The food industry runs on trust, but low efficiency and a lack of checks and balances can have a significant impact on the welfare of customers: In 2011, 48 million Americans fell ill from food contamination, which led to a $152 million impact on health costs and a loss of productivity. Chicken eggs are the number one source of protein in the world, with a global market value of $52.9 billion.
Method partnered with a farm management system to design, build, and rollout a system, AgVera, that enables egg farms in the US to operate more safely, efficiently, and profitably.
Creating a system that farm managers and workers would adopt was a major consideration for the design of the system. At the start of the engagement, Method conducted a series of on-site interviews at egg farms, speaking with and observing farm managers and farm workers to understand their daily work routine, their current use of technology, and considerations that might hinder the adoption of a new system. We uncovered that farm managers were wary of implementing a system that might be perceived as monitoring their activities instead of helping them to monitor activities. Farm workers had other considerations, including challenging environments in the hen houses such as low lighting and loud ambient noise.
In addition, farm workers’ jobs tend to be task-focused and repetitive, and the workers are very often transient in their roles as well as non-English speakers.
The system designed had to have two primary interfaces: a system that provided farm managers with tools to improve operations and a mobile application for farm workers that collected data.
The system we designed for farm managers has a two-part focus.
It reduces their reliance on paper-based and homegrown methods to ensure compliance with the laws around egg safety.
It also alerts to potential complications in the system and makes recommendations on ways to mitigate these challenges quickly. Given the extremely low profit margins in the egg industry, this system provides farm managers with tools to improve operational efficiencies related to variables such as labor, utilities, and feed consumption. The dashboard can be accessed on desktop and tablet devices.
For farm workers, we focused on designing a mobile application that removes any dependence on paper-based data collection methods. The application takes into consideration that the interaction between the farm worker and the device is aimed at quick collection of data and a strong focus on a singular task at any point in time. The information collected from the farm workers’ activities feeds back into the system that the farm manager uses. The farm manager then has the ability to refine tasks and responsibilities for farm workers.
In addition to designing the tools for end users on the farm, Method also developed the strategy for implementation on a farm. Our goal was to create the least disruptive set-up journey that would be a quick and positive experience. This set-up experience needed to help build credibility for the value the overarching toolkit would deliver to farm managers and workers.
The resulting farm management application, AgVera, is a comprehensive service that allows two distinct audiences: farm managers and farm workers, to become more efficient in their daily work. In addition, this service aids in decision-making and the implementation of checks and balances.
From set-up to roll-out across egg farms, AgVera considers the beginning to end experience and is well-positioned to enhance safety and efficiency for farms across the US.
Applications are currently in development for web and iOS and will soon be piloted on egg farms for testing and revision.