The DDHT Project, 2023

Designing a Digital Horticultural Toolbox

Purdue University IRB Protocol #: 2022-841

The DDHT Project Vision

To identify common production challenges faced by fruit and vegetable growers in the Midwest and design digital tools to assist growers in addressing them.

Study Goals

We seek to understand the production challenges faced by Midwestern fruit and vegetable growers and how they utilize information when encountering them. We also seek to understand how digital tools may help growers overcome these challenges and what the requirements of those tools would be.

Using this information, we will design prototypes for tools to assist growers in addressing the most commonly faced challenges.

Study Design

Who is eligible to participate?

  • Farmers who can travel to an extension site or use a computer to participate in workshops.
  • Farmers growing cucumber, melon, pepper, or tomato.
  • Farmers located in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

Decision Mapping Workshops

A 2-hour workshop held to map the major decisions made during annual fruit and vegetable production. Participants will walk the researchers through the decisions made while planning, planting, managing, and harvesting horticultural crops on their farm. They will also identify the challenges they face at each decision point, as well as the information they use to navigate these challenges. In addition, participants will discuss the various types of agricultural technologies they use and the requirements for a digital tool (such as computer software or smartphone application) to meet their needs.

Workshop structure:

  1. Farm background and historical crop production
  2. Walkthrough of a typical agricultural year
  3. Decision mapping
  4. Identification of specific challenges
  5. Discussion of agricultural technologies and requirements

Participatory Design Workshops

A 3 hour workshop held to inform the design of digital tool prototypes. Using the information gleaned from the decision mapping interviews, participants will help design digital tools to help solve the production challenges they face. Each workshop will have ten participants and will focus on a single tool design. During the workshop, participants will complete a series of activities to provide input on the design of the digital tool. 

Workshop Structure:

  1. Participant and workshop introductions
  2. Design activities
  3. Group discussion

Feedback Workshops

A 1.5-hour workshop held to revise and refine the digital tools. Participants will test the fully-built tools under several scenarios and provide feedback on their usefulness and usability. Each workshop will have ten participants and will focus on a single tool design.

Workshop Structure:

  1. Participant and workshop introductions
  2. Feedback activities
  3. Group discussion

All workshops will take place at either a university extension site in person or remotely via Zoom conference software.

Help us Reach Out!

Research Team

Who can I contact if I have questions about the study?

If you have questions, comments or concerns about this research project, you can talk to one of the researchers.  Please contact:

Point of Contact:
Steven Doyle

Primary Investigator:
Dr. Ankita Raturi
(714) 675-0047

Community Food Pathways

Working Group Goals

The short term goal of the Community Food Pathways group is to quickly articulate current consumer pathways to local food. We are working towards establishing a network mapping process that utilizes data collected in farm-supporter interviews conducted by the qualitative research team. The outputs of this process will allow us to do things like:

  • Identify producer-consumer disconnections in the local food network
  • Identify under-served/marginalized communities
  • Inform opportunities for information system design and community development

The long term goal of the group is to support the establishment of updatable community food geographic and network maps that enable consumers-in-need to acquire fresh whole foods produced in their community.

Why map community food pathways?

Through our discussions with collaborators, interviews with farm supporters, and review of the recent literature and seminars surrounding the pandemic and movement to address racial inequities and injustices, we have found the following to be at least a few compelling reasons why it is important for communities to map their food pathways.

  • Producers cannot sell their product
  • Product cannot get processed or distributed
  • People are unable to acquire (local/healthy/fresh) food
  • People want to know how to acquire local food
  • Fresh food is (more) expensive
  • Shortages of some foods in grocery stores
  • Restaurants and other food businesses are going out of business
  • Rural farming areas are food insecure because food is sent to urban areas
  • Under-served and marginalized communities need to be identified and their presence amplified

How does this connect with other aspects of the project?

The Qualitative Research team is interviewing Community Food Coordinators as a part of the “farm supporter” group. Our interviewees describe their local food community in great detail, helping us understand both the themes and variations across local food actors, spaces, operations, and information systems.

In tandem with Software and Resilient Food & Tech Library groups, the community food pathways group will reveal gaps or problem areas that need to be improved, some of which we can address in the design and development phase of this project.

Reference Materials

We are consulting the following mapping methodologies, concepts, and community food maps to inform the mapping process we’ll use.

