates and after 5 days of incubation, the design of the GSD logo, MDE letters and a landscape became visible.

Experiments with algae in the lab.




Results from experiment with algae.

Algae-yogurt Fermentation Experiment The Design Studio project triggered my curiosity to do some experiments with algae. Because I wanted to get a feeling of how it is like to grow algae, and to see how hard it is to make a product out of it, I decided to purchase a Spirulina starter kit and grow them myself. During the semester, I learned that dairy farmers in the northeast are struggling to compete with farmers in the midwest. Under supervision of Pia Sörensen, lecturer on the immensely popular class The Science of Cooking, I started to explore the idea to combine spirulina with milk. Within the undergraduate class Food Fermentation and Flavor Molecules I got the support to do the experiments. It was not easy to cultivate the spirulina,

they were like very demanding ‘babies’ that needed constant attention. At some point, I had to remove them from the lab because they ran out of space. I was too attached to them to throw them away, so I decided to build a mini-lab in my dorm. During the three weeks of the experiment, the algae even kept me awake at night. The setup consisted of a shaking table, with a magnet spinning around to keep the spirulina going, a lamp to provide enough UV light and a surrounding construction with chairs, pillows and towels to block the light as much as possible. The magnet made a lot of noise, that could easily be heard from the corridor. I’m still not sure if this was completely legal, but it was a lot of fun and worth the experience!


A Personal Note Shortly after being admitted to the MDE, the topic of the year-long Design Studio was revealed: the food system. Not quite what I expected, nor my field of expertise. I’m born and raised in Friesland, an agricultural province in the northern part of the Netherlands. The first question people from the ‘big cities’ always ask is: ‘Oh, you’re from Friesland. So… do you have cows?’ Well, no. But as a child, I was a proud member of the local bird scouting club, built many tree huts and crossed pastures by jumping over ditches with a traditional wooden pole. Sometimes, this brave endeavor ended with an unfortunate dive in the - with duckweed and algae covered - water. Later, I grew my own herbs, occasionally milked cows, drove a tractor, witnessed the delivery of a foal and saved lives of dying sheep lying upside down in the pasture. Little did I know about large-scale food production. It was just there. This year’s MDE journey opened my eyes to the implications of our current farming practices on the environment and our health. It’s been a year of dis-covery: unveiling common biases and misconceptions, and expanding knowledge about the broader food ecosystem. While I was very healthy during childhood, a stressful and traumatic period in my early twenties was followed by a subsequent struggle with many medical problems. I suddenly developed migraine, gluten and lactose intolerance, fainted after eating sugarrich fruits and drinks and had a couple of other symptoms. From the outside I seemed okay, but I was suffering severely. I could barely eat anything. My doctor diagnosed IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome – and referenced me to

a nutritionist. She concluded, ‘Wow, you eat so healthy. Everyone should take you as an example.’ That was it. I tried many, many diets, but the pain didn’t go away. Then I started reading about holistic approaches to cure health problems, in which authors state that the mind is capable of creating and alleviating pain in the body. Although I believe that there is a source of truth in it, I felt it was not the full explanation. I continued to read alternative health care books and did some, very unscientific, Google research over the years. I found that the bacteria in your gut are not only capable of influencing physical wellbeing, but also affect mental health and alter behavior. Surprisingly, the guest lecture of dr. Joshua Korzenik summarized exactly what I learned over the years. A microbiome that is out of balance, for example after taking antibiotics that wipe out all good bacteria and make the path free for an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria, can cause diabetes, obesity and depression. The scientific community isn’t quite sure whether there are more bacteria in your gut than cells in your body, but the overall agreement is that bacteria have a larger impact on our health than previously thought. With shocking numbers about obesity and diabetes rates in the US, my interest in the microbial world was born. This also ties into the smart strategy to link public health consequences to climate change [paper from Medical School]. I took an undergraduate class on food fermentation and gave acupuncture a try. Within a year, I restored my health. A true gift I didn’t expect to receive during the MDE.




Nicole Bakker is a structural engineer from the Netherlands whose book on the integration of photovoltaics in historical built environments led to government-funded research to provide visions and a framework for policy that is now implemented. She works for the Community Biotechnology Initiative at the MIT Media Lab and combines biology, engineering and design to create bio-based building materials. As a Fulbright scholar, she feels a responsibility to foster collaboration between the US and EU to accelerate the process towards a global circular economy. In her free time, Nicole enjoys figure skating, writes poetry and dances Argentine tango.

References 1. Technopolis. (2016). Regulatory barriers for the Circular Economy. Retrieved from http://www. -economy-accepted_HIres.pdf 2. Geiser, K. (2001). Materials Matter. Towards a Sustainable Materials Policy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. 3. Burke, K.S., Walsh, D.C. & Barry, M. (2016). Health: The Human Face of Climate Change. Perspective and Recommendations for the Next U.S. President. Stanford, CA: Stanford University via: https:// 4 Scientific American (2016). Dirt Poor: Have Fruits and Vegetables Become Less Nutritious? Via: 5 Nations, United. "World Population Prospects, the 2015 Revision." 2015. 6 Commission, European. "Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe." Industrial Biotechnology 8, no. 2. 2012. 7 Hansen, James E. Storms of My Grandchildren : The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to save Humanity. 1st U.S. ed. New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2009. 8 Perlin, John. A Forest Journey : The Role of Wood in the Development of Civilization. 1st ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1989. 9 The White House, U.S. Climate Action Report 2010. This document is not accessible anymore. In addition, the Trump administration withdrew from the Paris Agreement. 10 Chisti, Yusuf. Biodiesel from microalgae. Biotechnology Advances. Volume 25, Issue 3, MayJune2007, Pages 294-306. 2007. 11 Archer, David. The Long Thaw : How Humans Are Changing the next 100,000 Years of Earth's Climate. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2009. 12 De Wilt. "Biorefinery for Food & Fuels & Materials." Conference. 2015.


Martin Bechthold The first strategy is to feed 9.2 billion people: is this the starting point, and can you make the case this will increase productivity, or is it a proposal for economic viability? Andrew Witt The insight into the collateral benefits of algae was a revelation. The challenge for you is how best to leverage this insight? What touchpoints in the system can you activate?




SAM I AM Systems Approach Methodology to Integrated Agricultural Metric The project presents a collaborative methodology for strategizing— creating a holistic metric library and a schematic of the dashboard for stakeholders on different hierarchies of the agricultural systems to interface with the metric-library. During the course of initial research, which involved literature review and systems analysis, a larger underlying phenomena was identified: All stakeholders have limited say in the policies and strategies that ultimately create a concentration of unintended effects at the farmer level. The manifestation of this imbalance is the pandemic of farmer suicide. Specifically, three contexts were identified that involve multiple stakeholders who are working directly with farmers—extension services, government, and NGOs, in the state of Maharashtra, which has the highest incidence of farmer suicide in the world. It was revealed in the stakeholder interviews that there was a lack of interface and uniform metrics across these stakeholders,. Moreover, the language of these systems is not the language of its practitioners. There is no balance of culture, nature, and agriculture. Metrics like GDP are interchangeably used to proxy the well-being of a nation and prioritize policies, because of the use-what-can-be-measured mentality. The current attempts to move to more subjective metrics like the Human Development Indices, Gross National Happiness etc... are in their nascent stage and are too generalized to be implemented to specific agricultural systems. Tracing the link between developmental strategies, which are well-intentioned, but get manifested as unsustainable, exploitative measures, a methodology was developed. Where does the intangible intention get lost? In the evaluation. And that is what we wanted to redesign: giving a weighted voice to each stakeholder—especially the farmer—both in the design and the evaluative process. Chao Gu, Neeti Nayak, Michael Raspuzzi


russet burbank monoculture, koompin farms, id, us

investor 10.14% ROI environmentalist - biodiversity, - ecosystem health extension service curriculum development NGO advocacy bettering labor standards farmer social pressure This is a potato.

An anecdotal introduction When presented with two potatoes and asked to make a judgment call, which one would you say was better? Imagine you are an investor who is choosing to invest in a new agribusiness supporting distribution and processing of potatoes. You compare ROI and you go with a new GM russet potato that will be grown in the United States because it is more promising in its pest resilience, is cheap to grow, and is supported by various subsidies. You take into consideration the standards enforced by the government, complete due diligence, and verify with the agricultural researchers that the pest resilience will make the crop hardier. You distribute the potato seed to your partners and start working on post-harvest planning. Meanwhile, the promise of the potato is marred by an environmental researcher’s claim that the practice of monoculture is affecting the biodiversity in the region, lowering the local population of honey bees, ultimately creating a fragility in support mechanisms of the system. The study is published widely and catches the eyes of a student who decides to start an agricultural extension firm that will educate the farmers in sustainable methods. In response to the researcher’s claims in the region, the new agricultural extension service begins supporting indigenous potato farming using crop rotation in the region to 1) support education of farmers locally and 2) propagate their practices. They claim that this needs to be the future of agriculture. Farmers adopt these practices in hope of earning a premium on the “sustainable” label. They expand their




kufri sinduri crop rotation, west bengal, india

investor 6.73% ROI environmentalist + biodiversity, + ecosystem health extension service curriculum development NGO advocacy poor labor standards farmer strain for labor This is also a potato.

farms, hiring laborers from around the area. But the NGO advocacy groups visit these farms, and they discover the farming practices are adopted with poor labor standards and the abuse of field workers. The lobbying from these groups catches the media’s attention and pressures the authorities for new standards. A new certification emerges from this investigation to fix the problem. These standards light a media frenzy criticizing the region’s potato industry. Small landholder farmers do not recover well from this media blitz: They cannot hire new seasonal labor and an interpersonal strain is put on involved family members. The inability to pay the loans strains the mental health of farmers. There is too much harvest and too much boycotting. Prices plummet. The national government intervenes at the end of the season through pushing the publication of a new policy to shore up falling prices in the commodity markets. At the family level, this situation ultimately precipitates to a decision by the farmer’s daughter that this cannot be her future. She heads to university studying international agricultural development and will work for Logistics and Supply Company post-graduation. “Good!” say some critics—we need fewer farmers, larger farms, and more technology. But rather than having one less future farmer, there is one more stakeholder contributing to adverse effects on the environment: Logistics and Supply Company is currently responsible for overselling pesticides, which is contributing to a larger problem of groundwater pollution.


