And so the story comes to an end, or at least onto the next chapter - our Launch initiative has come full circle. We’ve been hanging out with New Roots, and it's been a blast. We’re excited to share what we’ve built.
Learn about how New Roots is changing the community, and how by utilizing technology, they’ll be able to fill more bellies with fruits and veggies.
The Launch initiative was designed to do just that: Launch a non-profit’s idea for a mobile app, designing and building it entirely custom for them, from scratch, pro bono. We started with 20 applicants, narrowing the pool down to six semifinalists.
We learned about some awesome groups that are helping our community. After pouring over the applicants, we had found our group: New Roots.
New Roots is an innovative sliding scale, pay ahead fresh food market that helps connect families to local, organic farmers. They then can purchase fresh produce at affordable prices, with a focus on families who couldn’t afford it otherwise. Through building community power, asking each shareholder to volunteer their time and wisdom to organize, operate and sustain the markets, New Roots not only fills bellies, but fills minds and hearts. Shareholders pay on an anonymous income-based sliding scale where everyone receives the same exact produce, regardless of pay.
This growing season, 86 percent of the shareholder-base identifies as facing limited resources; many families pay with SNAP Benefits. All shareholders are able to share knowledge with each other at the markets (with physical distancing) or online about how to best utilize the produce and live a healthy lifestyle. Farmers don’t need to worry about their average farmers’ market risk thanks to shares: they easily know exactly how much produce to bring and have guaranteed payment and profit.
New Roots is all about mutual aid and cooperative economics: everyone gets to be well fed and active participants in their community.
Gathering the thoughts and ideas of farmers, volunteers, and shareholders was vital to ensure we were building the right thing for New Roots. We asked them about their eating habits, how New Roots had affected them, and how they interact with the markets.
Through our conversations, we discovered their pain points, opportunities for improvement, and wish lists. By taking their answers and comparing them, we could spot similarities that would point us towards app features. We sorted these features on their complexity and business value, narrowing the product down to its essential form, or the Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
After talking with New Roots founder Karyn Moskowitz, we knew we wanted to build something that was both easy-to-use and exciting to look at. We used the cheerful images and bright colors to show just how fun New Roots was.
With this in mind, our designers began creating wireframes and prototypes of the app. The app would need to be built for both iOS and Android phones, meaning that the design would need to match the specifications of those platforms. The first step was ensuring that the sign-up process was easily understood.
The app would also need to do what we set out to accomplish: make it easier for the volunteers at New Roots as well as the shareholders. Before, volunteers would call each individual shareholder to see if they wanted to partake in that week’s market. Oftentimes, people would accidentally skip markets without knowing, wasting food and money.
To solve this, we designed reminders that would tell shareholders about upcoming markets and what they had ordered. We also gave them the ability to skip markets if they wanted, saving time and money for everyone involved.
With the design complete, all we had to do was build it.
The awesome thing about this project is that every developer and designer helped out in some way. We all wanted to support the app because we all believe in the mission: fresh food is a basic human right, and through technology we could help even more people.
As we already mentioned, Slingshot needed to build for an android and iOS app. This would be done using Xamarin: a cross-platform open source mobile app development framework. We’ve got quite a bit of experience with Xamarin up our sleeves, and using it would allow us to save time and money over other options.
To make it easier for everyone, we wanted to add the ability to pay for shares of food with a credit card, ACH, or SNAP benefits. This led us to use Stripe: a flexible and safe payment processing system. We’ve used Stripe before, so we knew it would easily and safely collect users information.
The app would also have the option for shareholders to make donations, helping everyone in the community gain access to fresh food. Setting up donations within an app is an extensive process: there are reams of rules and regulations surrounding it. After studying the pages with a full cup of coffee in hand, we were able to ensure that New Roots will be able to put those donations to good use.
An extensive testing routine is always needed when building mobile apps. Each individual developer ensures that their code is thoroughly tested. We also work with our QA analyst to make sure all aspects of the app’s code are approved several times. Since this was a cross-platform app, we also had to test over several different devices, operating systems, and screen sizes.
Now the app, known simply as New Roots, is available in both the Google play and iOS App stores. At the next fresh-stop market, the mobile app will be able to help. Even more people will now have access to fresh food, all from the digital-world in their pocket.
Though our Launch journey has come to an end, we’ll hold the memories and lessons we’ve learned close to our heart. We can’t build solutions without first building our communities. Also, we definitely need to be eating more vegetables.
Thank you Karyn and all of New roots for changing our community for the better!