The number of Andhra Pradesh farmers who practice Natural Farming has increased over 17x in the last 6 years
Rural farmers in Andhra Pradesh, India need an avenue to scale their businesses. Agriculture is the top source of income for the state of over 54 million inhabitants. From 2016 to 2021 alone, Natural Farmers have grown from 40,000 to over 7,50,000 demonstrating a huge interest and need for an avenue to support more and more farmers. Farmer collectives called FPOs (Farmer Producer Organizations) take note of all the crops and need a streamlined way to collect the available crops so they can help their farmers sell and amplify sales.
Leveraging industry expert knowledge and business goals
Before I could even think about potential solutions, I needed to do a deep-dive on the problem. This was my first time working within the Indian agriculture space, so there was a big knowledge gap that needed to be filled.
Fortunately, the client, Digital Green, was filled with industry experts and had already conducted extensive research about our users: farmers and FPOs (Farmer Producer Groups) and began user interviews. I sifted through all their data, and connected with business leaders to understand their progress, insights, and understand what success looks like to them. Here are the key observations and learnings from initial research:
Key Anticipated Constraints:
- - Quality of data that farmers are inputting
- - Internet and tech literacy limitations
- - Language barriers
What does success look like for this project?
- Validation from 4-5 FPOs and farmers that this is a tool that they would use
What kind of impact do you want to have on the market?
- Simplify the process and make more affordable for farmers to create and deliver bulk orders for their customers
Listening to the Farmers’ First -Hand Experience
In conjunction with former research and assumptions from Digital Green, I had a few questions to ask users before we started designing anything.
Goals of the user interviews
- Interview 5-7 farmers and 5-7 FPOs to learn about their current experiences and pain points.
- Gain deeper understanding of farmer and FPOs relationships and workflows
- Draft a report using our findings to inform user journeys and wireframe creation.
How we will measure success:
- - Uncover pain points in current selling/distribution model
- - Understand current workflow
- - Discover desired and prioritized features for new digital solution
Key Research Takeaways:
- Farmers need more access to markets and competitive prices
- FPOs want to know the quantities of available crops
- FPOs often oversee hundreds of farmers so the solution needs to aggregate data to make it accessible
- Many farmers don’t have access to smartphones
Our Key Players
We focused on two key target audiences: Farmers in PGs and FPOs.
PGs are local organizations of rural Indian farmers that share resources and sell their products together in bulk, to reduce prices. They are represented by a PG officer.
FPOs (Farmer Producer Organizations) are larger organizations that oversee several PGs. FPO officers manage various groups, and look for opportunities based on the crops grown in their respective collective.
Mapping out anticipated digital steps for PG and FPO Officers
The solution had to take service limitations and technology learning curves into consideration during iterations. Especially on the PG side, I made sure that every step was very simple and clear with little room for alternative physical actions.
Designing Simple Digital Solutions
Keeping simplicity and limited functionality was a priority while designing the wireframes. I honed in on the “must have” tasks that users would have to take:
- PG Officer:
- Add, view, edit profiles for all their farmers
- Input specific crop information for each farmer
- FPO Officer:
- See an overview of crop surplus for either of their PG Groups
Validation and Feedback
We used feedback from the industry experts from Digital Green as well as ad-hoc user testing with the wireframes to validate the concepts. Since it was a very simple solution we didn’t have to change much of the key functionality.
Building flexibility for Hindi translation into my hi-fidelity prototypes
Using the Digital Green branding and Material design guidelines, I transformed both the mobile and desktop prototypes into hi-fidelity prototypes so we could start testing the UI decisions. The component library made it easy through various rounds of iterations to update.
Testing our Ideas with the Market
I created our user testing questions for Digital Green’s team to conduct on-site. Sample questions included:
- FPO Officers:
- - General impressions/feedback
- - When looking at aggregated data of all the PGs, whats the most important information for you to have?
- - Which parts are confusing or frustrating for you?
- PG Officers:
- - What would make it easier for you to collect a lot of data for all your farmers?
- - Could you see yourself using this tool? Why/why not?
After a couple rounds of user testing and feedback from the industry experts, we were ready to start the hand-off the developers. I had designed 4 iterations of the hi-fidelity prototype.
Barriers to consider
The solution had to take service limitations and technology learning curves into consideration during iterations. Due to lack of strong internet connectivity, we designed the solution accordingly so it didn’t have too many complexities that would need to be loaded. When designing the interface, we had to make sure the spacing would accommodate the Telugu and Hindi characters on the screen.
“Now What?” and Key Takeaways
Our goal of the project was to simplify farmers' ability to track their crops and communicate their yields with FPOs that can use the data to find more sales opportunities.
Our solution provided a simplified process for both PG and FPOs to see updates across all their farmers. It factored in limitations to technology and kept each component and task very straightforward.
- It’s vital to acknowledge any biases or assumptions so you don’t let that influence your design decisions. For example, I hadn’t thought about technology literacy or lack of internet connection when I started the project. But through interviews with the stakeholders, it was apparent that those limitations would be important to consider when designing.
- Clear communications and expectations at the start of each phase are really important, especially when working with teammates in a very different time zone. I couldn’t just “ping” a colleague to ask a quick question as it came up because they were 10.5 hours ahead of me, and most likely sleeping. I had to anticipate questions and roadblocks so I could time when I could get the answers I needed
Data source: Niti Aayog Government. (n.d.). Andhra Pradesh – natural farming: Niti initiative | niti aayog. Natural Farming. Retrieved July 25, 2022, from https://naturalfarming.niti.gov.in/andhra-pradesh/