Defining the problem The anecdote of the potato introduces layers of complexity between stakeholders and levels of decisions inherent to the system of agriculture. It is easy to assign a single-dimensional identity to the multi-dimensional complexity in agriculture. Over time, agricultural systems have been in a state of continuous overhaul. Aggregate measures of any system are reductionist and blind to the holarchy, an interconnectedness of holons which are both part and whole, of these systems. Moreover these measures are used to make decisions and strategies based on the ceteris paribus hypothesis; in reality ceteris is true but the paribus is a myth. As holons, the parts are as dependent on the whole for their essential identity and the whole is dependent on the part. When you look at agriculture and see problems of pollution, monoculturate, constricted supply chains, over-utilization of resources, hunger, illiteracy, farmer suicide, a reductionist mind longs to draw a narrow boundary and say that a specific intervention around a specific problem can solve a specific issue. This is a dangerous sort of a gratification because it is blinding and misleading. Something similar happened in the 1960s: The world was battling with 300 million malnourished people, mainly in developing countries. The problem was scoped as an increased demand for food, so a higher supply was needed, which was achieved with the Green Revolution. The radical success of the Green Revolution was blinding to many as it was merely a topical solution in a dissipative system. Norman Borlaug, American agronomist and father of the Green Revolution, himself noted: â&#x20AC;&#x153;There can be no permanent progress in the battle against hunger until the agencies that fight for increased food production and those that fight for population control unite in a common effort. Fighting alone, they may win temporary skirmishes, but united they can win a decisive and lasting victory to provide food and other amenities of a progressive civilization for the benefit of all mankind.â&#x20AC;? While the solution was necessary for immediate relief, successful interventions for any adaptive system is to use the gains to strengthen other dimensions of the system which caused this problem initially. How is this separated from interventions that are first-aid emergency solutions, to stronger long term measures? The first step is to change the discourse around the system. This means accepting the Heisenbergian nature of the system, whose identity is modified by the stakeholder that approaches it, and also the people analyzing it. This difference of lexicon silos and isolates wellmeaning efforts as well as insidious ones. A portrait of a farmer's instruments in Chandamau.




A solution was to look at this multi-scale multi-dimensional system, analyze it and create proxies at its interfaces, which could then be used as indicators for the stakeholders to make strategies and decisions. The problems we identified then, in summary, were these: 1. Agriculture is a multi-dimensional complex issue, where a decision taken by one stakeholder ripples through the system amplified, and most stakeholders make narrow sighted decisions. 2. There are many intangible values that exist in the practice and with the practitioners of agriculture that get lost due to adherence to ill-made standards.

Tools on the farm in Sagar district, Madhya Pradesh.

In the coming sections, a systems thinking approach is established through the lens of the stakeholders we engaged. Next, we move into potential interventions and the process for decision making and metrics. At the end, our deliverables are discussed: a metric library, a dashboard, and a user manual which are localized solutions for various stakeholders.





Tracing through the value chain and taking a systems view of the agriculture cycle reveals three problems: 1) there is a lack of recognition of the intangible and different levers that exist within the system because no one stakeholder has or is responsible for a holistic view; 2) these isolated stakeholders do not interact with each other; 3) some stakeholders do not get much of any say in decisions that affect their own lives. These marginalized stakeholders are usually at the bottom of the supply chain where all of the unintended consequences get concentrated. The stakeholders that get a say are typically are the affluent ones at a tertiary level, indirectly involved with the happenings of the farm, and the strategies that are created are based on their imposed understanding of the system. Once these well-intentioned strategies are developed, the siloed metrics are used for evaluation. Everyone has their own set of metrics and becomes apathetic to the other. One look at these measurements used in decision making shows there to be different languages which do not come close to relate to each other, such as dietary energy from household expenditure survey (HES, measured in kcal/day per adult equivalent), or percent of requirements versus distribution of selected cultural infrastructures relative to the distribution of the countryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s population in administrative divisions immediately below state level. There is also a major difference in precision. On one side, you have GM seeds which have an entire series of criteria down to the specification in lab and on the other, general happenings of the farmer are speculated by the already quantifiable or generalized proxies. In the former, there is over-quantification for taxonomizing the new, and in the latter, there is too much going unsampled. The voice of the farmer is not used to evaluate the happenings of the farmer, especially because what and who the farmer is, is not the same in two geographies. A consequential problem of this diversity is treating heritage and culture something to only approach with nostalgia rather than looking to create a critical lense to evaluate how to mediate between the indigenous and the industrial.

A collaborative mapping of the food system by the entire MDE cohort.

To begin, preliminary solutions were generated in accordance to the development of the problem statement. We started looking at design interventions around a new curriculum for empowering farmers to develop innovative problem solving skills integrating technology with practices on the farm. Given the disparity in educational opportunities between rural and urban areas, we contemplated the rural/urban divide through a survey we conducted in local Boston farmerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s markets engaging both producers and consumers present. This gap could be bridged through an online platform for online communication.


Farmer Survey

The survey contains six questions:

Through a survey conducted at local Boston farmer markets, the perceptual difference from the rural to the urban and from the producer to the consumer was formalized through a series of short questions and drawing exercises. What does a â&#x20AC;&#x153;farmerâ&#x20AC;? look like in your mind?

1.Describe a farmer in one word / describe you in one word 2. Draw a farmer / draw yourself 3. Draw his/her farm / draw your farm 4. What is your favorite childhood food? 5. How many hours do you think a farmer works in a day and how much are they making per hour? / How big is your farm and how many hours do you work a day? 6. What are your hobbies?

With this question, we designed this exploration to get some first-hand knowledge about what customers think of the makers of their food and what farmers think about themselves.


We visited farmersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; market at Harvard Square, Union Square, and Boston Public Market to collect information. Survey answers were also gathered in India and China through email. We collected 32 surveys from customers and 17 surveys from farmers. These are two samples of surveys we did in Boston. We can see customers tended toward stereotypically antiquated associated objects to describe a farmer,



such as overalls, a pitchfork, a hoe, or a straw hat whereas farmers preferred to express themselves as a single figure with no differentiation. For farmers, their farms are depicted with respect to different details, such as direction, layout, and facilities, whereas customers drew farms more conceptually and abstract as a romantic notion of the landscape. These patterns were repeated in the Indian and Chinese surveys.


At the end of the first round of feedback from the initial ideas, the criticism focused on giving the rural farmer money. Researching perspectives in microfinance revealed a study from Yale’s Innovations for Poverty Action Lab which chose two ways to spend the same amount of money in different poor rural villages in Ghana: The first idea, backed by Dean Karlan, an investment banker and economist, was to disburse micro-loans to Ghanaian farmers in $250 for them to spend as they see fit. The second idea, from Chris Udry, the economist with a peace corps background, tested the viability of new concept of mitigating investment risk through rainfall insurance. The results were surprising: the farmers who were given nothing other than a promise of reimbursement through the insurance, who were supposed to be resource constrained, were able to mobilize financial means to increase expenditures leading to higher productivity. An insight that originated with Udry's time with farmers in past work revealed the palpability of risk aversion among the farmers. In this case, money does not equal money. The quantifiable input does not match the qualitative differences in the outputs. Between the immeasurable and the unmeasured, there is more value than currently assigned. One of the major problems for the stakeholders who need to make a decision revolves around current metrics optimized in terms of maximizing productivity—which means minimizing inputs and maximizing outputs. Between the externalities currently ignored, and a lack of weighing the subjective well-being of the individual, an aggregate of the intangible is absent from this framework, a framework that should extend to all stakeholders. This is not wholly new. Amartya Sen led a research as a response to GDP being the focal point of establishing a nation’s wealth and health: “We are mistaking representations of wealth for wealth itself, our representations of reality with reality itself.” If you do not account for something like the value of family or leisure, then imagine the fate of our country who is obsessed with maximizing outputs. Evolving new indices such as the Human Development Index, and Bhutan’s National Happiness Index, includes the consideration of dimensions of happiness, education, and life, but they are nascent and in their early stages, generalized either in scale or application and not localized, they are contributing to a larger problem: a fifteenth index of metrics does not solve the problem of fourteen other indices that are siloed. An additional set of metrics unconnected to those developed prior further segments the totality of the system from an individual conception of it.




The essential idea was that the intangible subjective parameters are the ones most endangered and sparsely represented in formal maps and discussions. To translate this subjectivity, proxies need to be found that can come closest to the essence of the intended subjectivity. The caveat being that all proxies are correlations and may even lose the correlation in time. Getting to the proxies is the most fundamental step to this process. It ideally needs an intimate interface with the subject. Phone interviews and distance interviews simply do not reveal enough. But keeping circumstances in mind, one can partner up with a surrogate set of eyes i.e. data collection agencies or NGOs. This intimate contact needs to be distilled to a set of appropriate proxies (with respective assumptions listed). This smaller set can then be (or parallely) compared to a larger literature of metrics and indicators to have a holistic understanding. Then an analytic view needs to be taken to decide how to best combine these individual proxies to give a meaningful metric to relevant stakeholders. This collaged metric then needs to be regressed against a variable that is a pain point or a pleasure point (e.g. suicide vs well being). We used suicide measures, because itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the extreme case of the manifestation of the failure of the well-being metrics.


The Rituals A series of rituals were utilized in communicating the intangible (as the representation of the intangible needed to be experienced in order to be measured by the group). From consumptial differences in Soylent and freshly brewed, Indian Chai to an installation of cultural artifacts from every continent, the supplemental form of communication integrated that which could not fit in a digital slide deck or adapted into visual representation.

