Submitted by Daniel Kindred on Thu, 08/12/2021 - 08:49

For Farm-PEP to be a success we need to properly think through the motivations of all its users, so that we achieve the continued engagement necessary. 

I've tried to characterise the main motivations for the key user groups below:

  • Everyday Farmers
    • Finding relevant, practical & trusted information on questions & issues of interest
  • Farmer Innovators & Influencers
    • Sharing experiences and telling others what they are doing - seeking feedback & recognition
    • Engaging with interesting new ideas and being part of the knowledge generation & sharing process
    • Forming and joining partnerships and collaborations to develop & test ideas (and seeking funding) 
  • Advisors
    • Finding relevant trusted information on questions & issues of interest
    • Sharing experiences with others and asking questions
    • Working with groups of innovative farmers, industry & researchers on questions of interest, to learn what works for their farmers in their context.
    • Playing a facilitation role in groups, and being recompensed for it.
  • KE Professionals
    • Find relevant and robust information on a given issue to disseminate through own KE channels
    • To make own KE content available to a wider audience
    • To publicise and seek engagement for KE events & initiatives
    • To get involved in the collation, distillation and sharing of knowledge nuggets in Farm-PEP, and be recompensed for it
  • Researchers
    • Finding out about subjects of interest, getting back to source materials and being able to contact people and organisations involved
    • Disseminating outputs from research projects to a wide audience
    • Getting engagement from farmers and industry in newly established ideas and projects
    • Identify areas of uncertainty where more work is required.
    • Developing ideas for research projects and building collaborations to seek funding
    • Reviewing, collating and distilling information on a subject, and being recognised for their efforts
    • Making information created or shared on PEP available to the wider academic community, in an appropriately curated way (eg NLAF)
    • Getting feedback on ideas and research outputs
    • Demonstrating the impact of their research
    • To ask questions of the community, via surveys etc.
  • Industry Professionals
    • Find out whats going on and tell others what they are doing
    • Connecting with farmers and others
    • Tell people about their organisation and products / services
  • Agricultural Journalists
    • Get a wider audience for own articles and media outputs, and recognition for good content.
    • Develop stories, leads and contacts
    • Distill complex technical information into content, case studies and knowledge nuggets that are broadly accessible, and be recognised and recompensed for it.
  • Students
    • Find information on a given subject, being able to get high level summary and know where to find out more
    • To see what is actual experience in practice, as well as what learnt in the classroom
    • To ask questions of farmers and the community
  • Lecturers & Professional Development Trainers
    • Find the most up to date, authoritative and relevant information on a subject to inform teaching
    • To make teaching materials available to a wider audience so that maximum number of people benefit from the efforts put in to creating them ... but how can the creator be rewarded for their effort and IP?
    • To make people aware of the professional development services and opportunities available to them.
  • Commercial companies
    • Make people aware of the products and services available to them
    • Develop their brand recognition
    • Develop relationships with influential farmers and industry figures
    • Engage in relevant projects and initiatives, and get others to engage in own projects & initiatives
    • Develop and test new products with interested farmers
    • Get feedback on existing products
    • Not be exposed to too much risk from everything on PEP being in open - need to manage any negative feedback and don't want to give ideas and experience away too easily to competitors.
  • Agri-tech Developers
    • Identify gaps in market, unsolved problems and develop ideas
    • Find out what is already available in the market place, and how well these offerings are received by users
    • Engage interested users in developing new products 
    • Develop relationships with influential farmers and industry figures
    • Tell people about successful offerings when available
  • Policy & Research funders
    • Identify areas of uncertainty where more work is required.
    • Evaluate the impact of research funding in specific areas. 
  • Public
    • Get an impartial and unbiased view on whats going on in farming
    • Ask questions and engage in discussions around important debates and ethical issues
    • Not have content overwhelmed by or undermined by particular pressure groups or opinions
  • Potential PEP sponsors
    • Be associated with an industry good initiative to promote knowledge generation and sharing
    • Benefit from the opportunities that PEP provides from the earliest stage
    • Develop brand and relationships with key influencers

If there is anything major you think I've got wrong in this, or anything important missed, please let me know (or write in comments box below).

I think the crucial question is how do we motivate Researchers & KE professionals to produce the authoritative distilled content and knowledge nuggets that farmers want? There isn't a shortage of people who could engage in this job, from academic researchers through advisors, knowledge exchange managers (eg AHDB) to agricultural journalists. But we all have day jobs so we can't just engage in activities because they are interesting and worthy to do. Providing authorship and recognition goes some way as an incentive. We could employ a range of gamification tools that could provide further rewards to make users 'feel good'. However, to really drive this at the scale required, and to ensure that outputs can be trusted and represent some form of consensus, I'm now convinced that there will need to be some real economic reward to make this worthwhile. We will need mechanisms to commission experts &/or professional communicators to create the distilled content on Themes. (Ultimately we could imagine mechanisms to reward for content after its been created, via the ratings it is given by users). We will also need mechanisms to prioritise the Themes that need to be distilled - this could be via voting by users (or the use of credits). 

There is a chicken and egg problem here - to create the distilled content that farmers want will require time and funding. To achieve funding via commercial models will require us to demonstrate we have a large enough user community to warrant marketing spend, which we won't have at the outset. Similarly, the rewards from posting and distilling content depends on recieving reactions, which don't come until the community is large.  One route to starting with a lot of content that will be useful to users is to partner with the National Library for Agrifood, which we are actively considering with the Food & Farming Futures team.

The need to drive revenues from an early stage of PEP means we need to think hard about what commercial companies would want by way of pages. There are issues to contend with, not least the potential need to meet demanding brand guidelines for many companies. Also working through how a company could deal with negative feedback on themselves or a product, whilst maintaining the integrity of PEP in being open to challenge.

We also need to consider the extent to which we want to encourage discussion on PEP. Its been evident that whilst we've had lots of good feedback on our thoughts so far via face to face meetings or via email we've not yet got good discussion going online within the YEN website. There are a number of possible causes for this:

  • Barrier of needing to sign up to YEN website to be able to comment, which for people who aren't part of YEN don't see the benefit from the few minutes needed to go through the process
    • We have only recently started using login to YEN as a means to engaging, so few are signed up already
  • People not wanting to be the first to comment
  • Feeling exposed when part of YEN website & open to a wider community
  • Not used to commenting on-line in this way
  • Not bothering to comment if there is no audience - little scope for being rewarded for efforts with likes or follow-up discussion.

We are now developing PEP in a development environment which we hope to open up to interested co-designers asap where we hope that discussion will be a little more free flowing.  Whilst we want Farm-PEP to be dynamic in that content is continually being updated, commented on and challenged, we perhaps don't want it to be too dynamic such that content is lost in vast discussions.

In working through the user needs and motivations further we could consider developing Personas, such as those created by the EU H2020 Eureka project here.


Submitted by Justa Hopma on Mon, 09/13/2021 - 08:16


Hi Daniel, this is a very comprehensive outline. The only user group that I thought of in addition to what you've already mentioned were young farmers (who may not be students) and who face questions at the outset of their career that are different to the challenges faced by farmers at a later career stage. It might be worthwhile to recognise this group specifically also because there are many professional young farmers associations/groups that might look to seem themselves recognised as such.