Lead UX Researcher

Quick Summary

Farmshots is a Syngenta app that utilizes satellite imagery to identify areas of low crop yield in a field due to issues like Pests. A stakeholder believed that farmers would want to spray pesticides in just the problem areas, saving them time and money. To facilitate that process, a monitoring feature would be created for Farmshots. Through user research, we found that Farmers would not spray just a specific area, therefore eliminating the need for a monitoring feature. By not developing it, Syngenta saved thousands of dollars.

Contact Me

Background Information

Syngenta a global seeds and chemical corporation, one of the four biggest in the world, had recently purchased a scrappy start up firm called Farmshots. Farmshots is an app that delivers satellite imagery of crop fields to farmers. With this imagery, farmers can see a heatmap of their crops with green areas being high crop yields and red areas being comparatively lower. This provided farmers more information on the overall well being of their farm and gave them the ability to attend to low yield areas. Farmshots allowed farmers to see heatmaps of everything from the entire farm to individual fields.

As a UX Designer I created the experience for Farmshots but did not have much success in advocating for user research. It wasn't until an intern suggested that we add a 'Monitor Feature' that I was able to procure the time and resources needed to talk to users. The idea was that the Monitor Feature would allow Farmers to spray a small area of the field, as opposed to the entire field and get daily updates to monitor its effectiveness. Spraying less pesticide, in theory, would save farmers time and money.

Initial Business Objective

Validate the usefulness of the 'Monitor Feature' for Farmshots

The Current Experience

The Current Experience of Farmshots

Below are the main screens that illustrate Farmshots' core functionality. Users can navigate into a farm, get a heatmap of all their fields in that farm, create notes, adjust and apply filters to the heatmap, etc. The heatmaps show the density of a particular crop. A higher density (green) indicates that the crops growing in the field are healthy. A lower desnity (red) indicates that the crops aren't growing as expected and may infer that there is a problem going on in that area.

Mobile screen that lets the user select a farm to view its heatmapA mobile screen that shows the heatmap of a field
A mobile screen that shows the heatmap of a field and a filter to adjust the heatmap by variabilityA mobile screen that shows the heatmap of a field and a customized note

The Monitor Feature

The Monitor Feature

Like many low UX maturity organizations, it was usual for stakeholders to hear a problem and then develop a solution for it, without any user input. Because of this, I designed the monitor feature before I was able to convince the Farmshots team to take a pause and conduct user research.

The monitor feature allows users to designate a certain area of a field, usually an area with problems such as pests, and get daily snapshots on the field so that the user can measure its progress. The monitor feature is set up by the user selecting a field and creating a note. Then the user selects the monitor button. The user then moves the pin to designate the center of the area in which the user wishes to monitor that part of the field. A circle radiating from that center area allows the user to choose how much of that area the user wants to monitor and the size of that circle is controlled by a slider at the bottom.

A note page with a button to select the monitor featureA mobile screen that shows the heatmap of a field and a pin to designate the start of where to monitor
A mobile screen that shows the heatmap of a field and a slider that allows the user to specify the size of the monitorA mobile screen that shows the heatmap of a field and a slider that allows the user to specify the size of the monitor

Initial Research

Even after designing the monitor feature, I felt pretty strongly about getting user feedback before developing such a feature. I heard that the feature request came about from the stakeholder's own experience with her uncle's farm, and I wanted to make sure the user need could be validated through other farmers.

Because of my rapport with the Farmshots team and their satisfaction with my projects, I was able to conduct a small user research initiative and was even set up with interviews from agronomists and salesmen from Syngenta.

Who We Interviewed

Sales Reps

Who Is Using This Application

During our interviews we learned that there were primarily three types of people that had knowledge of Farmers behaviors.

The Syngenta salesperson was our insider on working with Farmers. They were knowledgeable about Farmer's attitudes and painpoints.

Agronomists are the pesticide and crop experts. They are scientists that understand the land better than anyone. Farmers lean on these experts for their advice on dealing with pests.

Notably missing are Farmers — we did not interview them as it was in the middle of planting season.

What Are Our User's Saying?

After conducting several interviews it started to become crystal clear that our initial assumptions that lead to the development of the monitor feature were completely wrong. Most notably:

When dealing with pests, Farmers need to spray the entire field rather than just a small area. The reason is that by the time a signifier of pests shows up on a heatmap, the pests have likely spread out to areas beyone what shows up on the satellite imagery.

The other insight we learned was that from a labor standpoint, it was easier, faster, and cheaper to send out a pesticide specialist to spray down an entire field rather than give them very specific instruction of spraying a particular area.

Project Debrief

After presenting my insights with the rest of the team, we collectively decided to scrap the monitor feature. While a cynical person could look at the project as a waste of time, I believe the insights we learned made the project a success. It not only saved Syngenta several thousands of dollars in development costs but it showed Syngenta, a low-maturity organization, the benefit in talking to users. As a result, the team at Farmshots were much more interested in getting user feedback and incorporated it much more frequently in their projects.