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22 November 2022

ZINIA – project result of team »Technology«

project documentation


by German Design Museum Foundation

In the summer of 2021, the Design Networking Hub was launched. The aim was to create a knowledge and networking platform for designers, architects and creative professionals to support international cooperation projects in the field of design and architecture.

In order to make the content of this platform as user-oriented as possible, a pilot group of ten young designers and architects from Germany and Kenya was selected to work in teams through the entire process of bilateral cooperation. In the fields of mobility, housing and digitalisation, they set up and implemented three cooperation projects for the German or Kenyan market.

The special cultural and economic requirements of the two countries have initiated unconventional creative processes, provided surprising twists and turns and produced some solutions that could hardly have been foreseen in advance.

In the following, we present team »Technology«’s project result.


For the three designers of team »Technology«, Stephanie Nyairo, Madita Morgenstern-Antao and Philip Kohlbecher, technology appears above all as an efficient tool for connecting people, simplifying living conditions and eliminating existing problems.

Looking at the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, the three designers‘ approach was essentially about making an effective contribution to the implementation of the goals 1) no poverty and 2) no hunger.

In line with the motto Helping people to help themselves, the team looked for deficiencies in food production that could be solved by a technical solution enabling many people to achieve lasting and effective self-sufficiency.

The three designers found the perfect environment for their mission in the sector of mushroom farming. Whether in a mud hut, a cellar, or a specially built environment: the successful establishment and operation of a mushroom farm is possible almost anywhere, especially if the cultivation conditions can be controlled and regulated.

For team »Technology«, this was just the right challenge to help micro and family farms get started with mushroom farming. With ZINIA, the trio developed a modular sensor kit that is as smart as it is affordable.

ZINIA measures humidity, temperature, CO2 content and light intensity in real time and thus takes over the task of a whole series of previously more complex and expensive measuring devices.

To make ZINIA optimally usable under almost all conditions and by as many people as possible, the three designers decided to offer their sensor kit in three different forms: As a DIY construction manual, as a 3D print model, and as a finished product.

Originally, the term ZINIA comes from Swahili and refers to a large plate of food placed in the centre of the table, from which all family members usually serve themselves. In this case, ZINIA mainly supports small and independent mushroom farmers to produce food more efficiently and for more people.

The final presentation of ZINIA was recorded at the »Ideas Crossing Borders« conference in Berlin on 15 November 2022. Watch the recorded livestream of all three teams of the Design Networking Hub pilot group and more interesting speakers.

As part of the Design Networking Hub, a pilot group of five German and five Kenyan designers and architects has been selected with the intention of maximizing the user orientation of the information provided by the platform. During a project phase of about one year, the members have been working in small bilateral teams and jointly developing new product and business ideas or not-for-profit concepts in the fields of housing, social design and technology. A detailed overview of the selected participants can be found here.

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