Feel the chai in your hand. Listen to the chai. Look at the chai. Smell the chai. Taste the chai. Feel the soylent in your hand. Listen to the soylent. Look at the soylent. Smell the soylent. Taste the soylent.



Measuring the intangible, sandwiches.

Quantifying the intangible.






The agricultural metric library We started by reading academic articles, collecting metrics and methodologies for evolving metrics designed by organizations and scholars, and we organized them into a “metric library.” A metaindex was created by aggregating the distinct indices from each paper. To learn how the metrics were structured, visualization tools were utilized to capture various patterns to create parallel comparisons, such as the proportion of categories of metrics in an index to number of metrics within the dimension. A metric system can be roughly described as a four-level hierarchy. The highest level is the main index title, namely what this system is about. The next level is a dimension. Dimensions are the subdivisions from the main level. For example, under agricultural sustainability one can have expenditures, land management, resources, and environmental factors . The third level is a metric. A metric defines what to measure in order to evaluate its dimension. For example, under environmental factors, metrics can be around soil condition, availability of water, annual rainfall, etc.. The last level is a marker. A marker is how you measure the metric. Markers are usually in the format of a question, such as, "What is the annual rainfall?" In this diagram, each black circle represents a paper, with its title written in white. The sectors around the circle represent dimensions of the index. Different colors are associated with different dimensions. The gray or white edge of the sector indicates whether this dimension is further divided into different metrics (gray) or not (white). And the texts surrounding sectors are markers contained within the dimension. From this primary study, a metric system developed by a group of scholars is less comprehensive than the one developed by an organization or a collaboration of organizations (contains less dimensions, use less markers), since a single person always tends to focus on individual interests, whereas organizations try to establish collaboration by putting scholars from different fields on board. Mobilization of resources and availability of time is also a discerning difference. Due to a lack of standardized rules for developing metrics, these indices have their own explanation and scope of usage on the same term in different scenarios. For example, “sustainability” can be defined as a concept of environmental preservation in one paper, but in another it could be extended to social development. Also, the structure of various indices varies as some papers do not categorize all of their markers in well defined metrics.



These indices are unassembled and their markers reassembled to generate the Agriculture Metric Library, which is an index of indices developed from the links between papers. The diagram above documents the process of aggregating the markers. It was generated to reveal the connection between the measurement of the markers. Each semicircle represents a paper. The size of the arc shows the applicable scope of the paper to its connection. The segment of colors shows different dimensions, and the thickness of the arc indicates the size of the index (number of markers). The block beneath the semicircles shows the markers in the library, and its color relates to the dimensions. To measure the similarity between indices, keywords are assigned to every marker. Similarity is measured by calculating the normalized number of key words shared by two papers. The level of sameness between papers is represented by the arc that connects the semicircles. A thicker and darker arc implies a stronger similarity.







From all of the collected papers, markers were selected from specifically relevant topics based on certain criteria, such as the methodology used in research and measurement, framework, system mapping, etc... These markers were aggregated based on their original dimensions. Markers were extensively collected and filtered and condensed for specific locations to reflect specific concerns, due to the uniqueness of an agriculture system in different regions. The context information contains demographic information, geological information, and subjective survey conducted by local organizations. In this specific case, a subjective report offered by a local NGO called Save India Farmers was used. Markers questioning about reported main issues, such as low literacy level, questionable dowry system, addiction to alcohol and drugs, etc., are assigned higher priority for consideration in this localized Agriculture Metric Library. Finally seven dimensions were developed to better reflect the system and markers. Some more intangible markers were proposed by our group to reflect problems revealed by context information that have yet to be addressed by current markers. Questions were developed from proxies for the intangible for the selected region including areas of lifestyle, habit, culture, ritual and religion. For example, in India, agriculture and religion have a very unique bond, so questions such as, “What is the first thing you do before beginning agriculture practice (is it religion related)?” and “Do you have any agriculture related god or goddess?” are prioritized. These markers are marked in black in the graphic as they require further development before being accepted alongside the other markers. To access and utilize the metric library, a dashboard was developed to establish the proper workflow.


The top diagram provides context for how the stakeholders work with the dashboard and metric library. The bottom half is the inner workings of the dashboard.

Dashboard The dashboard is an interface for stakeholders to track their intention, input and output of their strategy, and detect what is missing from their strategy. The purpose of the dashboard is to enhance collaboration between different stakeholders, to unveil missing intangible factors, and to localize the strategy. A case study with a specific stakeholder who works with the farmer was selected to depict our created methodology: Digital Green, a not-for-profit extension service. Digital Green provides a digital platform for information dissemination in multiple countries including India by empowering local communities for content production. The CEO of Digital Green, Rikin Gandhi is one of the stakeholders that we interviewed in the process of our research.




To use the dashboard, first, Gandhi needs to describe some context information, such as company name, size of the company, type, and where he wants to implement the strategy. This context information is used to filter the agriculture metric library for local application. Then, he describes his strategy in terms of selected inputs and expected outputs which are mapped to selected markers from the agricultural metric library. The next step is to weigh each category based on his priorities. One benefit of this procedure is a clarity in mapping and juxtaposing one stakeholder’s entry to another enabling a potential collaboration based on overlapping priorities. After parsing the information, the dashboard will show the missing inputs not considered for the desired results, potential outputs mapped with different weighted inputs, and stakeholders available in the network. Gandhi may think, “I want to invest some money to buy some cameras and distribute to villages so people will have equipment to record video.” On the dashboard, then he needs to search in the metric library, find the marker, “How much do you invest on equipment for information dissemination?” which is drawn from a paper on extension service metrics. On the output side, he may think, “I hope more farmers will adopt the new technology introduced in the videos," or “I want more farmers will join our platform and produce videos.” These intentions will be translated into our metric library as he plans to measure them: “The number of farmers adopt new technology” and “Average attendance per dissemination.” The dashboard will identify the missing inputs of the strategy based on data sets regressed in the modeling of the region. These missing inputs will also be expressed as markers for him to consider. For instance, the missing input could be “How is the internet connection in the region?" “How many hours in average during this season do farmers need to spend working on farm?” These will be filtered by contextual information from other stakeholders, such as local reports, surveys, and previous data measured. By searching to find relevant markers to his desired output, he can re-evaluate his plan and re-distribute his resources. The dashboard will also identify the potential output and present it in the form of markers from the library. For example, in this case, the potential output could be “Is there any documentary record about the local culture?” “Do women have equal rights to access media?” In order to measure the markers, he needs to either consult other related stakeholders to get the data or go to collect data himself. These potential outputs will challenge the stakeholder’s original intention and test assumptions. For example, the first question


could lead to an inclusion of a native culture documentary into the strategy. And second question could alert him to pay attention whether his intervention will cause dispute or enhance inequality. Lastly, the dashboard will indicate the available network in the area through which he can seek potential collaborations. With the agriculture metric library and dashboard, a more holistic view is provided by introducing more intangible aspects in the decision making process and localizing the strategy to better align intention with regional demand of various stakeholders.

Evaluative metrics We have already heard about how a lack of cognizance of the entire stakeholder system and a lack of initiative to empathize with other stakeholders is an obvious problem, but a more insidious problem than the ones discussed is the willingness to let some criteria that is inherently evaluative govern the design. This creates the proverbial one size fits all interventions. Organic farming started as a reaction to the chemical intensive farming in the United States, and the intention behind the movement was the well-being of the agricultural system and the inputs. The standard became popular as the go-to measure for a farmer who wanted to farm sustainably and for the consumer who is interested in sustainability. But now, there are reports of bad labor practices on organic farms, including sexual harassment, mental molestation, and under-payment of laborers through promoting a practice of cupping where the pickers had to overfill and â&#x20AC;&#x153;cupâ&#x20AC;? their buckets, but they only get paid for a bucket. As a new farmer or agribusiness who really cares about sustainability, does one use organic standards, even though it might be environmentally more sustainable to feed your chickens GMO corn seeds from the neighborâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s farm rather than flying them halfway across the country, and to pay their labor minimum wage to pay for expensive inputs? This is how evaluative metrics start driving the initial strategies when they are not recognized for what they are. Even if you give an agribusiness a metric to measure the effect on the culture, sure they will know about the unintended consequences, but they need to be able to control it and measure it in an intentional manner. And so metrics are not enough, they need to be custom made. Therefore, now that we have developed the metric library by aggregating various indices and initiated the development of new markers as well as the dashboard that utilizes




them, we had to also create a user manual to develop a strategy. To evaluate which of these metrics can be used, we prototyped a behavioral experiment where we got a group of eclectic students with appropriate professional backgrounds to serve as stakeholders. Even though the experiment was not statistically significant, we were able to test the hypothesis that we were interested in: 1. Individual stakeholders will tend towards traditional metrics. 2. Collaborative groups will inherently need more subjective metrics not present in any current set of metrics The Results were promising: 1. Individual stakeholders made polarized decisions, and used the more traditional metrics in the library 2. After using our methodology, there was more discussion and more non-traditional subjective metrics integrated into their strategy evaluations The documentation of this strategy exists in each stakeholder creating their roster of targets of change and agents of change and establishing their strategy specific metric library, derived from the bigger library. The process is listed in the user manual. It enumerates how an ideal primary stakeholder should evolve an initial strategy and conduct stakeholder meetings step-by-step to create a collaborative iteration on the strategy to use the metric library. The dashboard is then used to figure out what metrics to use with this custom strategy. The strategy making process exists as a series of steps that are elucidated in the behavior experiment through the example of Digital Greens and the behavioral experiment: 1. Document Mission 2. Invite Stakeholders 3. Select Targets + Agents 4. Create Bargains 5. Assign Metrics


Behavior Experiment The behavioral experiment followed the strategy-making process as it relates to Digital Greens who has hypothetically received a 10M grant to develop a new digital expansion strategy. Rikin Gandhi, CEO of Digital Greens is responsible for the strategy. The strategy making process with the agricultural metric library is coupled with traditional strategy making where it is assumed that you have already worked out the traditional metrics. Gandhi initially works out the basic strategy and the theory of change for his metrics. Traditionally, he would have identified the agents of change (extension agent, mobiles) and the targets of change (farmers) and some other stakeholders that can contribute to his strategy creation and convened with them. However, Gandhi in this case, is employing the user manual for utilization of the agricultural metric library. Once the traditional metrics have been identified, Rikin Gandhi can now move to the methodology. 1.Document mission: At the first step, it is required to review the vision and mission of the organization and the larger goal of the strategy. The logic behind this step is that the intangible intention for most organizations does not carry beyond the vision and mission stage. Then, we establish metrics that measure these intangibles in the first stage. We also establish the rights and duties that Digital Greens is expected to have in the strategy. So if the vision is as shown in the presentation, then it gets sampled by identifying keywords that are associated with subjective metrics in the metric library.

