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Argus
FOCUS

A SaaS horticulture software solution focusing on batch tracking and data stitching to help plan and steer the crops to better outcomes.

Product Type
SaaS, Web application
Company
Argus Controls
Role
Lead UX/UI Designer
Year
2022

Overview

The problem:
When growing in a controlled environment, a batch of plants can move between multiple environments; each environment's controls and monitoring system is only aware of the space without any awareness to the movement of batches and plants within it, which in turn makes the task of following and analyzing batches cumbersome and time-consuming, resulting in inconsistent crop quality.
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‍The goal:
The business goal is to create a complementary SaaS product that leverages the existing control systems data to help the grower monitor, analyze and steer crops to a better outcome.
The product goal is to facilitate that by stretching the data from the crop journey between multiple environments and creating an easy way to analyze it from the crop/batch perspective.
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The responsibilities:
Lead the product (UX/UI) design.
Conduct user research with the product manager.
Execute needed product pivot.
Establish the design system.
Manage communication with the engineering team.
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User Research

The user is looking for a way to achieve crop quality consistency by identifying inconsistency and analyzing the factors around it.

Interviews conducted with head growers show that they use multiple systems and methods to record crop movement and crop procedures through multiple environments, which makes it cumbersome to aggregate the data and also makes it difficult to see factors affecting the crop or do any analysis on it, leading to a high variability on crop quality.

User pain points:
1
Data recording
Having multiple systems that record different types of data makes it hard to organize them.
2
Data input
Some types of data need human intervention to record, leading to different ways of recording that data and then manually adding it to different systems.
3
Procedures and tasks communication and documentation
Each group of crops has its own tasks and procedures, that need to be communicated and unified across production.
4
Crop journey tracking
Without continuously recoding and grouping data manually and daily, it is hard to see the crop journey.
Primary persona:

The user is a seasoned grower with many years of experience in growing different crops, with a lot of knowledge accumulated through the years, tweaking and testing crop growth strategies.

Harry the head grower
Age: 45
Family: Married
Education: Biology and botany science.
Hometown: Victoria, B.C.
Occupation: Head Grower
Growers always know best
Goals
- Organize and define the plant's recipe (Plan).
- Monitor the plan execution for each batch.
- Make sure that quality is met in a timely manner.
Frustrations
- Not knowing the cause of a batch defect.
- External factors that affect my plant recipe.
- Having batch information on multiple locations and systems.
About
Gary is the head grower for the horticulture company he works for. He is an enthusiast of botany and growing, always trying to find the best way to get the most out of his crops, and identifying the best ways to increase the amount and quality of his yield.
Secondary persona:

The user is a young grower with a few years of experience in growing different crops, having a lot of passion regarding understanding and learning the best ways to increase yield quality and amount but to them, the best way of learning is to visualize the factors affecting the end result.

Tony the task doer
Age: 35
Family: Married
Education: Traieds school.
Hometown: Albany, NY.
Occupation: Greenhouse grower
Ready, go!
Goals
- Make sure that all plant recipes go according to plan.
- Getting all the tasks required done on time.
Frustrations
- Missing tasks.
- Hunting for information.
- Complicated softwares.
About
Tony is the greenhouse grower. He is not the most expert on plants, but he is the expert when hands need to be dirty and ready to make sure everything gets executed according to the set plan. Always ready to act when needed.
User journey map:
Actions
Checking environments
Walk around batches and crops
Checking tasks
Checking batches and plan adherence
Logging data for analysis
Task list
- Check the monitoring system of each controlled environment.
- Identify batches in each environment.
- Walk around the greenhouse to check for pests, growth progression, watering needs, and measurements.
- Check the status of tasks done for each batch.
- List tasks required for each batch or environment.
- Document the status of each batch and duration in each environment.
- Document the list of tasks done for each batch.
- Compare the progress of each batch to the expected growth plan (recipe).
- Extract data from other systems.
- Update and log the data for each batch.
- Combine all different types of data on batches in a single location for analysis.
- Devise needed steps for each batch.
- Update plans accordingly.
Feeling
😒
Mundane routine action that is boring to do.
🙂😫
Excitement to get off and check the plants, but it can be tiring if you need to go back and check the system.
😕
Upset that they need to find each grower responsible for an environment to check on the status of tasks.
😓
Exhausted due to the amount of manual labor needed to document the tasks, the status of each batch and the plan they should follow.
😥🤔
Tired and confused after long hours of aggregating the data, just to start analyzing it.
Improvement
opportunities
Monitor the environment with the context of batches in them and their progression.
Being able to see notes related to batches and their progression on mobile devices.
Allow checking tasks of each batch on mobile interfaces and allow updating and adding new tasks.
show batch status, duration, tasks, and progression with each batch.
Stitch batch journey data together and allow backtracking batches through the environments they have been through.

