Testing a Product Hypothesis
Using Research to Inform the Design of a Farmer-to-Farmer Network to Serve the Caribbean Region
Client: Carib Farm
Test Carib Farm’s product hypothesis and assumptions and discover market needs through analysis, interview, and survey.
The creation of maps and presentation of research to guide product thinking.
Me, Sam Skiens, and Vanessa Tsui
Getting a Lay of the Land
Our first week was spent working through the backlog of interviews and desk research that Carib Farm had accumulated but not yet synthesized.
What Else Do We Need to Know?
After processing the existing research we realized that we had yet to hear from the farmers themselves.
The interviews that had been labeled ‘farmer interviews’ were actually interviews with organizers and other stakeholders who had an understanding of the Ag ecosystem but were not necessarily representative of general farmers.
Our next move was to conduct a round of interviews to hear from farmers directly.
Hearing from the Farmers
We conducted 6 interviews over Zoom with farmers in the Caribbean region.
We wanted to find out more about:
- General background information on farmers
- How long have they been farming/ how did they start?
- How big is their farm/ what do they produce?
- What are their biggest challenges?
- How do they distribute/market their goods?
- How do Caribbean farmers currently access information/ solve problems?
- How do they communicate with other farmers?
- Would they be interested in joining a digital community like CaribFarm?
What We Learned from the Interviews
Some initail feedback related to our research goals:
Would a farmer-to-farmer knowledge-sharing platform be useful?
- It seems like it could be, but it would have to deliver value above and beyond simply connecting farmers.
- There is already a plethora of farmer Whatsapp groups
- Currently, farmers ask people they know or search on Google or Youtube to find answers to their questions
- Some sort of searchable database or resource aggregator might be useful to organize the various groups and resources that already exist and begin to establish a hub that could grow into a community
Systemic Challenges Faced by Farmers:
- Access to affordable financing, especially for women and young people
- Input shortages, eg. seeds and fertilizers
- Under-developed systems for organizing production and distribution
- Mobility and transport challenges
- A desire for irrigation, held back by financing
- Shortage of labor
- Desire to get more young people involved — aging farmer population
From this list of challenges, it could be useful to develop a marketplace aspect of this developing farmer community. Many of the challenges center around financing, purchasing, distribution, and logistics.
Broadening Our Reach Through Survey
After conducting more in-depth interviews with six farmers, we created a short survey in order to hear from a wider breadth of farmers.
The survey also serves as a form of early marketing by helping to spread the word about the project and potentially recruit both early product testers and people who would be interested in hearing about the launch.
I created a brief survey using Qualtrics.
The main goals of the survey were:
- to find out what topics farmers were most interested in learning more about
- to find out what services farmers would be willing to pay for
- and to recruit potential users
Presenting Our Findings
We met with the leadership of Carib Farm weekly throughout the 5-week process, and at the end, we delivered a presentation of our findings.
We turned over requested deliverables including a summary document, empathy maps, user journey maps, and a survey for future distribution.
Overall Carib Farm leadership was happy with our work, but they seemed fairly set on their inital product vision. It turned out that they had another totally unconnected team working on an MVP prototype before we had done any research.
I hope that our research still proves beneficial in the long run.
Reflections on the Process
Overall, I enjoyed this stint of research and learned important lessons about how to work with a client who may feel inclined to put the cart before the horse.
Since completing the project, I have become more familiar with additional service design mapping techniques that are helpful for thinking at the scale of the system.
I created an Ecosystem Map (at the top of the page) and the Stakeholder Map (below) to help communicate and consider the context of the proposed product.
In creating this Stakeholder Map, for instance, I realized that it is important to learn more about how investment, funding, and regulation function in the region since they are major enabling factors in the situation and can exert a lot of influence on the rest of the system.
This map also highlights the potential power and importance of farmer cooperatives.
Maps and visuals can be great tools for evolving understanding and engaging conversation.
Now I know for next time!