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Crop Quality Inspection Service
Gramhal is a tech nonprofit on a mission to empower farmers with data to increase farm profitability. I undertook a project at this startup to study the service of crop quality inspection and identify areas of improvement in the entire service using immersive research and designed solutions for the same. Post the service implementation, I also conducted user feedback research with the beneficiaries of this service bringing some important insights that helped Gramhal team make a major pivot in their service model.
Design and Research Consultant
September 2020 - January 2021
Grain Quality Inspection kit in use at farmer's house. Photo courtesy and ownership - Gramhal Foundation
Crop quality is one of the most important factors using which traders quote prices to farmers for their produce. Often times traders use unscientific methods or change the readings in their personal devices to manipulate the rate, causing farmers to lose income.
To reduce the chances of unfairness, Gramhal designed a crop quality testing service that would offer an opportunity to farmers for unbiased quality inspection right at their doorstep, and provide a source of income to rural youth
Stakeholders to design for
Visit farmers’ doorstep and use the quality testing kit to conduct quality inspection and offer quality receipt.
Gramhal’s field team
Train micro-entrepreneurs on how to use the grain quality kit using Gramhal’s curriculum app and hosting workshops
Beneficiaries of the service who get their produce tested for a minimal fee and receive a daily SMS on the price corresponding to their crop quality.
Service blueprint (Stakeholder interaction map) with various touchpoints I designed for
I designed solutions for several touchpoints.
For this case study I am going to focus on 5 major challenges I identified and solved for.
To make the stakeholder interaction map easy to understand, below is a vertical format of the same along with the challenges.
“A touchpoint is any interaction (including encounters where there is no physical interaction) that might alter the way that your customer feels about your product, brand, business or service.”
Solving the challenges
I found this challenge on conducting interviews with Gramhal field team involved in training participants. This problem slowed down the pipeline of participants training to become quality inspectors
This challenge was identified on conducting interviews with micro-entrepreneurs, who went into the field from morning and returned in evening with less than 10 quality inspections in a day.
I conducted an immersive research from the process of signing up to conducting quality inspections and found out that while the curriculum on the app and training workshops were well structured, there were too many micro-steps to remember
For solving these challenges I designed an illustrated booklet to be used in trainings and included along with the quality test kit that the micro-entrepreneurs could refer to while conducting the tests. This would also serve as a visual aid to present to farmer the process of quality inspection without spending time in demos.
Pages from the illustrated booklet designed to solve challenges 1, 2, and 3
Booklet in use while conducting quality assessment
Illustrations used in demos and workshops
"yeh toh hamara cheatsheet hai, quality parikshan par jaane se pehle me yeh kitaab dekh kar steps yaad kar leta hu"
("this is like a cheatsheet for me, before heading out for a quality inspection, I look at this booklet and revise all the steps")
- Sunil Pal, one of the micro-entrepreneurs using the quality testing kit
Service Feedback Research
After conducting the first pilot of quality assessment, I conducted feedback research with farmers who opted for the service. From the insights of first 15 phone interviews, some research questions emerged as follows:
1. Do farmers find value in quality parameter readings while making a sale?
2. Are farmers able to negotiate for better rates based on their quality?
3. Are farmers willing to take this service in the next crop harvest season?
4. Are there other crops for which farmers would like to test outside of Gramhal’s offerings? 5. How much money are farmers willing to spend for such a service?
Based on these questions I devised a phone interview tool and expanded the scope of the study to find quantitative data to support qualitative insights, interviewing all the beneficiaries of that pilot, around 200 farmers. To collect the data via phone interviews, I collaborated with one of Gramhal's field team members, Yogita, to get another lens on the data points and insight gathering.
Opportunities to innovate
Among the many learnings there were 2 areas that offered opportunities of innovation resulting in a major pivot to Gramhal's service model.
1. Quality Receipt
There were some champion beneficiaries who used the knowledge of quality parameters and the receipt as a proof of quality to negotiate with traders, but most farmers lacked the understanding of technical terms to use it in their favour. Which brings us to challenge 4.
To solve this, I redesigned the quality receipt using a human-centered approach. Using colour coding as an indicator of crop quality made it easy for farmers to understand where their quality stood as compared to the quality standards for every crop.
The new quality receipt became a powerful tool for the farmers to negotiate for better price or decide to store the produce and search for a different trader offering a better price.
2. Connection with Traders
During a sale, the power dynamic lays in the hands of a trader because in a village, a small farmer is only connected to 1-3 traders but a trader has connections with 30-50 farmers in that village. This causes farmers to distress sell to the limited number of traders in their village who monopolise and bring down the prices. This brings us to challenge 5
“आप जो क्वालिटी के आधार पर रेट बता रहे है, उस रेट में इस मार्केट में नहीं बिक रहा है। आपने जो क्वालिटी जाँच चालू किया है उसके आधार पर बिक्री का सिस्टम बनाए।”
("There are no buyers in this market who will buy at the market rates we receive from you based on our quality. There should be some system using which we can sell at the market rates based on our quality")
- Dashrath, a farmer who took the quality test service
To solve this, Gramhal team ideated a platform that would enable farmers to find connections with buyers that would buy their produce at a fair price.
The team conducted some lean experiments to validate the demand for this platform after which they came up with an idea of an android application – List App – for which I helped design the user experience and interface. Read more about List App in the next case study.
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