Mapping Methodologies:


Community Food Maps and Directories:

Add a food map to the Resilient Food and Tech Library.

Preliminary Process

We are actively designing a community food pathways mapping process. Our preliminary process outline is as follows. Check back for updates!

  1. Determine the point person, an active member of the local food community
    1. Engage in an initial mapping based on publicly available data
  2. Point person identifies critical actors in the community
    1. Critical actors are interviewed or directly participate in the scoping
  3. Point person and initial participants determine the geographic and network scope:
    1. Identify genres for Source, Intermediary, and Sink of food
    2. Identify supply and demand side inclusion criteria
    3. Identify what is known and what is unknown
    4. Determine mapping medium, tools, distribution and maintenance plan
    5. Assemble initial map
  4. Snow-ball recruit community actors to fill in the “unknown” parts of the map via an interview
  5. Test the map in the community and improve
  6. Prepare the map (and community) for long term use
    1. If one does not already exist, encourage the appointment of a designated local food community coordinator
    2. Release the map as an open, living resource so its data can be revised and the platform improved

We aim to pilot our final process with a community in rural Georgia, a rural-serving-urban community in New York, a peri-urban community in Indiana, and an urban community in California.

Leadership Team (Join us!)

This group meets every-other Wednesday at 4pm ET / 1pm PT. Email Juliet if you are interested in joining:

Ankita Raturi
Ankita Raturi

Asst. Prof. @ Agricultural Informatics Lab, Purdue University

Juliet Norton
Juliet Norton

Post-Doc @ Agricultural Informatics Lab, Purdue University

Gigi Owen
Gigi Owen

Research Scientist @ Climate Assessment for the Southwest, University of Arizona

Abigail Darwin
abigail darwin

Grad Student, Local Foods @ University of Georgia

Colleen naughton
Colleen naughton

Asst. Prof, Environmental Engineering @ UC Merced

Erik Hassert
Erik Hassert


Software for Local Foods


In the short term, our goal is to map the functional capacity of current technologies to be able to match the needs of farmers and consumers with appropriate tooling, identify opportunities for design, and identify broader infrastructural challenges.

The outputs of this process will allow for us to do things like:

  • Develop materials to guide people to the right tools for their needs.
  • Identify missing functionality that we should design and build as part of the next phase of this project.
  • Provide tool builders with guidance about critical user needs, in times of pandemic, and beyond.
  • Provide the broader local foods community with guidance on how technologies bump up against infrastructural, societal, political, and other non-digital world challenges!

User Groups

Different types of people are looking for different functionality in a tool. Farmers may want to easily manage inventory, while a market manager may be looking for a tool that allows them to provide consumers with an aggregate purchasing options. Consumers may be looking for tools that make it easy to find local food, while folks coordinating groups of users, whether through food hubs or purchasing on behalf of a group may be looking for functionality that allows them to manage many individual orders and optimize distribution.

We’re looking to evaluate software with respect to its usability and utility for four critical users groups:


Folks producing food for human consumption!

Farmer Coordinators
Farmer Coordinators

Folks handling the logistics of aggregating food for distribution to consumers.


Folks who eat.

Consumer Coordinators
Consumer Coordinators

Folks handling the logistics of bringing together consumers for handling food challenges as a community.

Software Evaluation Process

We will be updating this section make progress! Last updated: May 13, 2020.

Aggregating Software reviews

We are currently going through the following software reviews to identify critical functionality for Farmers, as identified by the National Young Farmers Coalition, Oregon Tilth, Lake Pepin Local. Some of this information is out of date, and all of this information is geared toward Farmers only. By aggregating this information into our Resilient Food & Tech Library, we will be able to have an updateable collection of software evaluated with respect to usability and utility for our four user groups: Farmers, Farm Coordinators, Consumers, and Consumer Coordinators.

Know of a software review that we should look at? Submit it here!

We’d like to avoid creating yet-another-tool or yet-another-process. Tools for community food resilience are not a one-size-fit’s all solution, and the goal of this work is to be able to point farmers, farmer coordinators, consumers, and consumer coordinators to the right technological pathway.

An analogous example of what we’d like to avoid 🙂

Develop Evaluation Criteria

The software leadership team is currently putting together a set of evaluation criteria to determine usability and utility of software designed for community food coordination. The existing software reviews have provided valuable guidance on what functionality Farmers are looking for, but don’t yet consider functionality for our other three user groups: Farm Coordinators, Consumers, and Consumer Coordinators.

