alemany farm

giving free, fresh produce to those who need it most


Feb 2020 - Dec 2020


Society, Health, Accessibility


Swift, User Testing, iOS Dev


Alemany Farm


Kaylan Huang

UI/UX Lead

Zeyad El-Arabaty

Technical Lead

Qianning Tang


Ryan Yu


Shaantam Chawla


Bongi Fleischer


Anjali Gurajapu



Abby Bell

Farm Manager @ Alemany Farm

Jack Thomas

Assistant Farm Manager @ Alemany Farm

Aaron Stromberg

Intern @ Alemany Farm


We worked on an iOS app to improve work productivity for the farm managers and volunteers on Alemany Farm, specifically by improving their access to and ability to record data about the trees they work with. In doing so, we provided the tools for long-term time and resource savings to the farm, and ability to get the more tedious farm management tasks done quickly.

Our partner

Alemany Farm is a non-profit urban farm based in San Francisco that provides free, fresh, and nutritious produce to communities who cannot otherwise access it. It aims to foster food security and educate local residents about how they can produce their own food. We worked with Abby Bell, the Farm Manager, and Jack Thomas, the Assistant Farm Manager, with technical guidance from Aaron Stromberg.

The problem

Without a standardized procedure for data collection and no central way to access it, volunteers at Alemany Farm did not have the necessary tools to document the needs of the 150+ trees they work with on a daily basis. Finding a way to improve this process would provide greater efficiency and ensure the sustainability of the farm as an organization.

Who is our user?

Farm Volunteers

who currently cannot access or store information about the trees they are working with

Our users need...

Easy access to information about trees in the Alemany Farm orchards.
A standardized method for recording information about trees and their treatments.
To spend their volunteer time in the most efficient manner possible.
A product that is suitable for the outdoor farm environment.


We designed and created a mobile application that allows volunteers to instantly access and make sense of vast amounts of historical data about the trees they work with, while allowing multiple farm staff members to store and search tree data with ease.


QR Codes & Mapping

How might we provide volunteers with accessible information about trees?

Our app’s landing page allows volunteers to quickly retrieve information about trees, since we discovered this is their most repetitive task. Our QR scanning feature allows volunteers to walk up to any tree and scan its unique QR code to pull up a dedicated page with the tree’s treatments, harvests, disease symptoms, and more.

Given the outdoor nature of the farm, we had to consider the case where physical QR codes are lost or destroyed. After a physical QR code is replaced on the tree, users can link it to the correct tree through the app.

At the moment, QR codes don’t exist for every tree. The search feature allows volunteers to find a tree by ID or fruit variety, so individual tree information can be accessed even without a QR code.

In Spring 2020, our team wireframed an interactive map feature for the orchards. In addition to QR scanning and search, users would be able to retrieve tree information through a digital map by tapping on pins. Ultimately we implemented retrieval through search and QR only, since an accurate map system would have required granular location data beyond our capacity.


Workflow & Data Visualization

How might we facilitate a standardized, intuitive data collection process for volunteers?

Our app needed to be quickly accessible as well as easily navigable after completion of tree care and data entry.

Our data input page includes the following features that make standardized, simple record-keeping a possibility for volunteers: horizontal scrolling, overlaid pop-up menus for inputting new data, and an automatic time-stamp for each entry. User permissions can prevent some users from editing the most sensitive tree information.

Historical data can be analyzed using the data visualization feature. This can be paired with rainfall and other inputs such as fertilizer and compost to better understand the relationships between external factors and quantities of food produced by a specific tree variety.


Application Design

How might we create an integrated branding campaign that communicates the connection and purpose between both programs and the social impact on students?

Helping volunteers maximize the time they spend working on productive tasks was a key goal of ours. For this reason, our mobile application needed to be simple, clear, and intuitive for our volunteers.

We put careful thought into the typography of the app, the colors, and their meanings, and the overall positioning of key elements to ensure we maintained a sophisticated aesthetic while creating an intuitive interactive experience.

A light green was used for primary buttons that are associated with positive actions whereas a deep red was used for secondary buttons and flags that alert the user or highlight important information. We designed fruit icons for the individual pages of each type of tree in the orchard.


Database & User Testing

How might we provide volunteers with the tools to access and update information in real time on the farm?

We chose to use Firebase Realtime Database for our backend. It integrates easily with Swift for iOS development, has in-built user authentication and permissions, and automatically caches data for offline use. Firebase made it easy to get up and running quickly and with multiple users simultaneously, in an outdoors setting where WiFi connectivity couldn’t always be guaranteed.

We visited our mentors, our primary users, on the farm to try out the search, QR, and new tree creation features. We received feedback and gathered information that helped us improve some features, namely the QR code workflow. We also helped tag some trees with physical labels while we were at it.

Another key learning that we had only after our in-person visit is how the farm doubles as a public space for education. Our app aims to serve both uses of the farm, allowing the public to learn about growing Alemany’s trees, too. One of our next steps is opening the QR scan feature to the public, so local visitors can also learn about their trees and what it takes to grow them.