A UX designer has created the country’s first agritech UX design studio to assist the agricultural sector with digital products, making them more usable, enjoyable, and accessible for users and customers.

The term user experience (UX) refers to all aspects of this interaction.

After eight years working in the field as a product and UX designer for various tech companies in New Zealand and globally, Emma Campbell, who last year returned to New Zealand from Ireland, created her studio in December from her 120-acre farm in the rural Waikato town of Ngaruawahia. She started taking agriculture clients this month. 

Campbell wanted to fuse her love for agriculture with her skills in user-focused thinking and initially sought assistance from recruitment companies in her search for work.

“Recruiters would say, ‘that’s very specific, I don’t think we can place you into agriculture’. I really wanted to work in agriculture, and so I thought, ‘why don’t I just sidestep the recruiter and just try and find my own clients’,” she says.

So, she did just that.

She formally launched her company, Bo Studio, in July. Bó is the Irish word for cow. So, cow studio it is.

“Our mission is to increase agricultural businesses’ capacity. I believe there’s a real need and opportunity to transform agritech businesses and how users are experiencing digital products.”

Bo Studio works with any agritech business, and has worked with vineyard management platform Vinea, as well as Modusense, an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) within apiculture. Earlier this month Campbell did a farm visit with the animal management division of Gallagher to do some user research and learn more about customers and how they use the weigh scales.

User experience considerations now are a requirement for agritech business, Campbell says. She is focused on making digital technology tools work for users, and optimise user experience. However, a recent AgriTech New Zealand digital adoption report found just 36 percent of farmers and growers said they feel confident using new digital technology tools, compared to 77 percent of business owners outside the primary sector.

Campbell wants to change that.

“At the end of the day, it’s a person who will be using the app, so the experience should work with them, not against them. When you’re already battling against low digital confidence among your potential users, having an unintuitive product with poor usability is going to cause an even greater barrier to adoption”.

While there were initially minimal business setup costs for Campbell – a laptop and an internet connection – the business side was more of a challenge, given it is entirely self-supported and funded.

Bo studio can provide UX Audit services to any sector that has a digital product no matter what stage of development the product is at.

“I found it really hard to find support for starting a business. I don’t have a product – I’m service based – and I thought, ‘where do I fit?’.” 

To assist with developing her studio, Campbell surrounded herself with people smarter than her in different areas.

She arranged lawyers to draft contracts and got an accountant. She built her own website with the assistance of a copywriter and completed the Master Asana course by Paul Minors to assist in time and project management, and workflow.  She then sought assistance in developing elevator pitches for proposals to prospective clients.    

One learning curve was managing cash flow and realising that, in starting a business, mistakes are made, but they are a stepping-stone to learn from.

“I don’t know how people start businesses,” she says. “If I didn’t have the savings and be in an environment I could fail in, it would have been a lot harder to pursue.”

But she hired a business advisor after locating one online, describing it as the most significant and, due to the expense, also the ‘scariest thing’ she did. He’s kept Campbell focused, particularly during times when she was tempted to give up.

“It was the first big purchase I made; he’s basically been my rock throughout the whole thing, but I’ve never met him in real life.  The business is like a rollercoaster – some days I think it would be easier if I worked for someone else, other days I love it.” 

Another challenge of starting a small business is getting clients. Name recognition, and networking is key, Campbell says. She seeks to be taken seriously as someone who is an expert in the agritech UX and cares about the sector. Eventually she wants to grow her Bo Studio team.

“I want Bo Studio to be an educational resource for businesses and an extension to agtech teams. I really do want to make a difference in agritech in New Zealand and be part of that change.”

Story by Dave Crampton.

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