Market gardeners will focus on product design

Market gardeners in Akershus wish to strengthen their ability to compete by focusing on Norwegianness and the environment in design.

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After observing production, the sales and distribution systems and customers’ shopping patterns, product design students at Akershus University College and advisers at Nofima Mat have developed concept ideas for both edible products and pot plants.

Norwegianness as a preference
Norwegian market gardeners face stiff competition from imported goods. For vegetable producers it is a challenge to distinguish fresh Norwegian vegetables and salads from imported goods. The pot plant producers are largely affected by trends, colours, seasons and how different groups of end users die out while others replace them. In addition, the sale of flowers is being increasingly taken over by the supermarkets, with staff who know nothing about these products.

Both producer categories wish to use design to underline the products’ eco-friendly and Norwegian qualities and the design students were tasked with looking at this with a fresh eye – precisely to challenge established truths.

“It has been very helpful that the students made thorough sketches and simplified prototypes for the various concepts at an early stage. This early visualisation has made it easy for us to select the prototypes we have most faith in,” says project manager Sveinung Grimsby of Nofima Mat.

Deliberate methodology for observation
The product design students have used Nofima’s observation handbook in their observation studies. Based on the handbook’s methodology, the students began by developing a good understanding of the growers’ market. They then went into a consumer group in more detail so as to find out about their underlying needs. Based on the knowledge they acquired, the students then arrived at statements about what the products mean for the consumers, prepared sketches and developed prototypes.

“With Nofima’s observation handbook as a starting point it was easy to go out into the supermarkets and follow the consumers’ behaviour and actions around the flower departments. With the aid of correctly formulated questions to the customers we formed a good impression of what they thought. These observation trips were the starting point for many of our results in this design project,” says product design student Stina Jenseth.

The design students impress
To find the correct elements as a reference for Norwegianness, the students used different moodboards. The various design concepts for how this industry can better differentiate the products and increase income were presented to Nofima’s innovation team and the industry in early February.

“I am impressed by what the students at Akershus University College have managed to achieve during the course of a few hectic weeks and we think the results have been very exciting from an innovation perspective,” says Hilde Skotland Mortvedt, head of strategy and analysis at Nofima Mat.

Cucumber grower Kristian Solberg from Asker is also impressed and can see the usefulness of the students’ work.

“Very few resources have been used on this kind of work in our industry before. We are talking here about largely unploughed ground. This can be looked upon as a successful pre-project, and the goal must be to take ideas from this project forward into new projects and to test out concepts that can eventually strengthen Norwegianness as a preference,” concludes Solberg.

Consumer and sensory sciences  

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