Category: Research


TEDxJohannesburg Salon – Hacking the Farm

I will be speaking on the design of situated technology for urban agriculture at the TEDxJohannesburg Salon – Hacking the Farm on March 1 2018.

From :

“The nature, texture, and complexion of the farm are changing. The gates are opening—slowly if not surely—to many who were previously excluded. Land reform promises to deliver tangible justice to those who’ve been deprived for far too long. Human population is projected to reach an astounding 9.7 billion by 2050. Every mouth will need to eat, and do so well. Climate change remains a challenge. But human ingenuity is hard to beat. Strategies and tactics will emerge. They must emerge. Business models are shifting—the farm is transforming into a high performance, high growth enterprise. It’s adding value to crops, turning commodities into products, and moving up the supply chain. The modern farm is a brand, with a USP, and a target audience. It can double-up as a factory, distillery, restaurant, place of learning, or even a wedding venue. Today’s farm is experimenting with new production methods and processes: biotechnology, big data, GPS, drones, robotics, and autonomous systems. Even the adjectives are changing: the farm can now be smart, precise, vertical, lean, organic, hydroponic, aeroponic, or aquaponic.

The farm, like the future, is not what it used to be.

Get ready for TEDxJohannesburgSalon: Hacking the Farm. The event takes place on 1 March 2018,  at Tshimologong Precinct, in Braamfontein. We’re selecting our speakers from a range of farmers, technologists, agronomists, policymakers, entrepreneurs, commodity traders, chefs, restaurateurs, analysts, and activists. Each will take the farm apart, and put it back together again. Collectively, they will give us a perspective on the exciting changes that the farm is going through, as it transforms to meet the demands of a rapidly approaching future.

We’re thrilled that a truly awesome group of speakers have agree to participate. They include the following:

Wandile Sihlobo: Agricultural Economist, Columnist

Gertjan Meeuws (The Netherlands): Horticulture Engineer

Michris Janse van Rensburg: Farmer, Inventor

Emma Naluyima (Uganda): Veterinarian, Smallholder Farmer

Thato Moagi: Agripreneur, Nuffield International Scholar 2017/18

Claire Reid: Inventor, Entrepreneur, Gardener

Joshua C. Ngoma: Serial Entrepreneur

Tola Okunlula: Researcher, Afrika Burner

Jimmy Ka-Botha: Farmer

Mojisola Ojebode (Nigeria) : Biochemist, Social Entrepreneur

Busiso Moyo: Researcher, Food Activist

Matt Purkis: Green Economy Entrepreneur

Tracy Ledger: Author, Food Security Specialist

Brad Meiring: Entrepreneur, Geologist

Naudé Malan: Developmental Studies Researcher

Angus Donald Campbell: Industrial Designer, Design Researcher

Brian Dick: Slow Food Advocate

Michael Rudolph: Professor, Urban Farming Advocate

Thabi Nkosi: Agricultural Economist

Edward Mabaya (Zimbabwe, USA): Agricultural Economist, Academic

Stay tuned for more information. Buy your tickets here.”


Global Summit on Social Innovation

From the 14-15 of March 2017 I will be representing the Design Society Development DESIS Lab at the Global Summit on Social Innovation in Bogotá, Colombia hosted by the The Rockefeller Foundation and the Multilateral Investment Fund of the InterAmerican Development Bank Group.

The Summit is an exciting opportunity to bring together leading actors from across the social innovation spectrum – from labs to social enterprise accelerators – to learn, share, inspire, and collaborate. The Design Society Development DESIS Lab was one of a select group of key actors, stakeholders, and practitioners in the social innovation space that were identified as being able to help drive truly systemic social change.

Today’s global challenges are more complex and rapidly changing—traditional approaches to problem solving can’t keep pace. But at the same time, social change agents have more tools at our disposal, and more diversity of ideas to draw from through processes like crowdsourcing or social innovation labs, to create change at a transformative scale. As a result, the social sector has recalibrated its approach to innovation to harness these new dynamics. Because change happens so rapidly, and implementation and scale can take time, we must be constantly anticipating and solving for problems of the future. By thinking of innovation as a proactive process we can better spot good ideas when they emerge and feed a pipeline for continuous innovation. But we must work together to drive this change. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a number of spaces and conferences in the US and Europe dedicated to the dialogue of catalysing innovation to address social problems, but not as much elsewhere around the world. There is a desire and need among social innovation organizations working closest to the problems to come together to share how they are addressing challenges and driving innovative solutions to learn from their diverse experiences, create a common agenda, and ultimately, enhance their ability to effect change at a systemic level. Social innovation organizations like the Design Society Development DESIS Lab play a critical role in the construction of more inclusive systems, both locally and globally.

