San Francisco, CA, US


Hooman Koliji (co-founder), Naeeme Mohammadi (co-founder), Brandie Mack, Yildirim Yazganarikan
Local Partner: The Butterfly Movement


Inspired by soil ecosystems, this team is developing a self-organizing system that allows urban farmers to connect with end users, creating a thriving local food hub that cuts down on greenhouse gas emissions from food transportation.

1. What is the problem you’re trying to solve and how does your design help?

The global food system is responsible for up to one-third of all human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions. Transportation makes up 11% of the food-related emissions, with conventional food traveling an average of 1,518 miles. By contrast, locally-sourced food travels an average of just 44.6 miles. So we asked: How might we promote the local food ecosystem in urban areas? Like nature, which is locally attuned and responsive, we aim to promote local farming by connecting urban farmers to the end consumers. This will decrease the post-production GHG emissions coming from transportation, packaging and storing. In addition, our design enhances urban resiliency by creating a sustainable local food ecosystem that will also address several problems associated with climate change at local scales.

2. What makes your design different than previous or current approaches to the problem you’re trying to solve?

Currently, urban farmers struggle to find the most effective way to connect with their customers and expand their market. From the customer side, it is inconvenient not to know what is available from local farms, and be able to think of urban farms as a reliable resource. Most of the time, urban farming products are just a cool option, but not the most convenient. Urban farmers connect with consumers through farmers’ markets, CSA models, pop up vendors, mobile markets, etc., but still face significant challenge with their communications and business models. For example, buying groceries at a store is a much easier option than finding out about local markets. Our solution not only connects urban farmers to their end consumers in a more effective way, but also provides conditions in which such practices can thrive.

3. How did you apply lessons from living organisms to your design and what difference did that make?

The urban ecosystem is our design context, which shares similarities to the soil ecosystem. The soil ecosystem provides certain conditions for a fertile environment and adopts different strategies of water reservation and filtration, communication, and exchange of information and nutrients. Similarly, to fully embrace a rich urban farming in the urban ecosystems, certain conditions need to be met. Biomimicry lessons from the soil ecosystem help our study to unfold complexities within the urban ecosystem and apply lessons from nature to our work.

RootLINK addresses Sustainable Development Goals: Zero Hunger (#2), Good Health and Well-Being (#3), Sustainable Cities and Communities (#11), Responsible Consumption and Production (#12), and Climate Action (#13).

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