Grameen Intel had created an innovative digital test to examine soil samples and determine their nutrient content. They came to Joseph Design to transform this technology into a field-ready device that could be used by rural farmers across South Asia. The DSTK device aimed to revolutionize the way rural farmers tested their soil. The key to reaching rural farmers would be portability. The digital soil testing device had to be compact and easy to transport. It needed to be handheld as well as resistant to harsh outdoor environments, and above all, easy to use.
The DSTK device positively impacts the livelihoods of rural farmers and the communities they serve by addressing real-world soil testing pain-points such as portability, testing time, and ease of use. Rural entrepreneurs are now able to offer accurate recommendations to farmers they serve in minutes rather than weeks compared to traditional lab tests. In addition to ergonomics and viewing angles, we carefully designed GPS placement, liquid, light, and weather seals. We efficiently packaged this state-of-the-art technology into an IP64 rated device. The result was a compact, purpose-driven, elegant design.
Numerous working prototypes were built to check the orientation, assembly, and stack-up of internal components. The iconic 'stilleto' form was driven by the test tube chamber which needed to remain light-tight for test accuracy and vertical while in use. The chamber was designed to be leak-resistant to protect the electronics in case of liquid spillage. In order to keep the overall product cost down, many of the hardware components were 'commercial-off-the-shelf'. Hence the design had to be optimized to accommodate the whole hardware stack-up in the most compact package possible. This was done to ensure portability, as well as the primary requirement - enabling the user to operate the device while holding it in one hand. We used advanced rapid prototyping methods to enable short manufacturing runs. This allowed us to assemble enough working products for extensive field testing and certification.
At the onset, we determined that this device would need to work in both a handheld orientation as well as a tabletop work environment. In order for the soil solution to be tested accurately, the test tube containing the solution needed to remain in a vertical orientation. However, people are most comfortable using a mobile touch screen in a horizontal orientation or ideally at a slight angle facing themselves. In order to achieve the optimal configuration for both functionality and ergonomics, we experimented with various screen orientations while keeping the test tube in an upright position. The optimum angle of the screen in relation to the user was a critical factor in determining which direction to move forward with. The stability of the product on a table, floor, or in-hand was also important to reduce movement and maintain the accuracy of the test result. Below are some of the initial concepts considered.
The digital soil testing kit plays an important role in affecting positive change to the livelihoods of farmers in Bangladesh and India. Its portability, ease of use, and speed of testing make it much easier for entrepreneurs serving rural farmers to provide accurate agricultural advice based on soil tests. More farmers are able to get their soil tested in a shorter time frame. This allows them to accurately regulate fertilizer usage and the type of crops they plant. Over the long term, improved soil health leads to higher yields and better crop efficiency. This has a beneficial impact on the farmer's livelihood and those of the community that they serve.