The vital role UX plays in agriculture.

Profile photo of Emma Campbell

Emma Maguire (née Campbell)

October 20, 2022

Farmer and UX specialist talking together in a field with cows.

There is a rise in digital adoption within the agriculture industry, a growing sector and key contributor to the New Zealand economy. This sector is evolving with the increase in food demands and economic and environmental sustainability, with technology offering solutions to enhance these areas and, ultimately, improve food production.

There are various reasons why growers or farmers will look for technology to help solve a problem and why they would actively not adopt certain technology. Therefore, agritech companies need to have an awareness of how to fit technology within people’s lives.  

“Customers need to be ready and able to adopt them. So how do we do this? We start by understanding how farmers and growers currently are approaching adopting digital technologies” - Bridgit Hawkins, Chair of AgriTechNZ

The importance of knowing who your users are.

Understanding your users or potential users and how they adopt digital technologies is crucial to launch an agritech product successfully.  

A blanket generalisation over your users won’t give you results, as this approach prevents you from truly understanding different people’s motivations. Each user will have different wants and needs, so it’s important we offer solutions that are relevant to them.

The 2022 AgriTechNZ Report on digital adoption gathered insights directly from talking to farmers and growers in New Zealand rather than based on assumptions or predictions. This displays the real value you can gain from going out in the field and speaking to your current and target users. This article will highlight the valuable findings from AgriTechNZ, and you can download the full report here.

The report highlights six farmer and grower population segments: Trailblazers, Persuadable, Pragmatists, Pressured, Conservatives and Traditionalists. 

Each of these population segments has their own unique motivations and way of thinking when it comes to digital adoption. For example, if your users are orchard growers who want to gain a better overview of their property, within that group, you may have Trailblazers and Conservatives who will approach digital products differently. 

This is why investing in UX (user experience) can help with digital adoption. Human-centred thinking allows you to apply various methods, such as user research, to gain a complete picture of your digital solution’s effectiveness. It will also help you build a product that will cater to all different types of population segments within the same target market.

“If we believe our technologies are part of solving problems – for individual farmers or for the greater NZ Inc benefit - we owe it to our farmers and growers to understand their reasons and start the conversation there.”  
- Bridgit Hawkins, Chair, AgriTechNZ

Communicate the value of your technology.

You have a digital product offering some incredible features. However, do your users get lost in the tech instead of understanding the value you bring to these agricultural businesses? It’s important to educate and clearly explain how your product can change the way farmers and growers work and the benefits they can gain from it.

59% of farmers and growers said they believe the digital technology currently available adds significant value to their operations, while 41% didn’t see much value in using digital technology to run their businesses.

45% of agricultural operations said they know where to get reliable and impartial information about digital technologies, but 55% said it’s difficult to work out what may or may not be beneficial for their business.  

This demonstrates a high percentage of potential users unable to see the true value of how digital adoption can improve their business. Creating an impactful first impression when communicating with your potential users is crucial to whether they remain on that customer journey with you.

If your users are impressed from that very first touch point, this will increase the likelihood of them adopting new technologies and remaining engaged.

Maximise the value of your product with a UX audit.

Getting an unbiased analysis of your digital product and spotting solutions for improvement early on in the development stages will ensure you provide value to agriculture businesses. 

A UX audit will unveil where you can make user interface improvements and how technology issues can directly hinder conversions and user retention.

Further benefits of implementing a usability audit:

  • Sparks innovation and optimises product performance
  • Identified solutions to support business objectives
  • Future opportunities for improvement 
  • Increased conversions and return on investment
  • A clear guided product roadmap
  • Enhanced competitiveness – discover your product’s unique value
  • Supported decision-making and minimised risk with meaningful data
“It’s important we understand what technology challenges farmers are facing to enable user-centred design and effective use of technology” 
- Tim Mackle, CEO, DairyNZ

Instil confidence in digital technologies.

Communicating the value of digital technology is one thing; making sure users are comfortable using it is another. Only 36% of all farmers and growers say they feel confident using new digital technology tools, compared to 77% of business owners and managers outside this primary sector.

This highlights user experience considerations are a requirement for agritech businesses. When you are already battling against low digital confidence among potential users, having an unintuitive product with poor usability will cause an even greater barrier to digital adoption.

“There’s a fair amount of tech that’s nice and shiny, but if it’s not producing value for the farmers, the word gets around pretty quickly”
- Peter Barrowclough, Lincoln Agritech Chief Executive

With a boom in global agritech start-ups, it’s likely there’s another solution like yours around the corner that has invested in optimising its user experience to ensure it’s as easy as possible to use. It’s no surprise the pandemic has made an impact on the rise of tech companies leading the way. With 2.3% times more growth on average compared to non-tech start-ups.

In 2020, New Zealand’s top 22 agritech firms earned a combined $1.4 billion in annual revenue, on par with New Zealand-grown tech success Datacom which made $1.3b that year
– Stuff NZ

With competition arising, this emphasises the importance of UX in ensuring your product stays ahead of the curve.

Adoption drivers.

What are users looking for before adopting digital technologies? The 2022 AgriTechNZ report states efficiency and ease of use are the two top drivers in prompting farmers and growers to get their latest piece of digital technology.

The report also recommends that emphasis be placed on proving efficiency gains and showing that design meets needs. Interestingly, the opportunity to try before committing is the least significant aspect of the ten drivers for what farmers and growers sought before digital adoption.  

Displaying live demos or giving prospects the ability to see the tech in action within another agribusiness will give farmers and growers a chance to see the ease of use and show the potential to improve efficiency.

The report highlights some deeper benefits farmers and growers can achieve when adopting new technologies. These include:

  • Reduced number of people required in the business, which in turn saves money
  • Reduced stress for livestock that results in greater animal welfare
  • Saved time that could then be better spent with family or towards other jobs
  • A legacy, investing in and improving the business for the next generation

Undoubtedly, investing in an agritech solution is valuable to business success. However, the value is different to different people. Applying user thinking to your solution will ensure you’re tailoring solutions to meet the varying needs of different user groups. 

Investing in UX to enrich experiences with your agritech solution.

It’s easy to create a product we think users want instead of what they actually want. UX design is a fundamental and valuable investment to ensure the long-term success of your digital solution.

Whether you’re launching a new product or looking to improve the performance of an existing one, UX will apply human-centred thinking to ensure an intuitive solution. As a result, you will gain a product that increases user satisfaction, new sign-ups and an increase in productivity.

Further benefits of UX design for your digital solution include:

  • A visually appealing interface
  • Ease of navigation and accessibility
  • Trust and brand loyalty
  • Reduced development costs and risks
  • Strategy that prioritises efforts for high-impact results

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