User-Centred Design (UCD) and Multi-Actor Approach (MAA) in agricultural innovations – case: combi drill design

Oral presentation and full paper at Agroecotech 2019, St Petersburg, Russia.



User-Centred Design (UCD) and Multi-Actor Approach (MAA) in agricultural innovations – case: combi drill design


Agrinnotech, Kalevankatu 12B A26, 60100 Seinäjoki, Finland

Innovation in agriculture often stops at the adoption phase. The reasons for poor adoption are traditionally economical. New solutions are not purchased because of their higher cost and uncertain benefits. However, according to recent research, there are other important obstacles for adoption. Users get bad experiences using new technologies. This causes mistrust on new solutions as a whole.

Two research projects on agricultural innovations, funded by OECD Joint Research Program and EU Horizon 2020, resulted in several recommendations on how to speed up the innovation process. ´Speeding up innovation in agriculture´ (2011-2012) concluded that designers have inadequate understanding of the use-context of the products. It was recommended e.g. that education of engineers, designers, marketers and end-users needs to include User-Centred Design (UCD) methodologies. The ´AgriSpin´ (2015-2017) concluded that the social part of agricultural innovations should be better understood to be able to support them efficiently. A recommendation was made that Multi-Actor Approach (MAA) should be used during the innovation process to tackle the challenges better. In MAA partners with complementary types of knowledge – scientific, practical and other – join forces in project activities from beginning to end.

The inclusion of end-users and multiple actors has been used in Finnish R&D of agricultural machines. As an example, the seven metre wide combi drill ‘Junkkari W700’ was designed by the Finnish manufacturer Junkkari Oy in close cooperation with end-users and researchers. As a result of the innovation process several benefits have been realized. The cost of the drill is lower than in competing pneumatic drills through the introduction of a novel type of mechanical material transport. The need for hydraulics is minimized and the row spacing and coulter design has been optimized so that economical tractors with moderate drawpower can be used. Options were designed with ISOBUS-compliant controls either in the tractor or integrated in the drill so that the users can integrate the drill in existing machine chains, having either modern or older tractors, without extra investments. Much attention was put on quality, e.g. individual feeders for every coulter give accurate dosage of seed and fertilizer. The prototyping together with end-users and researchers gave Junkkari the possibility to speed up the innovation process.

As a conclusion, the UCD and MAA methodologies have benefits both for the users and manufacturers. Swift innovation process saves resources and minimizes the need for excess iterations in the innovation process.

Keywords: Agriculture, User-Centred Design, Multi-Actor Approach, Combined Drill

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