Farmvision

An AI assistant that helps urban farmers in their planting journey and grows a story along with their plants.

OVERVIEW

There is a growing trend towards urban farming, with people wanting to live a more eco-friendly and sustainbale llifestyle. Urban Farming also makes use of any free land around cities, reduces transportation costs, and delivers fresh food right from the plant. 

Duration:

3 months ( Feb 2019 - May 2019 )

Team:

Shashank Jain  /  Jingyi Cheng  /  Elisabeth Moore Harika Bommu  /  Ting Pan

My Role:

• Performed primary and secondary research through user interviews, ethnographic studies and journey map co-creation to understand the process of urban farming.

• Performed primary and secondary research through user interviews, ethnographic studies and journey map co-creation to understand the process of urban farming.

• Iteratively refined ideas through feedback and testing on various fidelity levels of prototypes.

• Lead visual design and storytelling presentation flow to present the solution

CHALLENGE

There is a growing trend towards urban farming, with people wanting to live a more eco-friendly and sustainable lifestyle. Urban Farming also makes use of any free land around cities, reduces transportation costs, and delivers fresh food right from the plant. 

How might we use AI technology to improve the urban farming experience empowering people to live a sustainable and healthy lifestyle?

 

SCOPE

/ Identifying the User

Urban Farming has various stakeholders and scale. Through initial research, we identified and decided to focus on urban farm volunteers as out target user, because they are the largest user group involved, and are highl;y important in the overall process.

/ Defining the Scope

*Agriculture Intelligence = Our Product's Working Title

Agriculture Intelligence enables urban farmers to grow organic food with ease and confidence by providing insights into the best practices and automating tasks.

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/ High Level Goals

Training &

Preparation

Planting &

Management

Harvesting &

Distribution

RESEARCH

/ User Interviews

We conducted on-site studies and interviews to understand in depth the process of urban farming and all its aspects, including how technology is being currently used. We went to participate and interview 3 urban farms around Austin, including the University of Texas's own student-run micro-farm. We also interviewed the sustainability coordinator at UT for his perspective.

/ Work Artifacts

Work Artifacts collected from these interviews give a good perspective on how these organizations conduct and manage their work, 

/ Journey map co-creation

Once we interviewed the people involved, we co-created three journey maps with different stakeholders to understand the pain points in their journey from their perspective. The journey maps were co-created with the farm volunteers, farm manager, and UT's sustainability coordinator

/ Competitive Analysis

Once we interviewed the people involved, we co-created three journey maps with different stakeholders to understand the pain points in their journey from their perspective. The journey maps were co-created with the farm volunteers, farm manager, and UT's sustainability coordinator

 

ANALYSIS

 

/ Externalization

To consolidate and synthesize data, we used Mural to list down journey stages. Below that, we created 4 sections of Steps, Tools, Pain Points, and Opportunities to sort data and connect information. In the opportunities section, we brainstormed and listed areas or methods of intervention that would help make the farming journey more enjoyable

/ Hi, Have you met Jill ?

Jill is a hardworking designer during the weekdays and regular volunteer at an Urban farm on the weekends. She is growing a variety of crops this season. Let us see what Jill's urban farming experience looks like.

/ Jill's Planting Journey

 

She receives tasks from the farm manager Neil. There are many different tasks like Testing soil, soil prep, make compost, remove weeds, plant various crops…

"Sometimes I forget what task should I do, and I have to ask Neil who is always busy"

Her first task is to transplant thyme leaves on a pre-prepared planting bed, but unexpected weather changes make the task harder .

Pain Point 1

Tasks are uncertain, confusing and difficult to keep track of.

"I don’t know if I’m doing this right."

While talking to her new friends, she notices her lettuce is dying, and few of her crops are not doing well.

"I planted the beets three weeks ago. I don’t know what’s happening cause it’s not germinating. There’s nothing I can do."

Jill goes to Urban Roots, she's very happy to work on the farm today!

"I’m so excited to see how my plants are doing."

Pain Point 2

Problems are hard to deal with.

Pain Point 3

Remote monitoring of plant health is difficult.

She is not sure if the solution she implemented was enough to fight off the pests in her crops. She cant wait to go back the next week.

"I live far away from the farm. I hope my plants are ok during the week"

She’s leaving the farm feeling fulfilled and a sense of achievement! She enjoyed the community and being close to nature

KEY TAKEAWAYS

 

/ Pain Points

1.

Uncertainties in the process

There are many uncertainities in the planting process, and even the experts learn by doing. These leads to various difficulties specially for new farmers.

3.

Lack of continued fulfillment

Plant growth is a slow process, and and it takes time to harvest the fruits of labor. This leads to volunteers feeling unsatisfied, and low volunteer retention for farms.

