Re-engaging with the food system

A space and tech platform
that enables empathy for the biosphere
through the process of engagement
with our food system

Design a product, service, or solution that enables/creates empathy across a large and diverse demographic. Demonstrate a creation that is innovative, maps back to a clear need, and leverages current technologies (or those that are feasible in the near-term). Your creation may be near-term practical or blue sky, but it must have a realistic chance of adoption if instantiated. Your design should minimally show awareness of barriers such as security, privacy, cross group coordination and cooperation.

Situate your design exploration within a broader context that incorporates the challenges of the 2018 IPCC report calling for a 40–50% decarbonization by year 2030.


Microsoft: Inclusive Design Team


15 Weeks


Gautham Krishna, Cathryn Ploehn, Matt Prindible

My role: Interviews and Participatory Research, Concept Generation, Touchpoint Interactions and Testing


Expert Interviews, Guided Storytelling, Contextual Inquiry, Affinity Mapping, Paper Prototyping, Immersion


Sketch App, Principle, Adobe After-Effects, Basic Projection Mapping


Rhiza is a space that enables a transition towards a more embodied understanding of our place in the environment, through the process of direct engagement. It consists of three main areas: The Garden, The Lab and The Cafe that together help people find their own place in the world we live in.


The garden space helps us directly engage with the environment we live in, by getting our hands dirty. But working with soil and plants and understanding how such complex systems work over time, we gain a deeper sense of the natural system around us.


The lab space introduces us to different possibilities within the food system, and encourages dialogue and curiosity through experimentation. Examples of different sessions that would be part of the lab space are Food from the Future, Alternative Proteins, Blind Taste Tests etc.


The cafe is the social space of Rhiza. The usage of the cafe is multifold, while it acts as a space where all people come together and reflect on the work done during the day, it also acts as a learning space. We can bring different types of produce to the expert in the cafe, who then introduces us to amazing recipes impromptu. Through conversation, the cafe bring back the joy of eating while helping build a community of engaged citizens.

journey of transformation

Engagements over time are critical to enable transformation; a transformation through engagement that builds our capacity to empathize and feel a shared vulnerability within the biosphere. These are the main phases of transformation: 

Technology plays the hat of a facilitator within this journey of transformation. Through a combination of different digital touch points spread out over the space, it helps us discover new events happening around us, journal our work and engagement over time, and visualizes complex systems for a richer learning environment. These small engagements over time help guide us in our transformation from a novice to an embedded expert.

Mobile App

Interactive Table

Passive Documentation

the raspberry story

To understand how Rhiza and the technology platform help support a novice through a journey of transformation, let's go through Anne's raspberry story. 

Anne is at the Cafe, experiencing the pleasure of some delicious scones with raspberry preserve.

Nadine, the chef uses the interactive table to reflect on the story of the raspberry preserve — what it is made of, where the raspberries came from, the work done over time and the people who contributed — including herself.

The Discover feature helps Anne find Stories from the Garden and the Lab and locate events that she can attend — for instance, she is now excited and curious to be part of the Raspberry Preserve Making event that Nadine spoke about.

At the Lab, Anne participates and learns the process of making preserve from fresh raspberries. Her curiosity transforms into awe as she explores the story of the work that went into growing the raspberries over a 2 year timeline.

A few days later, Anne is at the Garden where she is guided by an expert. They till the soil, lay the compost and plant the raspberry roots. Their work is passively documented by a 360 camera, without getting in the way of their experience.

At the end of the work session, they get together at the interactive table for a debrief, where they celebrate over a meal, while sharing tasks, contributions and how they felt.

They reflect on their work through the passive capture footage, that automatically gets documented into the work session history.

Anne uses the app to create an individual goal for herself, and she takes home a few raspberry roots to plant.

Through immersion, learning and individual growth, she begins to find her niche. Ann uses the app to document her progress on goals and also to follow up with experts.

Through direct engagement with the space over a sustained period of time, Anne has now transitioned into the role of an expert. Throughout, the app has automatically created a Journal of all the work Anne has done over time, that helps in reflection and sharing with the community.


integrated platform

Mobile App

Interactive Table

Passive Documentation

Technology plays the hat of a facilitator within the journey of transformation. Through a combination of different digital touch points spread out over the space, it helps us discover new events happening around us, journal our work and engagement over time, and visualizes complex systems for a richer learning environment. These small engagements over time help guide us in our transformation from a novice to an embedded expert.

mobile app

The mobile application consists of three main parts: Discover, Goals and Journal.

As the name suggests, the discover section helps us find interesting events happening around us. These are not only limited to events happening within Terra, but also events at other places in the community. It also shows us the activities of other people around us, what are their goals and what events do they attend.





Attending different sessions helps expand our knowledge about the food system, and nudges us to take small steps in our own lives. We are able to create personal goals and mark progress within them. Experts can comment on these goals to help guide the process. The timeline or the journal is a place where we can see all of our progress documented over time. It helps illustrate the slow transformation from a novice to an expert.





interactive table

The table illustrates complex relationships within the food system, surfacing some of the invisible give and take of labor and resources. Humans put in work into the system, whereas plants and animals provide food and resources in return. The system sustains itself by balancing these relationships, and are thus important to understand.

Making the invisible visible


The table lives in the cafe space, which people gather around after a day of attending different sessions and doing work in the garden. Through passive documentation using a 360 camera and sensors, the table helps showcase the different work that people have done and the collective impact generated by this work.

Sharing stories


passive documentation

While people are working, we want them to enjoy getting their hands dirty and not be focused on documenting the process. Rhiza has multiple 360 video cameras and Google clips around the space that passively document all sessions and make them easily available to share through the mobile app and interactive table. These are automatically uploaded to the session pages in the personal app to view later.

Sessions in progress


How might we allow people to experience the transition to more sustainable food practices, such that they have a deeper understanding of their embeddedness within the biosphere. 


view research process