â&#x20AC;&#x153;Our vision is a world where all individuals live a life of dignity. Our mission is to integrate innovative technology with global development efforts to improve human wellbeing.â&#x20AC;? The next step involves mapping the keywords in the mission to specific metrics in the library. Dignity: personal satisfaction, General feeling on standard of living (data from survey), Depression level (data from survey), Satisfaction with occupation (data from survey), Satisfaction with external support (market service, agri-business...) (data from survey). Innovative Technology: information dissemination, Percentage of farmers having knowledge of a specific technology being disseminated by extension system, total number of farmers, number of which had knowledge of a specific technology disseminated by the extension services, number of which applied the technologies suggested by extension services, and number of which were satisfied with the quality of the extension services. Well being: health, Prevalence (percentage) of underweight children under five years of age in rural areas (anthropometric data), Proportion of under-nourished population (data from household budget survey), Average expenditure on alcohol, Amount of farmers who suffer agriculture related illness and disease, Drinking water consumption Life expectancy at birth (years).


Deliberation in the behavior experiment.




2.Invite Stakeholders: Gandhi consults the systems map of the stakeholders that relate to the food system, and invites all of them to participate in a strategy development meeting. Some of these stakeholders exist quite separate from the immediate concerns of the extension services, but they all get invited. This step is important because the gradual ignorance of some stakeholders lead to their complete marginalization. So even though the end consumer is not perceived as a voice in a strategy for a service that gives extension services to farmers, she still gets invited. 3.Select targets and agents: The next step after getting everyone in the same place is to curate the meeting. The stakeholders are introduced to each other. At this point each stakeholder is handed a roster of target of change and agent of change. For example, the environmental researcher needs environmental data from the government available through Digital Green; so the government is an agent for him. He also needs this data to be available to the farmer, and the impact investor, to inform their strategies in accordance to the findings, resulting with each one of them being a target of change for the environmental researcher. 4.Create Bargains: Now, The idea is to make sure that each stakeholder identifies a way in which each other stakeholder can serve as their agent of change, rather than only the ones who can. So, following the previous example, Alberto, the environmental researcher needs to be an agent for the government as much as the government is for him. As he needs the environmental data from the government, the department of standards needs him to work on new food safety regulations. Similarly, the impact investor, Alok needs

to provide infrastructure to the farmer in exchange for the farmer cultivating crops with a high return on investment. This step ensures that each stakeholder gets assigned a responsibility and another organization that they are responsible to. This network of bargains is established and resembles this fully connected network, creating redundancy and answerability. 5.Assign Metrics: Through a conversation with each stakeholder a collaborative strategy is created. Then the metric library and dashboard is employed to identify the applicable metrics. These metrics solidify the strategy because they will carry forward the philosophy of the strategy as evaluation. Before we applied our methodology, it was just the voice of extension service and the ministry. Following the example, the environmental researcher’s concern for government environmental data transfer to farmer and impact investor gets translated in the markers as “Ease of Access to government provided weather/satellite data” and “Frequency of agriculture related workshops or events”. Similarly, combining other stakeholder interests generate a symbiotic strategy with accompanying metrics. The primary stakeholder is not overly burdened by this strategy. In fact there is a host of complementary services which can truly make the strategy take off. And each stakeholder is responsible. The entire strategy is also much more than what an extension service could possibly achieve by itself which is reflected in the evaluative markers. To the right, is a sample set from the chosen collaborative markers, and we can already see that they are much more comprehensive than the traditional ones listed, ranging from “percentage of farmers having knowledge of a specific technology” to “nutritional adequacy.”


Traditional markers How many groups attend the disseminations, Number of videos shown (per day), Number of videos produced (per day), How many farms choose to adopt the technology after dissemination, Average disseminations per day, Average attendance per dissemination, Villages with recent disseminations Collaborative strategy with agricultural metric library Farm management: Collaboration with multiple suppliers, outlets, and fellow farmers, crops planted in polycultures that encourage symbiosis and mutualism Labor: total number of days/persons (rural household members) worked in agriculture, by type of work (paid/ unpaid: permanent/occasional) during a specified period, Information dissemination: Percentage of farmers having knowledge of a specific technology being disseminated by extension system, Health: Nutrient adequacy (percent of requirements for specific nutrients), intake or density



The decentralised character of this strategy-making is inspired by community-based strategy development and preliminary and basic understanding of the principle of managing the commons that Elianor Ostrom analyzed in her work and received a Nobel prize for. This process reapplies her analysis recognising that the system is a collectively owned resource as well and works on strategy to mitigate the tragedy of the commons by recognizing the common intangibles of the system, where the empathy creates effects of collaboration and the resilience of redundant, well connected networks.


This project is meant to be a design intervention for designing and evaluating design interventions. The metric library, the dashboard, and the methodology are the three deliverables that we are introducing as interventions. Some key takeaways from the academic year cohabiting with the project: • Pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable • Encourage the system to run itself. • You are as strong as your weakest link. • Collaborate with the most marginalized sub-systems. • Do not confuse evaluative metrics for design parameters. • Complexity is resilient by itself. It introduces redundancy, which makes it even more so. To apply these interventions, we were awarded the Paul M. Heffernan International Travel Award from the Harvard Graduate School of Design to travel to India over the summer of 2017 to continue to iterate on our metric library in the suicide-prone areas of Bundelkhand. Prospectively, we are also partnering with the Harvard University Office of Sustainability and Dining Services to cooperate in the development of a sustainable fresh and sea-water produce sourcing system.




Summer Fieldwork There were multiple hypotheses in the project that needed to be tested. The problem statement itself, was based on remote interviews, literature review and an institutional understanding of the system. It was therefore important to test our assumptions and possibly prototype our solutions. Concluding the semester, we traveled through identified villages in India, and conducted interviews with farmers. The interview was structured around a survey, which was a sample set from the larger metric library that we had designed, but we also went to each farm to document the texture that we might otherwise miss filtered through the lens of our questions. Some of the questions from the interview were:

•What is your specialty (crop, specific area of medicine, etc.)? •What other products come out of the farm? •What do you do in off-seasons? •How many years does the local school need to support your profession? •What is your favorite part of the day? •What is your favorite meal/recipe? •What’s something you wish you had more of/more help with to do your job better? •Within the last year, what is the farthest you traveled? •And what is the furthest phone call you place? •What is your favorite festival?

Talking to farmers about how they spend their day in Sagar district, Madhya Pradesh.


Being on the land revealed details that were nuanced by the geographical and political boundaries, more than favourite recipes or festivals. Issues differed from lack of water due to overdrawing and planting cash crops in Mhow, Indore, lack of protection from wild animals in the summer season in Chandamau, Sagar and dwindling glacier water due to climate change in Leh Ladakh. We were, however, able to see the juxtaposition of the subjective to objective, not as cleanly as a controlled experiment, but as a complex interlaced thread. The first district that we went to was one of the best performing district, by yield, in a state that had been winning the ‘Best Agricultural Performance’ award for five years running (Madhya Pradesh). The discontent, however, was palpable as we went around talking to individual farmers. There was a severely broken supply chain, a twisted subsidy structure, over-reliance on mono-

A farmer discussing lack of water in Indore district, Madhya Pradesh.

cultured cash crops, sizeable loans and losses incurred, and a lack of community organisation. While farmers there responded to our more subjective questions, we were often met with ridicule for asking those questions against the more quantitative. As we moved on to Northern India, a violent farmer’s revolution broke out in the district we’d been in. In the Northern villages of Leh, while there were issues of lack of infrastructure, declining number of glaciers and lack of technology to store water, the farmers grew mainly for their own consumption and complemented agriculture with tourism. There was perceptibly more satisfaction with their professions. The more subjective here were treated in a more egalitarian fashion. A caveat, our sample set in both the locations was small, much below the threshold for the Central Limit theorem, but enough for us to understand situations on the ground in each of these places.

Farmland in Indore district, Madhya Pradesh.


A farmer's cowshed in Indore district, Madhya Pradesh.


Sorting seeds by size in Sagar district, Madhya Pradesh.

Conducting interviews during a panchayat (village council) Indore district, Madhya Pradesh.



Chao Gu is an structural engineer with additional training in Tongji University’s Innovation and Venture program. He has work experience in architecture construction, project management and building certification. His passion on optimizing design process and automatic construction brings him to the MDE program. He aims to use his knowledge to help design address more demands required by the rapid development of society. He is also interested in game design and cooking.

Neeti Nayak is an engineer who interned with Bharat Dynamics Limited, and worked on an “Intruder Detection System” for a missile integration shelter. She has since worked as a systems engineer with BrahMos Aerospace, where she handled communication protocols, avionics systems, and systems engineering in general. She is particularly interested in intangible heritage (performing arts, language, etc.), problems facing rural Indian communities and grain storage, which led to work on a real-time analysis and alert system for stampede prevention in the Kumbha Mela. A performing artist, she dances and pursues a number of artistic activities.

