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Design Thinking: Steps Agriprenuers need to succeed

Agriculture is no longer a household livelihood, rather, a viable enterprise that needs assessment and planning prior to venturing into it. For any farming business to thrive, the business model needs to employ design thinking. By design thinking, I mean employing approaches that seek to obtain solutions to solve problems. Through design thinking, the agripreneur can have a more structured plan and approach and understanding innovation for upscaling his/her enterprise. The model creates room for redesigning and evaluation of the best solution to your why in a business venture. There are five stages in design thinking which are to empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test.

Stage One- Empathize

This involves doing a market research on your target market and getting to know their needs from their wants and their values, tastes and preferences. This is important in steering market driven agriculture. This step helps a farmer avoid producing without having a consumer target that assures him of constant demand for his products.

Stage Two- Define

Here is where the agripreneur now interprets his/her findings from the market search and comes up with a problem statement to define the gap his/her business is going to fill. From this, he/she will generate the why of his/her agribusiness venture. For example, the dwellers of area X are accustomed to having tomatoes in every meal. However, there is a surplus of tomato production by farmers in the area, farmers sell their tomatoes at throw-away prices due to low demand. In addition, a majority of the consumers are of the working class and hardly have time to cook the vegetable. The problem statement here could be “Surplus in tomato production coupled with busy consumer lifestyle that desires a take-away food delivery system.” The take-away system is a possible solution to the lack of time for cooking problem.

Stage Three- Ideate

The design thinking agripreneur can now brainstorm and generate business ideas using the information he/she has collected from the first two stages of design thinking. This involves looking for alternative ways of solving a normalized problem. This stage distinguishes an entrepreneur from a normal business man who will otherwise see problems as setbacks and not opportunities. A lot of ideas might come up and all these need to be documented and kept for future bench making. The agripreneur does a SWOT analysis to identify the most appropriate idea in terms of financial input, viability/economies of scale, the adaptability of the market to innovations and technology, the expertise available by the service provider among other considerations. For example, with surplus tomatoes, the agripreneur may choose value-addition and make tomato paste, tomato sauce or curry that is used for spicing up fast foods consumers buy from hotels. Also, there is canning and preservative measures to promote shelf life of the tomatoes.

Stage Four- Prototype

This stage involves coming up with a dummy product, a mini-version of the intended product that costs lesser to create. The prototype should have similar features to the intended product although the final product is seen as an enhancement of the prototype features.  With each new prototype, the agripreneur evaluates different aspects of the problem and how to fix it. For example, canning of tomatoes may prove an expensive venture with the constraint of not being readily processed food for consumption; overlooking the problem of busy consumers who don’t want to cook. The different prototypes will also bring light to the inefficiencies of the innovations and better inform the design thinking process through practical trial and error activities.

Stage five- Test

This stage involves distributing the prototype to the target market and getting responses. The agripreneur uses feedback from the early adopters of the prototype and can tweak the features to better solve the problem to make the end product more targeted to addressing to the consumer needs. This will involve the agripreneur going back to the drawing board, revising information from previous stages of design thinking and will evoke the creativity and flexibility of the agripreneur.

The design-thinking process promotes a win-win situation by first creating products for the consumer by empathizing with consumer pains and eventually creating value out of products thus demand and profit maximization by the agripreneur. The design thinking model of agriculture will foster sustainable agricultural innovations through a rigorous trial and error journey towards creating lasting and impactful solutions to common food security problems.

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Mary Mwema

Mary is very passionate about agribusiness and resource use efficiency with SDG 2, Zero Hunger, being closest to her heart. She a member of AAIN (African Agribusiness Incubation Network).

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