More next week!

Software List (so far)

Missing software that we should look at? Submit it here!

Leadership Team (Join us!)

Ankita Raturi
Ankita Raturi

Asst. Prof. @ Agricultural Informatics Lab, Purdue University

Juliet Norton
Juliet Norton

Post-Doc @ Agricultural Informatics Lab, Purdue University

Sara George
Sara George

Farmer & Local Food Advocate

Jamie Gaehring
Jamie Gaehring

FarmOS Developer & Open Food Systems Advocate

Ben harris
Ben harris

Associate Manager of Research, U.S. Potato Board

Mike schmitt
Mike schmitt

Friends of the Farmers Market, Rochester, MN

Join the conversation!

Want to learn more our work and attend community calls?

Resilient Food & Tech Library

What is it?

We are currently mapping the landscape of resources for farmers and farm supporters utilizing or pivoting to local coordination of food production and distribution. We are collecting these resources in The Resilient Food & Tech Library. In that sense, this library is both a process by which we better understand the role of technology in community food resilience, in addition to being a clearinghouse for community resources. There several types of resources we are looking to aggregate, including:

Software being used by farmers or consumers to coordinate food: websites used to map small, regional, food sources, tools to shop local, tools for farmers to set up an online store front, and other technologies for community coordination.

Community efforts to coordinate consumers or farmers: local food hub efforts for bulk ordering in neighborhoods, and spreadsheets put together by a local community to help each other coordinate pickups, and other online descriptions of community coordination.

Resources about Resources: nonprofit list of software and reviews, extension resources on how to connect with local farmers, and other aggregations of tools and efforts for community food resilience.

How will this Library be Used?

There are three ways in which we will use this library, as mentioned in the concept, and soon to be detailed in focus areas of their own:

  • Software for Local Foods focus area: evaluation of the technology landscape.
  • Community Food Pathways focus area.
  • Inform the design of subsequent tools and community efforts.
  • Serve as a post-pandemic resource for best practices in community food resilience.

Resilient Food & Tech Library Preview

Submit a Resource

Tell us what you think we should look at! Currently these will go directly into the public library viewable above. We will be subsequently evaluating all the resources and tools submitted

Join the conversation!

Want to learn more our work and attend community calls?

Design for Community Food Resilience

*This Page Under Construction*

Digital Tools for Local Food Systems, 2022

Study Overview

The goal of the qualitative research study is to investigate information challenges faced by US-based farmers currently engaged in direct sales to consumers or who need to pivot to direct sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research findings will inform the design of a community food resilience toolkit consisting of digital tools and processes for farmers and consumers for local coordination of food production and distribution. This study will be supplemented with non-human subjects research – a functional evaluation of the technology landscape and a review of current community mobilization efforts – that will also inform subsequent design and development activities.

We will conduct a brief qualitative study consisting of in-depth semi-structured interviews to map the flow of food and information from “seed to market” and a brief questionnaire to collect essential demographic information.

We seek participation from two groups: (1) FARMERS and (2) farm advisors, community organizers, and coordination tool developers, aka FARM SUPPORTERS. Farmers will provide a first hand account of how they are affected and coping whereas Farm Supporters will provide guidance of how farmers are affected and coping, as well as how different organizations are supporting farmers. Note: Farm Supporter interviews are underway, but we will not start Farmer interviews until Winter 2020/2021.

We plan to speak with a minimum of 10 urban, 10 peri-urban, and 10 rural farmers in each of the five regions of the United States, defined by the United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service’s service Regions (listed below). We seek a minimum of 12 farm supporters that cover the range of categories (listed below).

Who was eligible to participate?

FARM SUPPORTER interviews are underway and FARMER interviews will start in Winter 2020/2021. Eligibility for participation in this study for each group is determined by the following inclusion criteria.

The FARMER is the primary decision maker at a farm where the following are true:

  1. The farm produces the following kinds of food for human consumption.
  2. The farm is either online, going to go online, or have enough product and interest in going online.
  3. The farm is either currently engaged in direct sales to consumers, OR is now intending to pivot to direct sales to consumers due to COVID-19 related disruptions. Distribution methods can be via: online retail, farmers market, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares, on-farm pickup, and distribution via a third-party distribution method such as a food hub marketplace, farm aggregator tool, or via a restaurant/grocery store that is serving as a distribution hub for consumer purchasing.
  4. The farm is located within the United States.