Michael Raspuzzi is Managing Director of Life Changing Labs, Founder of LCL’s summer startup incubator, Founder of LCS’s global high school entrepreneurship and computer science program, a Lead Thinker at Aesir Lab. His most recent project involves cross cultural experiences centered around and exploration of the gustatory at the Caldwell House. He sees a critical need to address current epistemological questions facing society with interdisciplinarity, rather than segmented methods and answers.

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25. Milbergs, Egils, and Nicholas Vonortas. “Innovation metrics: measurement to insight.” Center for Accelerating Innovation and George Washington University, National Innovation Initiative 21st Century Working Group 22 (2004). 26 “Hubbard, Douglas W. How to Measure Anything :Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business. Hoboken, N.J., John Wiley & Amp; Sons, 2007.“ 27. Croll, Alistair, and Benjamin Yoskovitz. Lean analytics: Use data to build a better startup faster. “ O’Reilly Media, Inc.”, 2013. 28. McGuirk, Helen, Helena Lenihan, and Mark Hart. “Measuring the impact of innovative human capital on small firms’ propensity to innovate.” Research Policy 44.4 (2015): 965-976. 29. Sieger, Philipp, et al. “Measuring the social identity of entrepreneurs: Scale development and international validation.” Journal of Business Venturing 31.5 (2016): 542-572. 30. Putnam, Robert D. “Bowling alone: America’s declining social capital.” Journal of democracy 6.1 (1995): 65-78. 31. Segal, Lydia, and Mark Lehrer. “The conflict of ethos and ethics: A sociological theory of business people’s ethical values.” Journal of business ethics 114.3 (2013): 513-528. 32. Anand, Sudhir, et al. “Human Development Index: Methodology and Measurement.” Human Development Report Office, Occasional Papers, 1994. 33. Helliwell, John, et al. “World Happiness Report 2016, Volume I.” The United Nations, 2016. 34. Dixon, Frank. “Improving unsustainable western economic systems.” Gross National Happiness (2004). 35. UNESCO. “UNESCO Culture for Development Indicators.” United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, 2014. 36. UN. “HDI Technical Notes.” Human Development Report, 2013. 37. Kleinschmit, Jim, et al. “Measuring Success Local Food Systems and the Need for New Indicators.” Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. 2015. 38. Russilo, Aimee, et al. “Linking Farm-Level Measurement Systems to Environmental Sustainability Outcomes: Challenges and Ways Forward.” International Institute for Sustainable Development, 2009. 39. UNDP Human Development Report Office. “Training Material for Producing National Human Development Reports.” 2015 40. Wollenberg, Eva, et al. “Climate Readiness Indicators for Agriculture.” Climate Change Agirculture and Food Security. 2015. 41. Hills, Terry, et al. “A Monitoring Instrument for Resilience.” CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security. 2015 42. Leiter, Timo. “Linking monitoring and evaluation of adaptation to climate change across scales: Avenues and practical approaches.” New Directions for Evaluation 2015.147 (2015): 117-127. 43. Ura, Karma, et al. “GNH Index.” (2012). 44. McGuire, Sean, Stephen Posner, and Hans Haake. “Measuring Prosperity: Maryland’s Genuine Progress Indicator.” Solutions 3.2 (2012): 50-58. 45. Zhen, Lin, and Jayant K. Routray. “Operational indicators for measuring agricultural sustainability in developing countries.” Environmental Management 32.1 (2003): 34-46. 46. Ciaccia, Domenico, and Edoardo Pizzoli. “Tracking Results in Agriculture and Rural Development in Developed Countries: Methodological Issues on a National Accounts Prospective.” 122nd Seminar, February 17-18, 2011, Ancona, Italy. No. 99832. European Association of Agricultural Economists, 2011.




Robert Culver There are an infinite number of externalities. I like what you have done, but as a practitioner, what kind of weighing system can I use? How do I say this is more important than that? Woodward Yang One of the things this methodology does is show where you can agree to disagree in order to advance the conversation around a disagreement of the same area. Andrew Witt This idea of dominant factors of data to collect, for instance when you compare the organizationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s metrics with information dissemination, there is a level of data gathering that is beyond the current model, for which there will need to be a consideration of what dominates the system and what dominates the collection process.




TASTABLE For the past decades, industrial food systems have developed faster and more robust strategies for delivering calories to end-consumers, trading off nourishment for convenience, and extending shelf life but diminishing nutritional content. We live in a hyper-diversified food system where homogeneity of sourcing of nutrition, exacerbated industrial food processing, and frozen food and fast food as a quick and convenient option, take an enormous toll on the health of individuals. Modes of interaction within societal organizations are in an ever increasing transformation. Overall pressures have forced individuals to be immersed in daily activities, pushing out cooking from their agenda and preferring to eat alone. Time pressures and demographics have led to sacrificing the social dimension of eating with devastating consequences in nutritional and environmental aspects. Ngoc Doan, Julie Loiland, Chien-Min Lu, Santiago Mota


Introduction Tastable is a space equipped with fully stocked kitchen nooks and dining spaces located in urban areas. Here, people can come together and cook with the right ingredients, the right equipments and utensils, receive the right assistance throughout the process and at the end share a wholesome meal with other individuals. Tastable is a place where people can come together to cook, eat, learn and socialize. It is a solution at the intersection between nutritional, environmental and social concerns. As a point of union within urban areas, cooking at Tastable is not a dreadful chore but a fun and relaxing activity shared with other community members. When we first started the project, we observed a shift in eating habits in urban areas. Because time is now a luxury, eating out is more common and more often, an individual eats alone in the comfort of an electronic device. We decided to explore the shift and see the cause and effects of this new social norm. The problem of eating alone is not limited in scope to the psychological, sociological and health effects on the individual. As a society too, eating alone precipitates into the larger issues of increased healthcare bills, increased crime and suicide rates and food waste. It is worthwhile to examine the social, nutritional, and environmental aspects of the situation.

Social For the last four decades, the size of the American household has been getting smaller. Between 1975 and 2015, the percentage of single person households grew from 19.5% to 28% 1. This change in demographics drives consumption patterns that are individual-centric. Being pressed for time, the consumer prioritizes convenience. Companies understand their target and have created services where with a click of a button, almost anything can be purchased and delivered to our doorsteps. The anomalies are now the things that you can’t get with this ease. ‘The Lone meal’ is easier and quicker to prepare than shared meals; it involves little or no cooking, and many are bought prepared directly from shops. Meals taken alone are also short-lived—half of them taking less than ten minutes to eat. Nearly half of all meals or snacks are consumed alone whether it be at home, in the car, in a restaurant, or at one’s desk. We were curious about the setting that each meal takes place in and whether there was a variation.




We conducted a survey with over 200 responses where the responders were between the ages of 18 and 36. We found that roughly 85% of breakfasts are eaten alone. For lunch, the percentage was 63% while dinner, traditionally supposed to be the most communal activity was being consumed alone by 54% of the responders. Morning meals are solitary affairs conducted in a hurry—think of early starts due to long commutes, kids who need somehow to be transported to school beforehand, and the staggered work routines, which are often the hallmark of dual-earner families with children. And all of this has to be done before 9. For households without kids, grabbing a cereal bar or skipping breakfast altogether are often preferred. For lunch, more than half of the people eat alone and for the working population, it mostly happens at a desk with their faces and take-out meals illuminated by the blue glow of their computer monitors. The surprising part was that dinner, traditionally a communal activity, barely pulls in a little more than lunch with about half the meals eaten with others. Our hypothesis then was that cooking can be used to repair the torn fabric of the family and society. If we can introduce an intervention at the appropriate meal that people are willing to spend time on, but lack the resources or the energy to bring together people on the same table.

Nutritional Eating together gives an opportunity to de-stress from the day, relax and socialize. But apart from the obvious social capital, nutritionally, when eating with others, you’re more likely to try new foods, obtaining a better mix of vital vitamins and minerals1. Furthermore, it inculcates a habit of mindful eating. The other benefits of shared meals that have been anecdotally passed on, have also been well researched—especially the psychological. Children who eat dinner with their parents 5 or more days a weeks have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, perform better in school, and are closer with their parents2. It’s easier than ever to be fed without having to step into the kitchen. A meal now is more on the line of pulling out a phone, open an app, sorting by rating and distance, filtering the cuisine, picking out what sounds good, adding to the virtual bag, checking out, and waiting for delivery.


Home cooked meals typically contain fewer calories than restaurant meals. Though it does depend on the individual and the food choices they make, a study published online in the journal Public Health Nutrition3, found that those who cooked dinner at home at least six to seven times a week consumed an average of 2,164 calories daily, while those who dined out more, cooking at home no more than once a week, consumed an average of 2,301 calories daily. 145 calories difference is an equivalent of 19 minutes of jogging or 38 minutes of walking. Human societies developed and flourished because we were able to create communities of professional specialists, and cooking is no different. The push lately has been towards yielding the kitchen to the specialist. Over the years, there is a dramatic decrease in the country’s culinary skills from one generation to the next as people opt for the convenience of eating out, or ordering in. From our own survey, we found that the majority of our responders highest cooking knowledge is in googling a recipe. Yet, Americans do want to eat healthier4. The hypothesis, then, is that better cooking skills could result in healthier eating habits. With this acquired knowledge, the threshold required to step into the kitchen and prepare a meal reduces, as does the decision anxiety that comes with infinite permutations on the internet. People can plan meals more easily and prepare meals quicker. Cooking competence is important as it affects self-reliability, nutritional knowledge, dietary behavior and quality, as well as personal health5.

