"HydroHive: Revolutionizing Urban Farming, One Drop at a Time"


Hydroponic systems are a way to grow plants directly in water without using soil. Instead, the plant's roots get their nutrients from a water-based solution. This method can be more efficient than traditional soil farming, often leading to faster plant growth and bigger yields. There are different types of hydroponic systems, but they all share the common goal of providing plants with a balanced supply of water, nutrients, and oxygen. These systems are popular for growing vegetables, herbs, and other plants, especially indoors or in areas with poor soil quality.

Note: This is a team project done as part of the course Human Centered Design (ME 292C), for the fall 2023, at the University of California, Berkeley as a part of the MEng program. This documentation provides brief information on the project and mostly about my contribution to the project.

Our Solution

HydroHive's modular design adapts effortlessly to your needs, offering easy expansion and a hassle-free gardening experience for both enthusiasts and beginners. Customize and grow at your own pace – a perfect fit for any home. It features an external shell inspired by beehives. Slots and connectors enable users to connect multiple units together. The cups support the substrate and the roots of the plant. The tray supports the cup and covers the water. The container holds water with nutrients and supports the plant.

Project Timeline

Phases of the Project

Phase 1: Identify

Research | 8/24 - 9/26

Identifying Opportunities by Research on Product Opportunity Gaps

Phase 2: Understand

Research & Analyze | 9/28 - 10/20

Gathering data and in-depth Understanding conducting User Research

Phase 3: Conceptualize

Ideate | 10/24 - 11/8

Translation and Visualization by Concept Generation and Selection

Phase 4: Realize

Build & Communicate | 11/9 - 12/8

Bringing concept to life by using the Prototyping Plan and Showcase

Phase 1: Identify

Aug 24 - Sept 26

For phase 1, I came up with 15 Product Opportunity Gaps (POG) and as a team, we came up with 60 POGs. Through a peer-review process, the initial list was filtered down to 26 POGs. To refine their focus further, the team categorized these opportunities into six distinct categories. The final selection was made using a weighted matrix that assessed each POG against criteria such as cost, size, feasibility, and more. This quantitative evaluation led to the identification of a single POG:

"How might we design an energy-efficient and resilient hydroponic system that minimizes electricity usage and promotes renewables for wider adoption?"

Phase 2: Understand

Sept 28 - Oct 20

During the in-depth phase 2 period of our project, we focused on user research. The research in this phase heavily involved learning from existing products, competitors, articles, research papers, and interviews which I and my teammates conducted. Interviews included discussions with Tina Wistrom, UC Berkeley Oxford facility manager, and Ivan Wang, president of the Vertical Farming at Berkeley club. These interviews were held during a visit to their facility and they offered valuable insights into the current status of hydroponics systems, either technological, economic, or social. Following the user research, we redefined our POG and increased its scope to better accommodate other possible solutions:

“How might we revise existing hydroponics systems in urban environments and optimize them for wider adoption?”

After learning more about hydroponic systems from the user research, we proceeded with the study of our market and the competition. Our research on existing competitors gave us deeper insights into the needs of the user and the hydroponics market dynamics. Based on my and my team’s research, we found 3 direct competitors. Then, we used the categories to create a VOA (Value Opportunity Analysis) chart for our desired product, for the Kichgarden garden kit, and for the farmshelf vertical farming system, after defining all the features for VOA. It helped us determine the needs of our products which are to emphasize ease of use, scalability, and affordability while being aesthetically pleasing.

Phase 3: Conceptualize

Oct 24 - Nov 8

In the third phase, the concept generation for this project was executed through two primary methodologies: individual and group brainstorming. Individually, I developed ten potential concepts for the project. This individual ideation was complemented by a 5-3-5 brainwriting exercise, which served to refine these ideas. Furthermore, mind mapping facilitated the categorization and expansion of these concepts. Subsequently, the team collaboratively generated an additional five concepts.

“How might we revise existing hydroponics systems in urban environments and optimize them for wider adoption?”

To select viable concepts, we created a 2x2 matrix chart, categorizing the concepts along Extreme/Conservative and High-Tech/Low-Tech for better market orientation. Including 5 extra concepts from the “Collab” category, we ensured an equal number in each quadrant. We then used dot voting via Google Forms for unbiased selection, retaining concepts with at least three votes. In the High-Tech/Conservative quadrant, we merged two compatible concepts, and in other quadrants, we employed Borda count voting to rank concepts based on preference. This led to the selection of one key concept per quadrant, informed by our previous work on the Project Objective Goal and Value Opportunity Analysis charts.

Concept Sketch 1 & 2

Concept Sketch 3 & 4

Concept Sketch 5 & 6

Concept Sketch 7 & 8

Concept Sketch 9 & 10

Phase 4: Realize

Nov 9 - Dec 8

During phase 4, we decided on the final concept design by voting which was my second concept design out of the 10 I developed. After that, we proceeded into the prototyping phase where we first worked on the two prototyping canvases laying out the assumptions, questions on prototyping, resources, and challenges. I worked on the prototyping canvas shown in the picture here. The solution to the challenge that our prototyping canvas presented was ‘designing and implementing male and female connectors for hexagons and piping system connections.’

I extensively worked on sketching the proposed prototype to study the feasibility of the product for manufacturing and also to come up with a minimalistic design. After team discussions and a review from design stand-up, I created the final sketch for the prototype which was later designed in 3D in SolidWorks.

Prototype Sketches

Fig: Front view with three hexagonal compartments

Fig: Isometric view of one compartment

Fig: Back view with three hexagonal compartments

3D Design using SolidWorks

Hexagonal Compartment




One Complete Unit

Exploded view

Design Showcase

Full Assembly


3D Animation Video

Prototype Pictures


I really enjoyed the Human Centered Design course throughout the semester. The course design was very practical and unique for me. Getting to work on a project since the beginning of the semester and working step by step, considering all the factors needed to create a human-centered design, was a wonderful experience. Also, I have my huge respect and gratitude for the faculty team, Prof. Kosa, and our GSI/TA Ananya. I really appreciate their effort to make this learning experience a successful one. Their teaming strategy was very practical and I really loved this team and enjoyed working with each of them the whole semester. Overall, the project HydroHive turned out to be a successful course project for the time and budget allocated. The team did a fantastic job. Thanks to everyone involved in this process.

Learn More

Meet the Team

Team Member
Rupesh Shrestha
Mechanical Engineer
UC Berkeley
Team Member
Quentin Daurat
Mechanical Engineer
UC Berkeley
Team Member
Sean Chu
Mechanical Engineer
UC Berkeley
Team Member
Yash Saravan Nalina
Mechanical Engineer
UC Berkeley

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