Soil Health Design
Inspired by advances in soil health innovation—but concerned about lack of integration between different tools—a diverse group joined forces to improve user accessibility and cohesion among new technologies.
Farmers increasingly rely on big data and cutting-edge technology to make profitable, sustainable land management decisions. Dozens of soil health technologies and decision support tools exist to help, but communication between these tools is limited, making it difficult to create a comprehensive picture of how different nutrients and water conditions interact. This can lead to the duplication of efforts across the soil science community, causing confusion among farmers as they try to decipher which tools do what. Over the course of two days, Meridian and IDEO.org brought together users and developers of these technologies to workshop ways to improve their accessibility, integration, and user-friendliness.
A human-centered design approach had to be part of solving this user-friendliness challenge. We invited farmers and agriculture companies to share how various tools have helped improve their soil health. With the developers of those tools in the room, alongside experts on soil health, the group pooled their collective knowledge and unique points of view to identify opportunities for improvement. It became clear that soil health decision support tools hold tremendous potential—but that gaps and challenges also need to be addressed.
The group ultimately devised an idea for a “Soil Health Community of Practice” that could aggregate easy-to-use, low-cost soil health technologies under one roof, thus making them more accessible and increasing usage. As the idea moves forward, we are continuing to ensure that the people using and affected by these technologies have prominent seats at the table. From our decades working to strengthen food and agriculture systems, we know the impact that soil health practices have on a farm’s health and profitability.