Empathising, defining and ideating with the farming community to develop a geotagged photo app for smart devices: A design thinking approach: A design thinking approach

Ursula Kenny, Áine Regan, Dave Hearne, Christine O'Meara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Context: There is growing interest and importance for responsible research and innovation (RRI) among academic scholars and policy makers, especially, in relation to emerging technologies in the agricultural context. While the evolution of smart technologies in agriculture has led to an increase of available solutions that can be used by farmers, the RRI process of new farming technology has been minimally detailed in research contributions to date. Objective: This paper thus aims to describe the first 3 phases of a design thinking process to aid with the development of an agricultural innovation, namely, a geotag photo application for use on smart devices. Methods: The design thinking approach involved engaging with target users, such as farmers, farm advisors and inspectors, alongside research scientists, app developers and the national agricultural governing body in Ireland to commence the app development process. This paper describes methodology used to elicit the first three major phases of the design thinking approach: empathise, define and ideation. In the first phase a stakeholder mapping activity was conducted, as well as 7 focus groups and 10 interviews with users and other key actors regarding the challenges and needs related to using the app. The define phase included a reflection of results from the first phase and subsequent development of user-personas and problem statements to inform the third phase. The third phase, ideation, consisted of four interactive user-centred workshops, focusing on app needs, in which ideas and solutions were developed and prioritised. Results and conclusions: The design thinking approach supported multiple stakeholders to express and evaluate the benefits and challenges they associated with the initial development phases involved in designing a new geotag photo app. It also revealed that, by including farmers and additional actors in developing new farming technology enables technology developers to harness the full value of multiples types of knowledge and expertise. In conclusion, future research on innovation development should consider that by enabling engagement among a wide variety of actors, such as that offered by the initial stages of design thinking, and attending to a greater diversity of values is essential to the development of a responsible, and responsive, digital tool. Significance: This study is the first to methodically document the early stages of developing a geotag smartphone app using a design thinking approach. This paper will therefore benefit other scholars aiming to include farmers, and other agricultural stakeholders to have an input on the agri-tech development decisions that will ultimately impact their farming lives.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103248
JournalAgricultural Systems
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Design thinking
  • Digital communication
  • Innovation
  • Interdisciplinarity
  • User participation


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