Tell us what you want, what you really, really, want

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What does co-creation and consulting with our end-users tell us?

Many people make products before actually checking out what the people who will use this product want or need. These products don’t necessarily serve the demands they were created for. They can also have user interfaces that don’t suit the customer’s needs. Consequently, they have no chances of entry into already crowded markets or have a short life span. So we asked end-users to “Tell us what you want”.

“there’s a lot of data out there that we don’t use and I’ll be honest, we need to start using the data that’s already been generated before we start worrying about creating some new super duper technology”

Copernicus applications and services for low impact agriculture in Australia (COALA)

In a project like COALA, we have business modellers working with researchers, businesses and advisers, farmers, and the government. It’s a lot of competing interests and thoughts to consider. But suppose we fail to listen, and don’t ask our users to “tell us what you want’ and consider needs. In that case, we don’t know the key deliverables and challenges of the services and technologies we offer as ‘solutions’. This underscores the importance of the co-creation aspect of the project.  Agrisat Iberia; we develop activities focused on a small group or one-to-one meetings with the project partner users to identify their key requirements (what are their expectations? What are they looking for?) and ensure that what the COALA aims to deliver aligns with next user expectations.

Agrisat Iberia srl and White Research are our partner with expertise in processes of co-creation. Co-creation with our target users is a dynamic framework and an adaptive roadmap; we develop activities focused on a small group or one-to-one meetings with the project partner users to identify their key requirements (what are their expectations? What are they looking for?) and ensure that what the COALA aims to deliver aligns with next user expectations.

Themes from intereviews

We interviewed more than 50 people involved in our key water and nutrient management areas in the Murray Darling Basin. And we heard some pretty consistent themes about why stakeholders may not see the advantages of products and services based on Earth Observation, and may be reluctant to its uptake/adoption. Below are some of the consistent themes and issues we saw in our interviews:

On-farm issues

  1. People were worried it would cost too much
  2. Need as close to real-time data as possible
  3. No one wants to learn how to use yet another application
  4. There is already so much data. Do we actually need more?
  5. Can this data be trusted?

In governance

  1. The water space in the Murray Darling is contentious
  2. There are too many cooks in the kitchen (a lot of people with different perspectives)
  3. There is a lack of transparency in water allocations

What are we doing with this information?

We hear what our prospective end-users said, and have made changes based on these perspectives.

Informed design

We conducted workshops and internal discussions amongst the team members to assess what is ‘feasible’ to deliver in COALA with current technology, partnership and funding. Co-creation and co-design activities help prepare the ground for the developments of EO-services services that fully comply with the local end-customers everyday practices and needs.

Centring client needs

Users are at the heart of COALA. It is with them and for them that we create the COALA services, products, and tools. And the information we gather helps us with our primary goal of providing users with tools that help accomplish daily routine operations more easily. We hope to develop a sense of co-ownership, an indispensable condition for the true empowerment of users and sustainable implementation of any tool or measure.

De-mistify and appraise whether we can meet end users expectations

“The challenge here is to prove that remote sensing can provide better info than they currently have – farmers often already use very sophisticated monitoring equipment.”

Satellite data can be useful for large scale ecological and hydrological monitoring. But, this information has some limitations that need to be addressed to support stakeholders. At present, there are plenty of data collected by satellites, but you have to have the technical know-how to utilise it on-farm. We are taking these data and getting them ready so that growers can “shake and go”.

There is a distrust and worry about the reliability of satellite data because of the enormous amount of variables and analysis techniques that are difficult to understand. How often a satellite revisits an area and how well it can “see” are also concerns. High spatial resolution is needed for a lot of agricultural applications

  • Crop biomass and yield estimation (1-3 m)
  • Variable rate fertilisation and irrigation (5-10 m)
  • Herbicide application (0.5-1 m)

Developing trust in the product and service: Ground-Truthing

“Yeah, the only way to go and check the image is to go and see what’s happening in the paddock, and then if you’re not seeing what’s happening in the paddock as the image, you just don’t trust it. So then you lose faith with the images

One of the things that we are doing to demonstrate the reliability of these data is called “ground-truthing”. In ground-truthing, we collect georeferenced field data from on-farm and calibrate it with satellite data. Getting this data on-ground takes a lot of time and money, but is necessary to show that the products are reliable and trustworthy.

Emphasis on providing information rather than loads of data: Simplifying data

A consistent theme was that it doesn’t matter how much data is out there if the growers are too overwhelmed to use it or have to download several apps just to get their information. So we have been working on a cost-effective, flexible and scalable processing system that we can integrate into applications that growers already use. It has been essential to ask users to “tell us what you want”

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