Helping Growers Protect their Crops Sustainably with a Rapid Portal Delivery

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Connecting farmers with suppliers of biological pest control products

An international, not-for-profit organisation is improving lives worldwide by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve difficult problems in agriculture and the environment.

The organisation wanted to create a way of connecting farmers in many countries around the world with suppliers of biological pest control products. Users would be able to search by country, type of crop and pest to find biological control products that met the approval of local regulators.

Highlights

  • One-stop-shop now helps growers around the world to source biological pest control products

  • A Web portal with aggressive delivery dates is on time and on budget

  • Xoomworks team demonstrates hyper-flexibility and rapid response to change requests

They faced a number of challenges:

  • Poor infrastructure, e.g. slow internet access in developing countries

  • Use of low-end or obsolete mobile devices and browser technology

  • Lack of available resources to develop a website or convert data into a searchable database

Previous attempts to get a portal developed had failed. In December 2018 they approached Xoomworks with very high-level specifications and commissioned them with developing a solution. Critically, the client needed workable prototypes ready in time to show product manufacturers at an industry forum so as to secure vital funding to further develop the product.

A mobile-first solution that could operate on a wide variety of platforms

Xoomworks immediately mobilised a small team of developers to deliver the portal. Based in Bulgaria, they started work on Christmas Day 2018. Owing to the high-level nature of the specification they needed to work closely with the project sponsors to define the details. That would influence the technology they would use to deliver the project. Together, they quickly decided that a NoSQL database on a Firebase platform using a React Javascript Library to provide the user interface would be the best approach. The product was designed as a mobile-first solution that could operate on a wide variety of platforms.

Getting the data held by the organisation into a searchable form was a major challenge. Data was held in a variety of formats, sourced from multiple product manufacturers and other stakeholders. Similarly, addresses of local vendors often lacked street names and postcodes. This made it difficult to populate the database. What’s more, all data management was done on spreadsheets, requiring frequent manual intervention. Working with Xoomworks, they designed a new, easy-to-maintain data structure that would work with the technology solution.

To ensure all users in developing countries could benefit from the product, the portal had to work on outdated, less-used browsers and mobile hardware. This meant performing User Acceptance Testing on a wide range of basic platforms. Developers worked through the holiday period, including New Year’s Eve and delivered a functional prototype in just 4 weeks. This gave the organisation the chance to showcase the portal to manufacturers at a conference at the end of January 2019.

The project team then defined specific use cases before fleshing out the project’s full functionality and building the first version. Xoomworks worked very closely with the product sponsor holding catch up calls twice a week. The development process was iterative, with multiple versions being tested and delivered very rapidly. This placed huge pressure on the client’s Acceptance Testing team in Switzerland, as they need to test almost continuously to keep pace with deliveries of new versions.

The first phase of the product delivery was completed in 6 weeks. Budget constraints meant that further development would need to be phased, so a further three phases were planned, ending in September 2019. Xoomworks hit every target, both in terms of the dates required and the functionality delivered, on time and within budget.

Farmers around the world are now connected with approved sustainable crop protection products.

Xoomworks’ ability to pick up a loosely defined requirement, build a workable design and deliver a platform in an incredibly short timescale meant that farmers in many countries around the world are now able to find appropriate, approved biological controls to protect their crops.

Today the portal is live and populated with tens of thousands of combinations of crops and pests. It is a one-stop-shop for farmers and horticultural producers to find the non-chemical pesticide solutions they need for their crops.

The organisation has delivered one of its core objectives.

It is a tribute to the flexibility and responsiveness of the Xoomworks team who were able to turn around change requests at very short notice throughout the project.

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