Environmental Each day, Americans waste enough food to fill a football stadium6. 28% of the food waste can be attributed to consumers and the top 3 reasons are: pre or post-meal leftovers, visually/olfactorily unappealing, and misleading labels of “best by” and “sell by”7. Preportioned take outs and restaurant plates especially are not customportioned and lead to both food and energy waste. Cooking for one too creates waste since most food bought in store is prepackaged in bigger bundles than needed. Following recipes can create waste as users don’t know what to do with the leftover ingredients once meal is finished. These ingredients are usually left forgotten in the fridge or pantry. They eventually go bad and are then tossed in the trash can. Labels on food packages of “best by” and “sell by” are misleading since they don’t actually indicate if the food item is edible or not. They are arbitrary numbers put on packages of when the product subjectively tastes the best. Eating alone requires a larger amount of plastic per meal for packaging that ends up in




landfills since only 6% of recyclables actually get recycled. Apart from the consumption side, there are wastes in the supply chain too. 20% of food waste comes from harvesting. This is because the produce needs to meet the standard size of the harvester or packaging machines and imperfections lead to unclaimed harvest because it’s too big to fit into a package or its color is slightly off. Food wastes eventually makes their way into landfills and begins producing methane gas which has 21 times the global warming potential compared to carbon dioxide. Reducing food waste could impact the rate of global warming8. To address the environmental problem, our hypothesis lay both in sourcing produce and education. Since Tastable is envisioned as a community kitchen-cooking academy model, we not only source the ugly produce and the bycatch, but also make the consumer aware of the supply chain and the possibilities of modifying perception, creating demand, which would hopefully reduce the mass rejection of the “ugly”. By giving curated cooking instructions, the idea would be not to teach “gourmet,” but a way to understand nutrition so as to be able to scale it and modify it to custom recipes. Through our initial research and survey, we began to formulate on ways to tackle these issues pertaining to social, nutritional, and environmental concerns. After going through many solutions from digital to physical, we landed on an idea of a space that is a cross between a restaurant and a kitchen where people around the area can come together, meet each other, and create wholesome tasty meals as a part of their daily lives. In order inform our decisions of how the space operates and is laid out, we attended cooking classes, visited different cooking spaces, and conversed with experts in the field.


Survey on Perception of Cooking We conducted a survey to test out a few of our assumptions. We deployed the survey via email lists at Harvard University and posters at public parks and train stations. We received 217 responses within three days with the age group ranging from 18 to 62 years old with the median at 24 years old.

Selected Findings Cooking enjoyment 78% enjoys cooking ranking it at least a 7 on a 1-10 scale Cooking skills 1% none 2% can boil water 67% can follow recipe 30% can cook anything Development of cooking skills 1st from family 2nd from the internet 3rd from friends Cooking intervals per week 12% everyday 36% 4-6 times 48% 1-3 times 4% never Time spent cooking per meal 5% under 10 minutes 12% 10-19 minutes 33% 20-29 minutes 37% 30-59 minutes 8% 1-1.5 hours 5% 1.5-2 hours Reasons 1st 2nd 3rd

for too too too

not cooking busy busy to shop lazy to clean up

Reasons 1st 2nd 3rd

for eating out hang out with friends too busy try new things

How much to spend when eating out 12% less than $10 69% $10-$19 15% $20-$29 3% $30-$49 1% $50-$74 0% $75+

Current eating habits 3% Not happy, and I don't plan to change anything 19% Not happy, but I want to eat better 12% Neutral 49% Satisfied, but I want to eat better 17% Satisfied, but I don't want to change anything Eating breakfast with others per week 7% everyday 4% 4-6 times 22% 1-3 times 67% never Eating lunch with others per week 14% everyday 10% 4-6 times 14% 1-3 times 62% never Eating dinner with others per week 7% everyday 16% 4-6 times 23% 1-3 times 54% never

Takeaways The survey confirms our assumptions and research that people who are currently in their twenties are cooking less, eating out more, and eating those meals alone more with time being the largest motivator. With findings from our surveys and previous research, we set out to create a space that is comfortable to hang out with friends or meet new people that is affordable and quick while providing healthy options where people can have fun cooking their own meals while gathering cooking skills.


A snapshot of the responses.




Boston Public Kitchen

Because one of our goals was to improve cooking skill levels, we decided to take a cooking class at Boston Public Kitchen. Located in the heart of Boston with a great traffic flow around it, the Public Market gathers people from all around. We decided to attend a class to understand if it was able to solve the trifecta of the social-nutritionalenvironmental issues surrounding food that we discovered. We hoped to learn and gain insights on how food education can be taught.

• •

A typical class’ logistics were: Time Sign-in 10 minutes Cook 30 minutes Meal enjoyment 20 minutes Education • Seasonal ingredients and their nutritional benefits • How to reduce waste by knowing which part of an ingredient can be used People

9 people attended but a class can have up to 15 students Many people came with a friend The age average was around 40

Space • Stainless steel appliances • Spacial, lots of room to move around • Well lit with many windows • Movable stations and equipments • One teaching counter equipped with sink • Table-top stations that can be shared with higher amount of students • Communal eating tables Sign-ups and Pricing • Sign-ups for classes can either be done online or in-person • Classes start at an affordable $15 which we later found out that it's because of a subsidy from the Market Association (a registered 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization) Takeaways • Pre-washed cooking materials can reduce time for the students • Well prepped ingredients can leave


• •

little time spent on skill learning such as how to use a knife correctly The instructor did not hand out recipe cards because actually knowing how to cook shouldn't require recipes. However, we would have preferred some form of written instructions for when we want to replicate what we learned that day Group size and student-instructor ratio is 15:1, a comfortable number Because the instructions came in rapid fire to fit into the 1-hour lunch time slot, it was not conducive to socializing Individual station and large space are great for teaching and learning

Panoramic view of the class: focus was more on the learning aspect than the social interaction between members. Technique learning: handhold blender.


• •


how to cook Dining tables are wide so it was hard for meeting people Placements of electrical plugs and positions can be better because we had to unplug the electric stove top to use the hand blender to create our soup Schedules online and signing up is easy to use, price for cooking class lessons are generally cheaper and more acceptable for young professionals

Since there were only nine people in the class, the differences in cooking speed between individuals did not affect the tempo of the class. Our team proudly presenting our creation before devouring it.


With large window fronts, Tastable invites those who pass by to take a peak and see the buzzing activities inside. Those who step inside are greeted by the tantalizing smell of the food being cooked.

Logo design, the name Tastable is derived from tasty table.

Solution concept We believe that cooking and sharing a meal with others can require little effort given if we provide the right space and environment for people to do so. At Tastable, we envision a place that enables individuals to lead happier and healthier lives through the act of sourcing, cooking and eating responsibly within an inspiring and empowered community. Tastable is a business model with physical space that is located in the urban setting. It is targeted towards millennials who value meaningful experience over physical objects. We aim to bring back the fun in cooking and in doing so, individuals can have a more wholesome life. At Tastable, we take care of sourcing and cleaning, so that customers are able to relax and spend their time on meeting new people and socializing, both revolving around learning new cooking skills and recipes that can be recreated at home.

Location Drawing intelligence across food related and non-food related businesses allowed us to understand how a new business model like Tastable could integrate to the existing urban fabric.



a. local food business

b. hotels

c. gyms

Location analysis based on density of different businesses to find the right location for Tastable (teal dot).

Tastable is a food service targeting millennials, who are interested in meeting new people and having new experiences. Based on the population, Cambridge is a great fit to be our first launch location. Furthermore, the ideal location for Tastable should be easily accessible, having decent space for socializing while remaining affordable. Based on these requirements, our location analysis around Boston includes data of food related businesses to determine the hot spot for food traffic, public transit locations for accessibility, and gym locations, for the space and price ratio affordability.


We are aiming at creating a centrally located meeting place where a community can be fostered. After comparing several spaces in Cambridge, we set our first model, the newly designed Tastable to be located in Central Square of Cambridge MA, on Prospect St. It is a 4,000 sq ft facility with all the spaces and features we imagine a Tastable will have. The space design, financial and operational models are all based on this identified location. After having initial ideas of what Tastable could look like and where it could be, we prototyped a pop-up event with eight participants to help us further our ideas and inform us of our design of the space.


Tastable Pop-Up Kitchen We scouted a local teaching kitchen with the necessary space for us to test out our ideas. The kitchen is run by one chef who holds a cooking class each day. We randomly selected eight participants by soliciting flyers throughout campus and urban areas such as the subway stations. The menu and the classes were curated by the chef who runs the kitchen with our inputs. It was a great learning experience and there were several flaws as well as obvious benefits that immediately became apparent to us. Time • Very long, over 3 hours • We want people to come to Tastable more frequently and they don’t have time for 3 hour events regularly

Grouping of participants • Sharing a prep station worked well • Some people rather lay back and enjoy the converstations and don’t want to chop or stir the pan for the entire time • A group size of 8 was a good number where no one felt left out of a converstation Education • It was helpful having an overview of key knife skills and cooking techniques—many thought the simple knife skill taught by the instructor was something they never knew and have been using a knife wrong before learning the right technique • Participants preferred to learn simpler recipes that they are more likely to re-create at home


Social interactions • People liked the idea of meeting others around a cooking/food experience • Many shared difficulties of making new friends as an adult when they're in a new place • A participants mentioned about how he joined a dodgeball league to meet others, but he really didn’t like playing dodgeball. He would have liked a venue such as this to meet others Space design • Home-like decorations • Easy access to handwashing station Space to hang coats and bags (something we didn't think about but is essential especially with cities with long winter months)



Pricing • $89 not including tip or alcoholic beverages - very expensive • On average, participants were willing to pay $10-30 for a class • One person would pay as high as $75 Comparison to other similar services • Participants mentioned about how they can’t find an affordable cooking class - they’re usually around $100 • Many didn’t like using pre-portioned meal kit services because it's time consuming with tedious recipes

Learning how to use a knife properly.

Participants socializing before the start of the lesson.

Technique learning: handhold blender.

Interviewing the participants after the dinner.


Plating the dishes.

Participants smiling for the camera before enjoying the meal.

Finishing the meal with dessert and laughter.

