Growth Sonar was created to meet customers’ needs
We began the project by visiting Finnish fish farms to identify customers’ needs. Meeting such needs would bring users clear added value and improved profitability. We observed the everyday work and lives of fish farmers during various stages of their work. To enable the smoothest possible transition from post-its and Excel spreadsheets to digital solutions, we examined the farmers’ digital know-how. In addition, we found that the practices and everyday work of Finnish fish farmers can vary hugely.
The key need highlighted in the user survey was the elimination of manual work stages to free uptime for feeding fish and developing the company’s business. Users wanted to get rid of the paper strewn around office desks and boats; they wanted to cut straight to data in digital format. By being easier to view, data recorded by Growth Sonar would provide farmers with even better opportunities to develop their fish feeding and businesses, and to measure and improve the farms’ profitability.
The key to customer satisfaction: a user-oriented development project
We kicked off a software project based on the customer needs identified by the user survey. The goal was to implement the first version of Growth Sonar – a new digital service that supports fish farming. User-orientation was a core issue. Fish farmers commented proactively on the application throughout the project. The service was piloted by a limited group of fish farmers during the first growing season. Designs were fine-tuned and further developed on the basis of feedback.
“Customer insight and involvement have played a huge role in the project, particularly for an industry that is so difficult, unusual and little understood.” -Tomi Kantola, Raisioaqua, Manager
When developed around its users, a service adapts to changes in customer needs. Growth Sonar is still under continuous development, and new possibilities are being explored and examined.
From customer needs to added business value
Business thinking was integral to the project from its earliest stages. On the one hand, we studied how Raisioaqua could help its customers develop their businesses; on the other, we explored how digitalisation and new data products might improve Raisioaqua’s operations. The business-design goal was to understand how fish farmers view their own business and the kind of data they use for making business decisions. We also surveyed the range of players in fish farming and their various roles in the value chain.
The project enabled us to create a solution that helps fish farmers to make decisions based on defined data, with a clear link to the bottom line. For Raisioaqua, digitalisation will provide new possibilities for forecasting demand, optimising feed plant production and improving logistics chain efficiency.
A revamped mobile application – into production in just 20 days
Feedback from the first piloting phase and the customer’s latest comments revealed that the mobile application would have to be developed before the next growing season. The changes would ensure a stronger focus on user needs and preparation for potential, new features. Rather than rebuilding the app from the bottom up, we wanted to use newer technical solutions to prepare the ground for features such as real-time control and monitoring of IoT (Internet of Things) devices.
The mobile application was revamped using the React Native application framework. This enables the implementation of Android and iOS applications using the same programming code, cutting future costs by avoiding the need to maintain two applications. The change took 20 days, after which the application was deployed in time for the summer season 2018. The project shows that prolonged mobile projects are avoidable if needs are accurately defined and the chosen technologies are a good fit.
New value from IoT equipment
Design of IoT equipment began in early 2018. This would allow Growth Sonar to connect remotely to feeding machines and to control feeding. Another goal was to gather real-time data from the fish pools, such as the water temperature and oxygen content, actual feed quantities, and video feeds from the pool. As well as fish farmers, such data would be useful to Raisioaqua’s experts, enabling them to develop data-based feeding recommendations, for example.
Gofore teamed up with two other operators – ProtoRhino and Siemens – for the IoT project. ProtoRhino designed and implemented the IoT equipment, while Siemens provided the MindSphere IoT platform for communication between Growth Sonar and IoT devices. Gofore implemented communications between Growth Sonar and IoT devices, and the interface for controlling and monitoring them. Gofore also led the project and was the customer’s main contact throughout.
User-drivenness also important to device development
From day one of the IoT project it was clear that, like Growth Sonar, device design would have to be user-based. Because such equipment had never been made for fish farms before, testing at the earliest possible stage, by real users in an authentic environment, was viewed as critical. The application was piloted at selected fish farms even before all its features were ready. This enabled the simultaneous testing of devices and collection of customer feedback.
“With the data collected by Growth Sonar, we can further develop our feed and make our feeding recommendations even more accurate and location-specific.” – Tomi Kantola, Raisioaqua, Director
Since device replacement tends to be very expensive, equipment features should be tested by real users at an early stage, when fixes can still be made without large additional costs.
Thorough device testing requires collaboration
Reliable operation and recovery from faults were critical, given that the IoT equipment would control feeding. And, since the system had been created through three-way collaboration, comprehensive testing required seamless cooperation between the parties. Gofore was the testing designer and organiser. ProtoRhino tested the equipment, whereas Gofore performed system-level testing between Growth Sonar’s interface and the IoT device. The equipment was also tested under various conditions.
Testing was done throughout the project, but there was an intensive three-week testing period at the project’s end in summer 2019. Several rare faults were discovered and fixes were prioritised with the customer. System information security was tested with the assistance of Gofore’s security experts. These tests ensured that no third party could take control of the equipment. Both the equipment and Growth Sonar’s software were security-tested.
"This project has been a living example of how technology has been a good servant, with the ‘customer need’ as the master. It’s great to see how digital transformation has helped develop the business of Raisioaqua and its customers. It’s also been great to see that, alongside business improvements, we have helped to develop eco-friendliness while facilitating the everyday work of fish farmers.""
"It was challenging to coordinate widely varying practices with the wishes of fish farmers. A comprehensive user survey and participation were needed to discover the users’ ultimate needs. This sometimes means having to ignore individual wishes, but it is the only way to design services that fulfill the needs of the maximum number of users.""
"It’s been great to observe the development of Growth Sonar almost from the beginning, watching the application develop into its current form based on listening to the needs of fish farmers. The service’s features reduce manual labour, leave more room for systematic business development, and help fish farmers to better understand changing growing conditions.""