Information Assistant

service for smallholder 

farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa


CNH - New Holland




3 months (2017)


Design Research

Service Design


CNH New Frontiers in emerging


The Challenge

For our second term project of Service design at the RCA we received a brief from CNH tractors to come up with ideas for potential new services for new markets. The project envisaged a range of equipment (tractor, truck, bus and rescue) for local communities in under-developed markets, of simple design, for low cost manufacture and maintenance.

80% of the agricultural workforce is represented by small holder farmers living in or in the edge of poverty not being able to access knowledge and machinery to increase they productivy.

The Solution

AgriLab brings non-fragmented support systems to smallholders, whilst building on current productivity. I created an Information assistance service to improve productivity and provide access to short term machinery. The service was focusing on women's groups that are the 70% of the workforce and Agridealers to provide the products and knowledge while increasing their exposure to the market. 

Solo Project



When I decided to undertake this new project I had absolutely no relation to agriculture but I have always been attracted to unknown territories and discover them. My first step was to contact the Bioenergy and Agriculture department of Imperial who are currently collaborating with and organization called Agriculture for impact. Ag4impact organizes conferences in Sub-saharan Africa brining different governmental employees, scientists and farmers at the same table to discuss about agriculture challenges and ways for development.  The meetings I carried out aimed to give me better understanding of the problems in growing, small-holder farmers are facing.

Coming back to my original brief and trying to combine my findings, I very soon understood that the problem of mechanization in the particular 

target group was related to affordability, knowledge, access, and the limited infrastructure available to provide, train and repair tractors. Also considering that there is only one supplier of New Holland tractors in the region demonstrating the absence of the company in farmer’s activities. Considering also the wider agricultural and environmental crisis, it was important for me to design a service that would support small-holders, provide them with the necessary knowledge and build a sustainable ecosystem. It is a very complex problem and from this distant and privileged position it was very difficult to tackle and required a lot of education from my side. This journey then lead me to focus my dissertation on how to design climate vulnerable populations in Africa.

Please contact me for my dissertation (distinction)

Research Insights


The people who are widely affected by the environmental challenges are small holder farmers who are more vulnerable and not prepared to face the environmental changes that are about to occur, who already live in the edge of poverty.

80% of farmers are smallholders. 

10% of Africa is mechanised.

70% of the work force is women.

Lack of mechanisation is due to:

    1. Cost

    2. Knowledge

    3. Accessibility

    4. Infrastructure

"If I could get access to information about my crops and knowledge for new techniques I would not have lots half of my crops last year and would be able to feed my family"

- African female farmer

From within...

From my talks with specialist i also found out that

it is important to create innovation with the local communities building on networks, habits, knowledge and training. The local communities need to be empowered to become the drivers of the technological development. 

02 Analysis

Key Insights

Opportunity Statement

How might New Holland facilitate small holder farmers to increase their productivity by providing information assistant services leveraging local communities





Lack of knowledge and mechanization are two of the main challenges small holder farmers come to face everyday reducing their productivity.


Agrilab is an information assistant service that provides farmers with full control of their agricultural process collecting data from the Agrilab sensor provided. In addition it provides a sharing platform for short-term affordable New Holland tractors and finally provides information and direct access to the market.

The service focuses on women’s groups that represent 70% of the work force, which informs women to download the app  (by 2020 80% of the population will own smartphones.) Then New Holland sponsor and support Agridealers who provide the sensors and the tractors and provide knowledge and support about their fertilizers. 

The Service

Information | System Map

Opportunity Statement



This project gave me the opportunity to explore a completely unknown territory as my first solo project. There were moments of absolute madness where I found myself lost in the abyss of information. That when I learned when to pause and zoom in and out to see the bigger picture and reframe my research and approach in an agile manner. Also Agrilab made me consider cultural differences in the ways we receive a new incoming service and practice my ethnographic research skills. Only then I could start considering complex systems with different stakeholders, channels and users.


My research in order to understand the challenges of farming in Africa lead me to focus my thesis and create a new tool kit about how we should be designing for climate vulnerable populations in Africa exploring complex systems, ethnography and climate change.