Remote monitoring of plants is difficult, and results in frequent checkup, and unforeseen

problems as volunteers have busy schedules.

2.

Difficulty in monitoring growth

4.

Lack of ownership

Since the farm lands are mostly community owned, volunteers have very motivation apart from personal interest in farming, 

/ Insights

1.

Make human connections

One of the biggest motivation attached to urban farming amongst volunteers was to feel a part of the community, and make human connections.

3.

Feel close to nature

People loved being around nature, and felt it recharged them. Feeling connected to nature was a strong motivation.

2.

Hands on experience 

People come for the hands-on, tactile experience of farming, and dod not want automation to take that away.

People took pride in their plants and personal growth. They frequently shared their journey  with friends and on social platforms.

4.

Personal and plant growth story

IMPACT

 

/ Re-defining the Problem

How might we build a smart AI assistant that makes urban farming journey more fulfilling by recommending sustainable farming techniques, monitoring plant development but most importantly by growing a story with your plants

/ Ideation & Product Decisions

DESIGN

 

Meet FarmVision

Let us see what Jill's journey looks like with FarmVision

At Home:

Jill receives a notification about the status of her plants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

She opens the app, checks on how her plants are doing and is really excited that her lettuce is ready to harvest. 

She decides to go to the community farm today and selects tasks she would like to volunteer for, including care for her own plants.

 

This would also help the farm manager plan and manage better by understanding what tasks have people taken responsibility for.

Farm Overview, Plant Health Status, and Task Selection

At Farm:

Once Jill reaches the farm, she is greeted by other volunteers and farm managers, who are greeting and getting to know each other. Jill loves meeting new people!

FarmVision analyzes large weather and plant data sets  glasses are connected to a grid of sensors that collect plant health data to analyse and keep volunteers like Jill updated with required tasks

On the table, there are smart glasses for each volunteer, which would help them with their farming experience. Jill wears one.

After identifying the person through voice/retina identification, FarmVision personalizes the experience, and shows the relevant tasks and work.

 

The smart voice-controlled AI assistant  help the volunteers in keeping track of tasks, and guide them through the process. 

The involvement of the AI assistant in the process is minimal, and can be controlled by the user, as the main focus  is the tangible experience of farming and community.

After having completed a few tasks, she notices there is something wrong with her Beet plants. The leaves have some holes in them, which were not there the previous week.

Apart from helping with tasks, using AI and image recognition, FarmVision can also help troubleshoot problems, 

She is happy that she was able to cure her plants. While walking around the farm, there are many surprises that delight her.  She loves this new experience of  interacting with plants.

FarmVision makes the overall experience engaging and fun by using Augmented reality to develop a personal connection with plants. It personifies plants to make interactions with them more natural. 

At Home again:

Once Jill returns home, she receives a notification about the status of her plants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

She opens the app, and receives points for all the work she did, and the problems she tackled on the farm.

The app also lets her track her journey and adds milestones for every big achievement she has. It also guides her on deciding the next plants she wants to grow.

Plant Encyclopedia, Gamification, and Personal Journey

FUTURE STEPS

This balanced mixture of technology and Having received a sponsored entry by the University of Texas at Austin into the Fast Company Design and Innovation Awards 2020, we plan to refine the project further through user testings and iterations, before producing a final submission for the competition entry.

/ Reflections

The design journey with my teammates and Prof. Sukis was a rewarding and enriching experience. We gained in-depth knowledge about the design process and learned how to overcome problems by research, design, and iteration.

  • User research forms the backbone of good design.

    Every design has a purpose and that is to reach the intended audience effectively. We spent a lot of time doing extensive research and understanding our users and the process in depth. The knowledge base we created proved to be extremely useful throughout the design journey, allowing us to make informed design decisions at each step.

  • The first design is almost always never a perfect solution. Iteration helps, and is essential.

    Explorations and re-iterations based and research and user testing is what plays a crucial part in determining how well the product would serve its users. Working and changing the design direction is better than letting the process stagnate.

  • Design is at its best when ideas are discussed freely.

    While working in a team, creating a productive and idea-oriented environment is crucial. It is important to be sympathetic and take constructive critique of all ideas, even if it is yours. When individuals are free to express, the ideas that sprout from the smallest of comments can make a huge impact on the product.

  • Defining the problem, documenting, and having clear goals matter.

    While working on a time-bound problem, and that is always, it is useful to have an idea of the project timeline. Timeline updates according to product evolution, but having an overview in mind gives context to each step. Documenting design decisions help maintain a progressive flow, and journey efficient and fruitful.

@2019 Shashank Jain  |   sjain@utexas.edu