IDP FINAL PROJECT JOURNEY

Kick Off | Sept 28, 2015

I want my Final Project  to…

be a break from my usual work. I want to take this opportunity to do something for the farmers of my country and other developing nations, specifically in the field of information accessibility. I think these 2 months gives the right opportunity to do something for people outside the mainstay of digital culture, without worrying about the market feasibility or profits. I would be happy even if I scratch the surface of the one of such problem.

I don’t like faking interactions and wizard of oz stuff, so would be focusing on building something which actually works. I would also like to stick to the build.test.repeat philosophy. Early, iterative and rapid prototypes works best for me and I would like to make them an integral part of my design process with research.

 

I’m interested in/inspired by…                                                                                                   

I am interested in working on the agriculture domain because:

  • Personally, I come from a family which has its roots in farming and agriculture. I’ve been brought up very close to the agricultural domain and this is very close to my heart.
  • Based on my understand around the topic, I have a strong intuition that there is a big information gap between farmers and the relevant agricultural data. I want to test and validate this intuition and make information more accessible to the labour extensive agricultural domain in the developing countries.

This project is relevant because…

Personally

  • It would be highly satisfying on a personal front if I could give a solution to even small part of a large global problem. I have a keen interest in knowing about the agriculture and economies of developing countries, I’ve been travelling to some developing nations in Africa and Asia during the past few years, talking to the people and trying to understand their cultures and perspectives. The majority of interactions and observations point towards similar problems of mis information or non information in the agriculture sector, and I think I can make an effort in this sector.
  • I think that agricultural practices (which are labour extensive in developing nations) are pretty much neglected and far fetched from technology and design. As an interaction designer it would be a great opportunity to start from the roots and apply people centred design principles and technology on this topic.

For Society 

  • UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation predicts that the agricultural sector is going to face enormous challenges in order to feed the 9.6 billion people which are going to inhabit the planet by 2050: food production must increase by 70% by 2050, and this has to be achieved in spite of the limited availability of arable lands, the increasing need for fresh water (agriculture consumes 70 per cent of the world’s fresh water supply) and other less predictable factors, such as the impact of climate change, among other things, to changes to seasonal events in the life cycle of plant and animals.
  • One way to address these issues and increase the quality and quantity of agricultural production is using technology and by harvesting the available data to make farms more “intelligent” and more connected through the so-called “precision agriculture” also known as ‘smart farming’.
  • The current generation of ‘smart farming’ equipment and information services are out of reach for the majority of farmers living in the developing nations. I think there is an opportunity space here, to enable farmers make better informed decisions based on the available agricultural data.

 

During my Final Project I would like to challenge myself in…               

Comfort zone:

  • Engineering and tech related work, programming, electronics, data science.
  • People centred research

Outside comfort zone:

  • Remote testing because the primary target group might not be in Denmark
  • 3D modelling

 

Related projects                                                                                                             

Precision agriculture  or site specific crop management is a farming management concept based on observing, measuring and responding to inter and intra-field variability in crops. Crop variability typically has both a spatial and temporal component which makes statistical/computational treatments quite involved. The holy grail of precision agriculture research is the ability to define a Decision Support System for whole farm management with the goal of optimising returns on inputs while preserving resources.

Cropio is a field management system. It employs smart crop monitoring and provides reports on vegetation index dynamics, precise weather forecasts and soft commodity market information.

 

My starting point

I would like to start by talking to the farmers and agriculture experts in Denmark and would try to understand their methods. At the same time I would like to conduct interviews with the farmers in India and try to get their perspective, I have a good circle of resources which can arrange relevant information in India. Collecting information from two completely unique sources would be beneficial to widen the perspective and might be helpful to drill down to the source of the problem.

After that, I would look into the existing methods to provide information and techniques for data harvesting, and would like to build and test early prototypes.

 

My explorations so far                                                                                                                                     

I’ve been talking to some of the farmers via skype, my mother has also shown keen interest and she is also talking to some of the farmers and government officials. During this research we have found information gap in the following areas:

  1. Seeds

Seed is a critical and basic input for attaining higher crop yields and sustained growth in agricultural production. Distribution of assured quality seed is as critical as the production of such seeds. Unfortunately, majority of farmers are illiterate and are not aware about the seeds which can maximise the yield. Information around seeds is easily available on government’s website but still remains far from the reach of farmers.

  1. Manures, Fertilisers and Biocides

Soils have been used for growing crops over thousands of years without caring much for replenishing. This has led to depletion and exhaustion of soils resulting in their low productivity. This is a serious problem which can be solved by using more manures and fertilisers.. But farmers usually use the same chemicals every time which might not be the most efficient and in some case have adverse effects on the soil. Manures and fertilisers play the same role in relation to soils as good food in relation to body. Just as a well-nourished body is capable of doing any good job, a well nourished soil is capable of giving good yields.

  1. Soil fertility and crop rotation

Most of the farmers rely on their personal wisdom when it comes to taking care of soil, they keep on growing similar vegetables again and again over years without checking the concentration and nutrient value of soil. The current systems to check soil fertility are complicated and farmers are not motivated to follow the process.

  1. Weather forecast and early warning mechanism

Weather plays a vital role in farming, rain and wind erode the crops quite a few times, it’s very hard to fight nature but being prepared can make some difference in losing all the crops vs saving some of them. Weather data is available in detail but there is very few mechanism like radio/TV to warn farmers about the coming rain or drought.

  1. Pricing of crops, commodity market information

Farmer usually sell crops at a much lower rate than they are sold at the market, reasons range from the lack of pricing information about the market, lack of logistics and other infrastructural resources.