A FARM SUPPORTER is a person whose work is directly in support of previously defined FARMER. Farm supporters may fall into one or more of the following categories:

  1. Extension educators, agents, and specialists, farmer advocacy group representatives, and farm advisors.
  2. Researchers and subject matter experts on community food systems, agricultural economics, agricultural technologies, and related topics.
  3. Community organizers, food hub coordinators, and other advocates for community food systems.
  4. Local food buyers (co-ops, restaurants, grocery stores), distributors, and others involved in local food logistics.
  5. Agricultural sales representatives, and other members of the agricultural industry.
  6. Farm software developers, designers, and other members of the agricultural technology sector.

What was our regional coverage?

We will begin with the Midwest Area for a COVID-19 response within our community. Our recruitment strategy will be broad and ongoing such that we will incorporate data from any new USDA area as soon as we reach our minimum quota of 30 farmers across urban, peri-urban, and rural spaces. By setting minimum quotas, we will ensure that our ultimate analysis reflects a breadth of geographic experience. The five sample regions are:

  1. Northeast Area
    1. States Include: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, District of Columbia, West Virginia, Delaware, Maryland
  2. Midwest Area
    1. States Include: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Kentucky
  3. Southeast Area
    1. States Include: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Puerto Rico
  4. Plains Area
    1. States include: Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Colorado, Montana, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Wyoming
  5. Pacific West Area
    1. States Include: Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington

Recruitment of Farmer or Farm Supporters, 2020-22

Once you have signed up for an interview, we will reach out to confirm eligibility, schedule a time, and provide followup information. We look forward to speaking with you!

Feel free to share this call for participation with your community:

We’re working on a toolkit for community food resilience, in times of the COVID-19 Pandemic and beyond. We’re looking for farm advisors, and community organizers to guide what we design and build. Learn more or sign up for an interview!

Why two hours?

Thirty in-depth interviews from a region will allow us to deeply understand the issues faced by farmers to the point that we can begin developing solutions in a way that surveys of hundreds of farmers could not. We’ve provided you with a high-level overview of the farmer interview prompts (below) so that you know what we’ll be discussing.

We understand that two hours may not be possible for your during this very busy season and are willing to work with your schedule in a number of ways, including splitting the interview up into two one-hour interviews and meeting at any time of day (or night) that is best for you. If you want to contribute to the project with an interview but cannot provide an interview now, sign up anyway and let us know that you’re not available until later on.

Farmer Interview Prompts

  1. Prior to Crisis
    • Farm Background
    • Farm Management
    • Distribution & Logistics
    • Recordkeeping 
      • Information flows
  2. Information & Food Flow Mapping: a guided activity.
  3. The Crisis
    • Impacts on you:
      • Changes in production
      • Changes in distribution
      • Changes in labor
      • Resource availability
      • Needs
  4. Looking Forward
    • What happens next?
      • For you?
      • For your community?
    • Changes you expect?
    • Changes you desire?


Are you a researcher exploring community coordination, farmer perspectives, digital technologies, or other aspects of local food systems? Our research team, led by Purdue University, has a range of collaborative activities planned, beginning with a qualitative research study to inform the design of technologies and technology-mediated processes for community food resilience.

Please email Ankita Raturi ( and Juliet Norton ( to set up an informational call to learn more details on the study and chat about ways to collaborate! We’re particularly looking for leadership in the 5 agricultural regions mentioned above, as well as leadership on the informatics side (HCI, software engineering, CSCW).

Leadership Team (Join us!)

Ankita Raturi
Ankita Raturi

Asst. Prof. @ Agricultural Informatics Lab, Purdue University

Juliet Norton
Juliet Norton

Post-Doc @ Agricultural Informatics Lab, Purdue University

Tamara benjamin
Tamara benjamin

Diversified Food & Farming Systems, Purdue Extension

andrew flachs
andrew flachs

Asst. Prof, Anthropology, Purdue University

Michael Odonnell
Michael O’donnell

Organic & Diversified Agriculture, Purdue Extension

Join the conversation!

Want to learn more our work and attend community calls?