Wireframes
Design

Data from a batch perspective, and tasks from a grower perspective.

Initial ideation and wireframing started from the concept of batch data grower's tasks, where the user can visualize the batch journey, the environmental data affecting it and the tasks around it for the grower, without overwhelming the grower with that data dump. Also creating dedicated spaces for each one of them would allow for future expansion on those two ideas.

The goal is to see where the batch came from, where is it going, and the upcoming tasks needed to reach its destination.

Batches Dashboard

Started by testing the boundaries between data overload and what is called by users "not enough data" as the amount and type of data needed varies depending on the crop type, environmental sensors and stages of growth, by grouping types of data based on the batch perspective and the grower's perspective.

Batch Analysis

For the batch analysis experience, we noticed that users wanted to track multiple data types through the batch journey to see cause and effect, so I started experimenting with different ways to track different data types over time.

Usability Study:

Following a group of quantitative user studies, a pattern of behavior started to emerge, showing that it was important for the user to see the batch journey with the most recent snapshot of related data defined by the user and that users only look at a single line graph at a time but with the context of other data points at that time.

1
Batch and the grower
the screen needs to show a clear separation between the batch journey and the grower's tasks and actions.
2
Zone data vs batch data
The type of environmental data monitored is different from the date monitored for the batch.
3
Time is the only constant
The timeline of events to the user is the most important from a batch perspective and a grower perspective.

Refinement
& Mockups

Based on the findings from the usability study, having a section showing the batch journey and zone relationships and a section showing the grower's tasks for the day makes it easier for the user to glance at what they need to do.
Also, repeating this structure on the analysis experience between the batch timeline and the timeline of the tasks and notes done by the grower makes switching between both experiences less taxing on the user.

Observing the user behavior showed that the filter section on the left is the least used section, so that function has been grouped into a button on the top command bar, allowing us to dedicate the primary section to the batch journey and batch information elevating zones with batches that need attention to the top, allowing the user to see the status of batches and if attention is needed, keeping the right secondary section for the grower's tasks, actions and notes for the user to see what are the tasks that needed today and for which batch, lowering user's cognitive load as a result.

Users were looking for a better summary of the batch analysis page to give them a snapshot of the number of tasks, days spent in each environment and stage, crop changes, and the ability to add their own KPIs. Also, the ability to add notes, better indication of the selected day on the graph, and its reflection on the rest of the recorded data and metrics would allow them to travel back in time and observe the cause and effect of changes done to the crop.

Accessibility considerations:
1
Colors
The use of unified button colors that are sure to contrast with the background.
2
Icons
The use of icons and colours to help communicate the importance of needed action.
3
Tooltips & alt text
Easing access to visually impaired users through the use of tooltips with high contrast and alt text for screen readers.
HiFi Mockups

future steps
& Takeaways

Impact:

With Argus FOCUS, you can analyze your results – batch by batch – with an integrated view of lifecycle cultivation data and your production metrics. Then, develop actionable insights to improve future outcomes or replicate previous results.
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One quote from a customer:
“FOCUS is a tool to visualize a crop over time, and since I can pull all data onto one screen, it's very powerful for me.”

Lessons Learned:

Product pivoting is a balancing act between the business needs, the market direction and the user needs, which can only be achieved by continuous research through the design and development cycles.

Next steps:
1
Conduct another round of usability studies to validate whether the pain points users experienced have been effectively addressed.
2
Conduct more user research into plan setup uplift.
3
Research importing and exporting plan and batch data from different sources to ease the initial startup.