Vision x Urban Food System

This is my vision post for Toptal Scholarships for Women

About Me

I'm Yvon Huang, a passionate UX designer with 6+ experience in the tech industry. I am the chief UX designer now in Codementor and was in KKBOX, Yahoo prior to my current position. I currently based in Taipei, Taiwan, but my project has been worked with various multi-national companies to help them build a unified user experience for cross-platform products.

Besides my design career, I am also active in several entrepreneur communities. I was the 2017 scholar and the venture pitch winner of MIT global Bootcamp (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Moreover, I support and advocate for female professionals in Taiwan tech industry and is the 2018 representative in design for 40 Under 40 selected by Girls in Tech Taiwan.

My vision for urban food system

Context

In 1950, 30% of the population lived in cities. In 2025, 70% of the population will live in cities. Urbanization is a global trend and it is changing our relationship with food, including how we shop and what we buy. This is a problem - people who lived in the urban area rely on secondhand portrayals and over-industrialized notions of food when they are making choices about food in the grocery store. I think it is a terrible status that people no longer have a direct connection to how its food is produced.

Story

Since seven years ago I moved to Taipei, I eating out all day because it's more convenient and affordable. But recently I was found that I have infertility issues - although I was just 26, relatively young as a woman. My doctor told me I must get enough nutrition since I always grab fast food for lunch, did not really aware of the quality of food. However, I realized that the accessibility for natural food in the urban is quite limited and overpriced. Here is my observation:

In the past years, the big supermarket has replaced the traditional local market in the urban area. People will choose to go to the supermarket due to its more extended opening hours and neighborhood distance. It caused a big difference in how people choose our food. First, supermarket sells more packed food than fresh food. When we were going to the supermarket, we will saw not only vegetables but also snacks. sugar drinks. They promo everything on profit-based.

On the other hand, you will only see seasonal food in the traditional market. Vendors will encourage you to buy fresh. authentic food rather what's on sale. As a consequence, when people always went to supermarket purchase food, the more they buy, the more they get it's unhealthy.

In hindsight, I know there is something we need to do for our urban food supply system. So, I start to ask myself..."How might we help people get natural food more easily?" or "Why not just growing our food?"

Challenge

After a few months of research and testing ideas, here are the four reasons why people don't do urban farming:

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First, the lack of open space in the urban area, especially in high-density Asia city. In Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, most of the people lived in a limited-space apartment with no open yard in front.

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Second, the weather in tropical countries becoming more and more unpredictable. For instance, I'm still wearing a short T-shirt at the end of November! I can barely grow winter crops on my rooftop because it is way too warm for this season.

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Third, it is too convenient to buy food in the urban area. According to industry statistics, Taiwan has more than 10,000 convenience stores, or one per approximately every 2,000 residents, the highest density in the world. People in Taiwan actually consider 7-11 as a restaurant for their day-to-day meal. The convenience for food had beyond people's expectation and changed people's behavior.

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Lastly, the lack of farming knowledge - yes, most urban kids grow up with iPhone than playing in the dirty land. The agriculture generation gap is having a bigger issue for passing all the knowledge. Youngs was encouraged to become a software engineer or banker; fewer people know how to plant food.

These four challenges become my stepping stones - reinforces my vision to build a better future urban food system.

Vision

"Creating people-centered urban farmland with a technology-powered system." - To goal is to enable urban young. elders. women. men grow food and experience the end-to-end journey of food without too much learning curve.

My approach to different challenges:

- Limited space: Using urban sub-land like rooftop for apartment dwellers.

- Unpredictable weather: Creating a smart robot to assist the growth plan by analyzing weather data per building model.

- Food instant satisfaction: Building a farm-chain to support the high demand for food, like "superfarm" in every community.

- Knowledge gap: Public real food journey and educating kids and youngs through hands-on practice.

How to accomplish this goal

To hit the goal, I have tried to put my idea into a business plan and succeeded to attend and meet related experts in MIT entrepreneurship Beyond Food Bootcamp. From there, I have received some great feedback and connected with food business leaders and investors.

Next, I am seeking to extend my knowledge of related technology. If I have a chance to get the scholarship, I want to use it as funding to enroll in an HCI/engineering program to sharp my coding skills and building the idea as my master project.

 I was selected from 50 global interviewers. One of the full scholarship region recipient.

I was selected from 50 global interviewers. One of the full scholarship region recipient.

 Got interviews by 5 national TV channel.

Got interviews by 5 national TV channel.

 Final pitch among the 5 finalist teams - I'm sharing my product vision with judges

Final pitch among the 5 finalist teams - I'm sharing my product vision with judges

 Woman-powered team :)

Woman-powered team :)

 I introduced them some local food owners

I introduced them some local food owners

 Also try sticky tofu :P

Also try sticky tofu :P

Support & Mentorship

Toptal is an excellent platform for top technology talents around the world. I believe Toptal's leading network will help me to connect with like-minded people and women leaders!

Since I don't have any technical background, so I want to looking for a mentor who have full stack web development and data science skills to guide me building a smart platform for urban food supply system. Moreover, I think a mentor who has business modeling experience is also what I need to accomplish my goal to build a long-term vision on a sustainable model.

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Building future urban food system

Dream big, start small! :)

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Thank you and looking forward to hearing from the Toptal Scholarship team soon!