We have started working on a prototype for the platform we intend to produce and explore as part of Agrilink WP3. Basically, the idea for the Latvian living lab is to create an online platform that would allow farmers and producers to find the advice they need regarding horticulture, though we will focus on marketing and processing at first. The prototype will be an interactive PPT/ODP presentation. The facilitator and I agreed that she will think of three practical examples and the specific knowledge needs that each of them entails. We will build the presentation around these examples, and hopefully we will get a chance to present it at an event sometime in January 2019.
We decided to go ahead with the prototype largely because we have concluded that a simple presentation and conversation on what the platform could contain is insufficient and unlikely to provoke an interesting and potentially useful response from the audience. This is based on the conversations we had with farmers on 24 August and 6 October. In short, the people who attended these seminars were open to the idea of an online tool and mentioned that they sometimes use Facebook and Google to find the necessary information and advice. Consequently, there will most likely be people who are willing to use it, but, as usual, the devil is in the details.
|Our facilitator presenting on 6 October in Dobele|
Based on a cursory examination of the responses to Agrilink WP2 questionnaires, it appears that farmers in Latvia seldom use specialised online tools or software to address and/or manage issues that they encounter on their farms. There are certainly some farmers who use specific digital tools, and most use the internet on a regular basis (and are generally happy with the quality of the connection), but these are not the majority. This is consistent with what was noted by an older farmer at the meeting on 6 October. Basically, he argued that online tools were for the younger generation, and his generation were more likely to approach advisors that they have known for a long time. For them, face-to-face interactions was how things should be done.
Not quite sure what (if anything) this means for our platform at this point, but I have my concerns. It is highly likely that younger farmers will be more open to engaging and finding advisors via an online platform. However, it is also possible that the online platform we are proposing may, in fact, be more than a tool of convenience that helps to connect farmers with the right advisors. In particular, we have to consider the possibility that we may be interfering with established practices. To be honest, I am not worried that we will be a disruptive influence, but we should probably think about making the platform as user-friendly as possible so that potential users do not see the platform as an overly complicated way of doing things that actually work just fine the “old” way.
So, I guess you can see why having a kind of prototype, which gives people a better sense of what it will be like using this platform, may prove to be useful, right?