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Students Create an App to Promote Urban Farming Around the World

Winner of the Junior Academy Challenge – Spring 2023 “Urban Gardens”

Team members: Tianze H. (Team Lead) (United States), Tianlai H. (United States), Radwa A. (Egypt)

Mentor: Olusola Ladokun (Nigeria)

Urban gardening can be an effective way to provide fresh and healthy food at a low cost, particularly in parts of the world where food security remains elusive. But it involves many variables– climate, soil, location, sun exposure, type of crop– and urban residents often need education and guidance in order to be successful gardeners right from the start. Three students — Tianze H. (United States, Team Lead), Tianlai H. (United States), Radwa A. (Egypt) — worked under the guidance of their mentor, Olusola Ladokun (Nigeria) to address this knowledge gap, and ultimately won the Spring 2023 Junior Academy Innovation Challenge with their project, “Family Farming: The Ultimate Planting Companion”. The project aims to promote urban gardening around the world by providing useful tips to city dwellers that enables them to supplement their diet with home grown crops.

“After long discussions we finally settled on the current idea,” says Tianlai. “Personally, I contributed creative ideas for our projects, like using deep learning algorithms in our application. I also worked with my teammates on the slides, adding things that they might have missed.” To identify what information would-be gardeners might need, the team conducted a small survey before designing an eco-friendly app called Family Farmers. The app contains a scanner that taps into existing plant and weather databases in order to identify the best potential garden locations based on available amount of space and local climate. The app also provides information about farming methods, and shows how common household items can be used for gardening to keep costs low.

Adding a Fun Factor to Urban Gardening

Family Farmers is designed to be the ultimate tool for aspiring gardeners, with an AI search engine that can be used to find suitable plants, an option to share progress and tips with a community of like-minded garden enthusiasts, and a calendar to remind users when to water and take care of their plants. The students also added an element of entertainment to their app, with plant-related games that provide fun facts about gardening.

Developing this innovative solution required hard work. The small but mighty team size (just three people) did not deter the committed students– in fact, it helped with the difficult task of coordinating online meetings across time zones. “The size of the group does not matter. In fact, it might have even helped everyone strengthen our relationships,” says Team Lead Tianze. “We were also able to help each other and make up for what we may not be good at. The teammates were willing to cooperate and overcome the time differences that we have,” says Tianze. “We were also able to help each other and make up for what we may not be good at. Helping to solve a real-world problem was a great experience.”

Team member Radwa enjoyed researching the issues surrounding gardening in an urban environment and collaborating with international students. “This was my first time in a program that involves meeting students from different nationalities and working together on new ideas,” he said. “This is a wonderful thing and I’m very glad to have gone through this experience, meeting new friends and learning many things in a field that I’m passionate about. I hope to do something that is related to it one day.”


The Junior Academy was supported by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute.


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Academy Staff
This article was written by a member of the Academy staff.



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