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 meet researchers at their farm or can attend a video-based interview (computer with an internet connection).
  • Farmers who can travel to a workshop site to attend participatory design workshops.
  • Farmers growing cucumber, melon, pepper, or tomato.
  • Farmers located in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.
  • Farmers with farms categorized as small or medium by the USDA’s definition.
  • Farming must be the primary source of income for their owners and operators.
  • Farmers who rely on annual fruit or vegetable produce for a minimum of 20% of their farm’s yearly revenue.

Decision Mapping Interviews

A 2-hour exercise to map the major decisions made during annual fruit or vegetable production. Participants will walk the interviewer 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.

Interviews may be conducted either online or in person, depending on the participant’s preferences and availability.

Interview 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. 

Exercises will be conducted in person, at Purdue University’s West Lafayette Campus.

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.

Exercises will be conducted in person, at Purdue University’s West Lafayette Campus.

Workshop Structure:

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

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
doyle110@purdue.edu

Primary Investigator:
Dr. Ankita Raturi
(714) 675-0047
ankita@purdue.edu

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:

Concepts:

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: jnnorton@purdue.edu

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

GrowNYC

Software for Local Foods

Goals

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:

Farmers
Farmers

Folks producing food for human consumption!

Farmer Coordinators
Farmer Coordinators

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

Consumers
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?