This gathering sparks a broader effort between The Rockefeller Foundation and the Multilateral Investment Fund to develop a globally connected community of key social innovation organizations that share their knowledge, experience and resources in order to drive change at a systemic level. Approximately 90 social innovation organization leaders and other key social entrepreneurship ecosystem actors from all over the world have been invited to participate in the Summit that is being hosted by their local partner, Compartamos con Colombia. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in highly interactive workshops, learn from leading innovators, be inspired by stories of impact on the ground and build lasting connections for future collaborations.

For more info please visit


World Information Architecture Day 2017

I will be speaking at World Information Architecture Day on Saturday, 18 February 2017

The topic of my presentation is “Exploring Human Activity: Technology Innovation on the Periphery”

Professional designers often disregard users’ design agency. Negating the power of “lay designers” thus, is arguably at the cost of the relevance of a final design for its intended users. This is nowhere more evident than in so-called “developing” contexts where people have always been driven to design and innovate due to inequality, poverty, and unmet needs. Utilising the framework of activity theory, I will explore exceptional examples of grassroots innovation in South Africa. The aim of this is to encourage expert designers to shift their gaze and align their skills to amplify the efforts of lay designers in order to result in more sustainable and appropriate change.

Tickets for the event can be bought at: 
– General admission: R200.00pp (includes lunch, snacks and refreshments)
– Student admission: R50.00pp *must have a valid student card* (includes lunch, snacks and refreshments)

For more info go to:

Program Schedule
9.00 – 9.30     Registration and tea

9.30- 9.50      Welcome (‘IA Today’ with Jason Hobbs)

9.50 – 10.20    Thandi Guilherme (Freethinking – Gold Sponsor speaker)
10.20 – 10.30   Nicholas Hobson (Accenture Interactive)
10.30 – 11.00   Terence Fenn (University of Johannesburg)

11.00 – 11.30   Tea

11.30 – 12.00   Helga Stegmann (Mantaray)
12.00 – 12.30   Lindi Maritz and Robin Turner (Greenside Design Centre)

12.30 – 1.30    Lunch

1.30 – 2.00     Dean Broadley (Barclays Africa Group)
2.00 – 2.10     Ayomide Onasanya (Acumen Media)
2.10 – 2.40     Angus Campbell (University of Johannesburg)
2.40 – 2.50     Yael Gold (University of Johannesburg)

2.50 – 3.10     Breather

3.10 – 3.20     Raeesah Karriem (Greenside Design Centre)
3.20 – 3.30     Stuart Windram (University of Johannesburg)
3.30 – 3.40     Guidione Machava (MozDevs)

3.40 – 4.00     Thank you & give-aways

4.00    After party hosted by the Greenside Design Centre At ‘Rim & Rubber’ on Gleneagles Drive, Greenside


[De]colonising Design in Africa

I was recently interviewed by Amsterdam based journalist Natalie Dixon for an article published in the South African Mail & Guardian newspaper on the 14th of June 2016. The article titled “[De]colonising Design in Africa” explores some of the work South African designers are doing to decolonise both the academic curriculum and professional design practice in Southern Africa. The article can be read online here or you can download a pdf of the article here.


The Science of Slow Food

I was interviewed this morning on Radio Today by Gillian Godsell together with my co-researcher Dr. Naudé Malan from Izindaba Zokudla, and collaborators Geoff Green and Brian Dick from Slow Food Johannesburg. I discuss how as an industrial designer I ended up working on urban agricultural projects and how relevant they are for the South African context. You can listen to the 1hr 20min podcast here:


UJ multi-stakeholder project encourages a sustainable food system in Soweto

Izindaba Zokudla (Conversations about Food): Innovation in the Soweto Food System, a multi-stakeholder engagement research project, co-headed by Dr Naudé Malan of Department of Anthropology and Development Studies (UJ) and Mr Angus Campbell of the Department of Industrial Design (UJ), will launch its first farmers school at the University’s of Johannesburg’s Soweto Campus on Saturday, 16 May 2015.

