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As part of BIG South London's programme of support for businesses, Kingston University worked with Our Lady of Greens, an award-winning SME focused on food sustainability and wellbeing based in Merton. Blanca Peña-Méndez, Founder and CEO, successfully applied to BIG's Innovation Voucher scheme, which provided funding for a business and selected University to collaborate on an innovation project. It was intended that the project would lead ultimately to business growth for Our Lady of Greens, whilst providing Kingston University students and staff valuable practical experience and enhanced knowledge working on a live project with a business partner.
Our Lady of Greens was looking for expertise to develop an app that allowed its customers to interact with their unique product, the Zen Indoor Food Garden, which enables organic vegetables and herbs to be grown indoors all year round. Built using sustainable materials, the system features a vertical design which maximises growing space, a recirculating dripping system designed to eliminate water waste and low energy consumption LED lights.
Customer feedback led to the idea of using an app to set timers for the system's power, lights and water pump, and to provide users with recipes, and tips on health and wellbeing and indoor gardening. Our Lady of Greens needed specialist expertise and knowledge in user experience and systems design, which academics and students at Kingston University were able to fulfil.
Dr Jay Jayaramakrishnan, Senior Lecturer and expert in User Centred Design put together a project team which included Masters in User Experience Design students. The team spent time with Blanca to really understand the needs of the business. Students had the opportunity to interact with the product and meet the manufacturer, which assisted with the app design process.
The University team applied its UX and systems design expertise and knowledge to develop a truly customer-focused front end for the app. During development, the team also tested and evaluated the product with end users and produced a usability report.
The front-end of the app was developed and delivered successfully, and included graphic screens, an app structure and the converted code of the design and style sheets.
A user research and market analysis report was also completed containing key customer insights for Blanca which will guide future iterations of the app.
Students at Kingston University benefited by collaborating with a business on a live project, which provided them with valuable industry experience and employability skills.
Our Lady of Greens is keen to continue working with Kingston University, and together they will be pursuing additional funding to tackle development of the back-end of the app. The product itself will be developed with LED lighting and an improved user interface. The business is also interested in engaging with local community partners on further testing and iterations of the Zen Indoor Food Growing System and app.
BIG South London's Innovation Voucher Scheme gave us the opportunity to tap into the wealth of knowledge of Kingston University students and staff, and develop our original idea into a final front-end design ready to be executed.
The insights from potential customers that the team captured initially were key to understanding how valuable they found the product's features.
The outcome is an application structure that will really improve the user experience of the Zen Indoor Food Garden."
Blanca Peña-Méndez, Founder and CEO, Our Lady of Greens