The completed meal of parchment baked salmon.










g i a j

Floor plan (4000 sq ft) a reception b lockers c lounge area d refreshments bar e dining area f patio g cooking area h staff prep area i plants and herb wall j retail shelves for local goods

Final design From our findings, we set out to create what is uniquely Tastable. One of the main goals for the Tastable space design is to lower the threshold for conversations and thus nurture socialization among the individuals in the space. We aimed to create a space with an atmosphere where conversation can spark naturally, without a need to approach or a feeling of being approached to make meeting new people less intimidating.


A friendly receptionist greets you upon entering Tastable. Here, you can sign-up for a class, sign-in for your session, or pick up a pre-portioned kit to take home and cook.

To do so, we placed cooking activities at the heart of the overall experience as well as the space. When individuals enter Tastable either alone or with other people, they are assigned to a group of 6 to 8 people where everyone will be making one recipe together at the cooking station. A smaller group size fosters conversations without being too crowded where a person might feel left out. In order to spark conversations, we designed tasks, cooking utensils, and responsibilities to be shared among group members. To combat food waste and be sustainable as we can, we plan to source our ingredients locally when possible including seeking out non-perfect produce that would otherwise be thrown away. We also spoke to a local whole sale food supplier and confirmed that they would be able to provide us with groceries products close to the sell-by dates that they are unable to move and would eventually end up being thrown away. By sharing ingredients, participants can also reduce waste since a whole onion can be divided among Tastable members and not rot in a fridge with three-quarters unused. Furthermore, an herb wall lines the side of Tastable to provide fresh ingredients for the participants. It also serves as an educational tool for urban gardening where participants can learn how to grow their own herb garden right inside their apartments.


Inside the cooking area of Tastable with kitchen modules and herb wall to the right.



We designed the prepping area with three main goals in mind: 1. Modularized: With the aim to open Tastable in multiple locations, we decided to make the prepping area modularized in order to fit in different location and configurations of spaces easily, while still maintaining their cost effectiveness. 2. Enables socializing: From the prototype pop-up event we organized, we identified that socializing while preparing is crucial to the general experience. The bond between each other is much more easily established if they have done something together, as opposed to cooking independently and eating together afterwards. Therefore, in our final design, we made the preparing area as the spot where people can gather, easily interact with each other and collaboratively cook. 3. Flexibility: We imagine the space to be able to accommodate different types of activities such as formal cooking classes, individual use of the space, special events, and private bookings. Therefore, prepping area can be partitioned and blocked off. In the adjoining eating area, we created a casual and welcoming atmosphere with comfortable seating. If desired, tables can be easily moved to accommodate different sizes of groups.





Dining area where people can enjoy their freshly made meals with others. An open fluid floor plan enables people to feel comfortable moving around talking to different people without feeling restricted.


Operation Tastable would be open 11am - 9pm, six days a week. We created five different type of services that would form the roster of deliverables for the organization. A membership model would be implemented where members get a 15% discount on all services. 1. Group session – $18 Each day, Tastable would provide several different dishes. When signing up, online or in-person, individuals will be grouped into 6 to 8 people groups. At the time of cooking, the group will follow instruction cards. Staff members will be circling and be on-call to provide any assistance need. The main purpose is to encourage co-learning and social interactions between individuals. 2. Cooking class – $32 For learning cooking techniques, we offer instructor-led cooking classes. People may sign up for individual visits or 4–8 week sessions for establishing healthy habits and developing cooking skills. Furthermore, being with the same group of people for a period of time can foster more meaningful social relationships. 3. Take home kit – $8.50 Affordable pre-portioned kits with instruction cards to take home. This model eliminates the resources and packaging that current home-delivered meal kits consume. 4. Special events – $32 This can be held in different forms, such as themed cooking nights (how to pair beverages, Thai night, cooking with your children, etc.), and pop up kitchens in the city Comparing affordability, social, time commitment, learning experience, and waste reduction across different types of businesses.

5. Private bookings – $700/hr (up to 12 people) Ideal for corporate team bonding or special events such as birthday celebrations or bachelorette parties




Comparison with different business models We analyzed several other existing food service options using different criteria that are important to our target group. RESTAURANTS: These may or may not be time saving considering the time to get seated, place an order, wait for the food, and wait for the check to arrive. Restaurants also donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t provide an ideal catalyst to make new acquaintances and learning culinary knowledge is non-existent. Restaurants are efficient in usage of ingredients. COOKING CLASS: The class provides the required knowledge base, and possibly promotes better nutrition. However the time and cost commitment is often staggering. COOKING AT HOME: This is the more affordable form of meal access, but usually lacks in cooking skill development and is typically more wasteful. Meal kits While this negotiates the culinary skill development that is lacking while cooking at home, it doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t address the lack of social capital formation. Furthermore, sometimes recipes can be tedious and require a large amount of time to complete.


Different avenues that we can deploy the Tastable model into in order to spread the joy and knowledge of cooking.

Future development The Tastable concept is flexible and it can be further extended to different forms and to different demographics. Taking consideration of several trends such as demographic changes and urban architecture development, we have several possible forms for Tastable to take on that can include incorporation into military bases, non-profits for low income communities, nursing homes, popup events, workplaces, and apartment complexes. Apart from the financial projections of the business itself, we expect far-reaching social, environmental and health impacts. We believe that Tastables fills a vacuum in the current market that is not being serviced by any organization.




Early iterations of concept.

Different iterations of idea for cooking modules to maximize space and opportunities for social interactions.


Discovering Tastable Through compilation of our research and surveys, we created a typical Tastable user named Alex. Alex is a 28-year-old professional who lives in Cambridge, MA and works from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

8 am It’s Monday morning. Alex wakes up, gets ready, and grabs a protein bar, which he eats on the train ride to work.

10 am Taking a quick break from work, Alex checks his Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to see what his friends are up to.

12 pm At lunch, Alex grabs a quick meal and eats at his desk while browsing the news on his computer.

6 pm After a long day at work, he’s tired and doesn’t feel like cooking and having to wash dishes after. He decides to order food for delivery.

6:30 pm Once Alex’s food is delivered, he watches the newest episode of Game of Thrones while he eats.

This typical eating pattern repeats week after week for Alex, with minor respites brought about with team outings and parents’ visits.




On a Saturday, Alex doesn’t have any food left in his refrigerator so he decides it’s time to go to the grocery store. He carves out an hour of his day to shop. At the store, he notices most of the items he needs come in larger quantities than he needs them. He buys them anyways even though he knows he won’t be able to finish them before they go bad.

Alex cooks the same old simple recipe he always makes. It’s too much of an effort to learn new recipes since he’s only cooking for one and he eats out most meals. Alex enjoys the dinner he just made as he watches Netflix.

One morning, Alex decides to go for a walk around his neighborhood. As he’s walking down the street, Tastable catches his eye. The people inside are cooking as well as sitting and eating. Some of them are obviously newbies judging by the concentration on their cutting boards, but everyone’s having fun and the smell coming from inside is amazing. Alex is curious about what this place is.

trying. Alex decides to sign up for a cooking class. On Tuesday, Alex arrives at Tastable. While he was waiting for the class to start, he enjoys his drink as he meets his cooking group and starts talking with a few people.

When Alex gets home, he decides to look up Tastable online. As he’s scrolling through the website, he learns that Tastable is a place where people come together as a community around cooking. The best part is that he would be able to come by himself at flexible times and be grouped with other people to cook a meal. It seems like something worth

After cooking, Alex enjoys his meal with the rest of the group knowing not only how to make baked salmon, but also where to buy it from, how to choose the right one, what it means nutritionally and environmentally and what he can do with the leftover fillets if any.


Ngoc Doan has a background in architecture and she is happiest in creative environments. Before the MDE program, Ngoc was a Design Fellow at the Yale Center for Engineering Innovation and Design where she helped students design, develop, and actualize their ideas. She is interested in exploring how design, environment, and technology can be merged seamlessly. When she finds spare time, she likes to dabble with photography, coding, sewing, painting and drawing.

Julie Loiland is a bioengineer who, as an undergraduate, co-founded a company to develop novel solutions to prevent concussions in NFL, NCAA, and high school football. She has since worked as a program manager in research and development at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency in Washington, D.C. She would like to develop innovative human-centered design solutions and products to enhance peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s daily lives and provide meaningful benefits to society as a whole. In her free time, she enjoys travel, running, and photography.

Chien-Min Lu has a background in mechanical engineering and product design, and interned as a mechanical engineer in Taiwan. He has since worked as a product designer in both Taiwan and Italy. On the material side, he is interested in understanding resources and finding ways to make sure they are well used, well distributed, and well recycled and up-cycled. On the emotional side, he wants to explore how we can use design to change peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lives using the combination of beauty and technology.

Santiago Mota is a designer, researcher, and consultant based in Mexico City. In 2012, he cofounded the CASA Research and Design Group at UNAM to engage real world issues regarding the contemporary city. He has also worked as a project manager for Soma Architects in New York, and as a project architect at DMP Arquitectura in Mexico City. His most recent work includes the development of low-cost social housing prototypes for Mexico´s Federal Housing Committee. He is interested in developing a new design-research practice by challenging widespread notions regarding energy, sustainability, and resiliency.


References 1. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, Volume 9, June 2016, Pages 1-6 2. OECD, PISA in Focus, 2014, January. 3. University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine, 2017. 4. NPR and Truven Health Analytics, 2016a 5. University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine, 2017. 6. Say No To Food Waste, 2017. 7. Ibid. 8. Ibid.




Andrew Witt One of the things I think is most interesting from the concept is the organic understanding of the all of the pieces of the experience integrated in a certain way under the rubric of Tastable ... You could begin to think about the space and the super graphics that explain the process itself. Why not integrate those a little bit more and begin in that unit of space? Robert Culver We need to make a very clear distinction between design and space planning. There is a moment when we come in with the lockers to change our clothes and wash our hands ... Moments like that could be treated with, â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;how do we wash our hands to make it more social?â&#x20AC;&#x2122; There are a number of moments in the layout where the underlying goal of making things more social could be addressed as design projects.