“In 2013, a series of workshops identified the need for increased training and knowledge generation for urban farmers and food producers. This is an important aspect of a sustainable food system. Food, and in particular its distribution and transportation, is a key contributor to climate change and we aim to counter this with the establishment of local food economies that produces food close to where it is consumed,” says Dr Malan.

He stressed that the creation of a local economy also holds potential to conserve and reinvest capital in our townships and this holds promise for an alternative approach to economic development that benefits food security.

The Izindaba Zokudla project is a joint initiative by the University’s Department of Anthropology; Department of Development Studies; Department of Industrial Design; Department of Business Management (Soweto programmes); Department of Graphic Design; Department of Multimedia Design; Department of Strategic Communications (Public Relations); the City of Johannesburg: Directorate Food Resilience; Region D Farmers forum; and the Meadowlands Agriculture Forum.

The project, a free service offered (with limited space) to all farmers in Soweto, started with urban farmers and gardeners in Soweto and is aimed at resource-poor, emergent, established and commercial urban farmers.

In 2015, the intended focus is on horticulture, developing appropriate technology and on establishing networks that can assist in developing viable and sustainable food enterprises.

Farmers can register for the Farmers’ School online.

Details of the Izindaba Zokudla: Farmers’ School Launch

Date: Saturday 16 May 2015

Venue: University of Johannesburg (UJ) Soweto Campus (SWC), Chris Hani Road Orlando

Time: 10h00-16h00

An exhibition by: UJ Industrial Design on Participatory Technology Development, UJ Graphic Design for Social Change, ENACTUS: Small Enterprise Development, UJ Community Engagement, City of Johannesburg Food Resilience Policies.

More information on the Izindaba Zokudla project:

Original article source:


Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables

Each year, we throw away over 300 million tons of fruit and vegetables worldwide mainly because they do not conform to retail standards of perfection (57% of total waste). The European Union has made 2014 the European year against food waste; and  Intermarché the 3rd largest supermarket chain in France decided to try and change their customers perceptions to encourage better behaviour towards imperfect fruit and vegetables by showing them that though they might be ugly, they are just as good to eat!

Intermarché made every effort to celebrate 5 “fruits et legumes moches” or “inglorious fruits and vegetables”. They received their own print and film campaign, their own local poster and radio campaign, their own in-store branding, their own aisle in store, their own labelling, and their own spot on the sales receipt. Finally, for people to realise that they were just as good as the others, Intermarché designed and distributed inglorious vegetable soups and inglorious fruit juices in-store.

The campaign celebrated the beauty of the Grotesque Apple, the Ridiculous Potato, the Hideous Orange, the Failed Lemon, the Disfigured Eggplant, the Ugly Carrot, and the Unfortunate Clementine. Intermarché bought from its growers the products they usually throw away, and sold them in-store just like any other, but 30% cheaper and making them far more attractive to their consumers. They sold on average 1.2 tonnes per store in the first 2 days of the campaign, increased store traffic by over 24%, and reached over 1.3 million people with the publicity they received! “Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables”, a glorious fight against food waste!


The Open Source Seed Intitiative

I have just completed reading Lisa Hamilton’s aptly titled article, Linux for Lettuce, in VQR: A National Journal of Literature and Discussion. The article explores the beginnings of the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) by a handful of practical farming academics and plant breeders in reaction to companies like Monsanto and their unscrupulous race to patent life.

 Fueled by both frustration and outrage, Myers, Morton, and Goldman helped establish a subtly radical group called the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) in 2012. Operating under the radar, its mission was to reestablish free exchange by creating a reservoir of seed that couldn’t be patented—“a national park of germplasm,” Goldman called it. By 2013, the group had two dozen members, several of them distinguished plant breeders from public universities across the country.

OSSI’s de facto leader is Jack Kloppenburg, a social scientist at the University of Wisconsin who has been involved with issues concerning plant genetic resources since the 1980s. He has published widely about the concept behind OSSI, and his words are now echoed (even copied verbatim) by public plant-breeding advocates in Germany, France, and India. As he explains it, for most of human history, seeds have naturally been part of the commons—those natural resources that are inherently public, like air or sunshine. But with the advent of plant-related intellectual property and the ownership it enables, this particular part of the commons has become a resource to be mined for private gain. Thus the need for a protected commons—open-source seed. Inspired by open-source software, OSSI’s idea is to use “the master’s tools” of intellectual property, but in ways the master never intended: to create and enforce an ethic of sharing.” 

Please take the time to read what is a very well written and informative article on the issues of plant patents versus seed sovereignty.



ACU Commonwealth Summer School

The 4th ACU Commonwealth Summer School: Global Food Security: Can We Feed a Growing World?

I have been granted one of ten partial bursaries internationally (valued at £350) to attend the fourth ACU Commonwealth Summer School: Global Food Security: Can We Feed a Growing World? together with 80 other post-graduate students from Sunday 17 – Sunday 24 August 2014 at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia Campus, Semenyih.

“The Commonwealth Summer School was instigated by the ACU in 2011. It aims to provide a forum to bring together high quality students from every corner of the Commonwealth to discuss multidisciplinary issues of global importance. A key element of the School is its desire to mix local/regional students with those who may have never  had the opportunity to leave their own regions. The inaugural School was held at the University of Buea, Cameroon, in July 2011 followed by the 2012 School hosted by the University of Botswana and in 2013, the ACU hosted the School in United Kingdom to coincide with the our Centenary.

Why food security?

The world’s population is predicted to hit 9 billion by 2050, and the UN estimates that food production will have to increase by 70% to meet the growth in demand. Issues pertaining to feeding the world’s ever expanding population will be at the heart of the 4th annual ACU Commonwealth Summer School’s programme, designed to take a multidisciplinary look at one of the major issues of our time. Top speakers and facilitators will help to frame the key issues and challenges allowing participants to learn, interact and work across countries, regions and disciplines to build international research connections. Participants will journey through various aspects of food production, looking closely at distribution, environmental management, migration, biotechnology, farm management, supply chains, nutrition and health policy in the process. Delegates will have the opportunity to observe the reality of food management, experience first-hand the food and supply chain, and immerse themselves in the challenges of food production. Through a series of workshops, group work and field-based learning, we will look at how food gets from farm to fork.” quoted from the Association of Commonwealth Universities

I am really looking forward to this opportunity to explore issues of food security and how to bring about food systems change in another “developing” context!


Innovation in Food, Ag and Integrated Resource Systems

Workshop: Innovation in Food, Agriculture and Integrated Resource  Systems: Creating Sustainable Opportunities in Soweto

Presenters: Sander Mager and Dr. Christopher Peterson

Facilitator: Dr. Naudé Malan

When: Thursday 5 June 2014 11:00 – 17:00 Where: VIP Lounge , University of Johannesburg Soweto Campus , Chris Hani Road

South Africa is not unique in facing social, environmental and economic challenges. To address these three successfully would require innovative solutions that bring together state agencies and departments, non-governmental organisations and private enterprises. Two leading experts in the creation of sustainable enterprises will in this workshop share their experience of addressing these challenges. Dr. Christopher Peterson and Sander Mager are leading the creation of the Global Innoversity which is an innovation accelerator aimed at inspiring and supporting the world’s metropolitan regions in developing and sharing innovations in food, agriculture and integrated resource systems.

The workshop will share the methods used and experiences gained in creating ecological, social and economically sustainable enterprises and innovations in the food system from the Netherlands and Michigan USA. These methods and experiences inform the current work of the Global Innoversity which is a self-sustaining global program for mutual action learning on metropolitan agriculture in, between and for the metropolitan regions of the world. Its goal is to successfully develop, share and implement a globally acknowledged ‘methodology’ for developing metropolitan agriculture in innovation clusters in metropolitan regions. It aims at multi-stakeholder cooperation and innovation and a new approach to transdisciplinary and participative knowledge development. Sander Mager will present the experiences gained from working for TransForum in the Netherlands, which preceded the Global Innoversity. TransForum is a public/private consortium that has invested €60 Million in more than 100 projects that demonstrated tangible results by improving the 3P (People/social, Planet/ecological, and Profit/economic) dimensions of sustainable metropolitan agrifood systems.

Dr. Christopher Petersen is the Director of the MSU Product Center Food-Ag-Bio that stimulates and develops business innovation and economic growth through business counselling, in‐depth market analysis and technical assistance for new entrepreneurs and existing businesses.

Brought to you by Izindaba Zokudla: Innovation in the Soweto Food System; Design Society Development & the Global Innoversity for MetroFood/Ag