REVIEWERS 1. Describe a little bit of your background, your relationship with the food system, and why this studioâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s discussion of food was interesting to you. 2. How did the presentations, for you, sketch a picture of the future of food. What would you add?

Robert Culver Managing Director, Sasaki Associates, Inc. VP Finance and Administration, Yale University

1. My relevant background is that of an academic administrator (VP Finance and Admin @ Yale) and Managing Director @ Sasaki (Architects, designers, and planners). At Yale I worked with Alice Waters and a student committee to establish the first Yale on campus garden; design and implement a "buy fresh,buy local strategy for food procurement;redo the food menu for Berkeley College such that it was coordinated with the buy"fresh and local" strategy and reintroduce "cooking" into the food preparation system. At Sasaki, I continued to consult with state agencies, universities and various "food production and distribution innovators"to improve on cost,quality and distribution of farms and related farming activity. Given my prior experience, the studios "food" focus was of great interest in that it used well various big and small data techniques which substantially helped define complex/ diverse issues of supply and demand within the ever changing world of food production, distribution, marketing, storage and consumption. The studio also challenged itself (informed us)with various "real world" food related issues to test and apply the various modeling/design ideas they assumed..the result was a great mix of approaches/ideas and outcomes which definitely furthered our understanding of related issues and options. 2. I was brought into the sessions to review and critique project approach, use of data, and physical project design. I was very interested in the new, integrated farm design which introduced notions of land and farm product consolidation. The potential for overall cost reduction both in terms of land management and food production are clearly substantial and deserve further study. The presentations made it very clear that dramatic and dynamic change is afoot in the world of "Food." The various presentations


made clear the opportunity inherent in more and better data analysis, the development of more efficient/market driven approaches to food production/distribution and the benefit of using "team think" — which allows for integrated discussion by and between designers, analysts, builders and engineers ... the result seemed to represent a heightened sense of professional self awareness and the potential for new and better approaches to design.

Michael Kaufman Partner, Astor Group President of the Centerplate Restaurant Group Menus of Change, CIA, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

1. For the past 25+ years, I have been deeply involved with the restaurant industry, including serving as CEO of a large multichain operator, developing and then successfully selling a group of casual farm-to-table restaurants, chairing the Board of the National Restaurant Association, and serving on the Boards of the Culinary Institute of America and several restaurant and foodservice-related companies. I was most interested in seeing what topics a group of talented designers and engineers would choose to explore, and then how they would apply the principles of design engineering to their chosen topics. 2. The projects touched upon a number of societal/food challenges and concerns, expressed through the lenses of millennial observers. These ranged from concerns about socialization in an increasingly isolating technological world (Tastables), to the challenges of farming success (Aretian Agricultural Foundation), to concerns about massive population increases and their feeding (MicroAlgae Production), to leveraging “big data” to support agricultural development (SAM I AM), to assisting with prudent choices in supermarket purchases (Fare+Square), and to creating authentic food infrastructure for foreign students (Cuisine Center). The “future of food” entails many more challenges and concerns, but the insights of these six groups provides a thought-provoking perspective of what’s important to these students.

Edith Murnane Director of Food Initiatives, City of Boston

1. I have been a part of building, developing, and shifting Boston's Food Systems for over a decade. I was on the board of the Boston Public Market Association when it was building support for a downtown public market and in its endeavor to be named the developer of choice by the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture for Boston's Public Market. I was Mayor Menino's Director of Food Initiatives and in that role established and developed Boston's Food Truck program which is considered one of the best in the US, and a mechanism for entrepreneurism and job creation. I spearheaded the Mayor's rezoning for Urban Agriculture and developed the infrastructure for urban farm development. And




I shifted policy and created an environment that allowed local fish sales to flourish at farmers markets and in the public landscape. Since leaving the Mayor's office, I have led the development of the New England Heirloom Tomato Sauce Project, a joint partnership between local farmers and an incubator kitchen, launched a network, and corresponding conference, of women farmers, butchers, chefs, processors, distributors, and value-added support providers and re-launched The New England Meat Conference. 2. More than the students' willingness to tackle big, messy issues, what inspired me was that their projects were an expression of the value they placed on food and the labor it takes to grow it, distribute it, produce it all along the food system chain. They came to their endeavors acknowledging the role that food and our regional system plays in economic and community development, health, innovation, education, and our social fabric. It is an important shift.

David Saladik Design Director, MASS Design Group

1. During my tenure at MASS, I've traveled and worked in a lot of parts of the world where the food system is far less developed than it is here in the US. Subsistence farming is the norm in places like Haiti or Liberia where I've lived and worked. In these contexts, the concept of a local food movement, or "farm to table" don't exist, they're just the default norm because of the simplicity of the system. The studio was interesting to me because it was largely dealing with the problems that arise when a system gets overly complex, centralized, and dependent upon mechanization, processing, and technology. It was refreshing to see a top down (or in a few cases bottom up) reassessment of where we are today and where we're going in the future. How do we intelligently and sustainably bring food back to something that is simple, whole, and rooted in community, local flavor, and tradition? 2. The projects presented a future that was more intelligently networked, sustainable, and diverse. By the end of this century, the world population is expected to grow by 2 billion people, all whom will need to eat to survive. We will have to be smarter, more sustainable, and more creative and diverse if we're to meet this need in a healthy way, for ourselves and our planet. The projects presented a future that was more intelligently networked, sustainable, and diverse. By the end of this century, the world population is expected to grow by 2 billion people, all whom will need to eat to survive. We will have to be smarter, more sustainable, and more creative and diverse if we're to meet this need in a healthy way, for ourselves and our planet.


Zoe Finch Totten Founder, CEO of The Full Yield Ashoka Fellow Harvard Business School Private and Public, Scientific, Academic, and Consumer Food Policy Group (PAPSAC)

1. I’m a nurse-midwife who has spent the past 15 years focused on systems design and health improvement programming, with as much or more engagement in food industry work as in healthcare industry work. There is a tremendous need for systems approaches in every arena of human society and because food is primary to both culture and to health, the studio’s focus on food and design is timely in the world, in the lives of the students, and certainly in my own life ongoing. 2. All of the projects were immensely impressive. I was particularly taken by Ramon and Jeremy’s Aretian Agricultural Foundation as not only is it a collaboration across multiple agricultural functions to create efficiency, it’s a systems solution. And with Brian, Karen, Terra, and Zeerak’s Fare+Square, as this lands squarely (pun intended) in my own professional world: how do make it easy for people to know what food to buy that supports health, where can you buy it, and how can you afford it? And with Julie, Ngoc, Santiago and Chien-Min’s Tastable, whose efforts to understand how people approach eating in 2017 while also holding (or working toward) goals related to dietary and social health were impressive (as was their collateral material). The sketch I walked away with was one of fine and energetic students taking on challenges in the food system in meaningful, insightful ways and developing effective approaches with tenacity and humor (and not only in developing and revising their concepts, also advancing their presentations). It was and is deeply reassuring!

Final review exhibition of Quantifying the Intangible by SAM I AM.



Students receive comments and feedback on their projects from external advisory board members and visiting critics.






Food Systems: Master in Design Engineering at Harvard Collaborative Studio 2017 Studio Faculty Jock Herron (GSD) Chuck Hoberman (GSD) Peter Stark (SEAS) Co-Directors Martin Bechthold (GSD) Woodward Yang (SEAS) Program Administrators Janessa Mulepati (GSD)

Editors-in-Chief Brian Ho Michael Raspuzzi Design Team Ngoc Doan Chien-Min Lu Karen Su Editing Team Zeerak Ahmed Neeti Nayak Copy Editor Alberto de Salvatierra Printer Thomson Shore

Image Credits Cover: Raspuzzi, Michael. Page 2: Courtesy, Master of Design Engineering Program. Page 4: Courtesy, GSD Communications. Page 6: Raspuzzi, Michael. Page 7. Burke, Jeremy. Page 8: Raspuzzi, Michael. Page 10: Grinnell, Eliza. SEAS Communications. Page 14: Raspuzzi, Michael. Page 15: Raspuzzi, Michael. Page 16: Raspuzzi, Michael. Page 19: Raspuzzi, Michael. Page 23: Courtesy, GSD Communications. Page 24: Raspuzzi, Michael. Pages 25-57: Burke and Gras. Authored Images. Page 58: Raspuzzi, Michael. Page 60-71: Fan, Kun.

Authored Images. Page 72: Raspuzzi, Michael. Pages 74-101: Ahmed, Ho, Moran, and Su. Authored Images. Page 104: Courtesy, GSD Communications. Page 106-123: Bakker, Nicole. Page 124: Raspuzzi, Michael. Page 126-159: Gu, Nayak, and Raspuzzi. Authored Images. Page 160: Courtesy, GSD Communications. Page 162-189: Doan, Loiland, Lu, and Mota. Authored Images. Page 190: Raspuzzi, Michael. Page 192: Raspuzzi, Michael. Page 194: Raspuzzi, Michael. Page 199: Raspuzzi, Michael. Page 200: Grinnell, Eliza. SEAS Communications.


Acknowledgments This publication would not have been possible without the help, support and guidance of many others. The publication thanks Wolfgang Rieder, MDE external advisory board member, and Rieder Group from Salzburg, Austria for their generous support. Harvard University Graduate School of Design 48 Quincy Street Cambridge, MA 02138 Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences 29 Oxford Street Cambridge, MA 02138 Š 2017 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. The editors have attempted to acknowledge all sources and images used and apologize for any errors or omissions.










Profile for Master in Design Engineering at Harvard

Food Systems  

Collaborative Design Engineering Studio , 16-17

Food Systems  

Collaborative Design Engineering Studio , 16-17


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