A human-centred design approach linking farmers to options in the ERF

May 2nd, 2019

Hands and pensWe are aiming to alleviate some of the challenges facing Australian producers in discovering abatement opportunities relevant for them and participating in the national carbon marketplace, the Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF).

Human-centred design

One way to increase the participation of farmers is by providing them with information about the options for carbon farming in Australia and what benefits they can achieve by participating. Our proposed solution, LOOC C (‘Look See’), is a digital tool that can deliver this information. It has been developed following a human-centred design (HCD) approach, which focuses on meeting the Australian producer’s needs for information and decision support. Through a series of iterative testing cycles, we spoke with stakeholders across the land sector and involved them in the design process.

It was through talking with producers, advisors, and policy stakeholders early in the design process that we learned:

  • A diverse set of stakeholders are involved in a successful ERF project, each with their own set of values, motivations and knowledge of carbon markets.
  • Landholders are poorly incentivised to participate in the ERF. They perceive the opportunity as risky and riddled with unclear requirements, costs and returns. The currency of the Australian Carbon Credit Unit (ACCU) lacks meaning for many primary producers.

Farmers who are already ‘doing the right thing’ and implementing sustainable on-farm practices are unable to participate in the programme because of the ‘additionality’ requirement. They are therefore not being rewarded for their efforts and their experiences are less likely to influence and promote others to participate.

Multidisciplinary science, research and development

Another component of our research process that contributed to the unique product offering of LOOC-C is the collaboration of our multidisciplinary science team.

It is through the iterative design and evaluation HCD process that we brought our diverse areas of expertise together to maintain a collective understanding of the political conditions, emerging market opportunities, scientific capabilities, agribusiness trends and user needs in the carbon farming space.

Through our multidisciplinary collaboration we learned:

  • Scientific insights must be translated into the appropriate customer language for them to be considered relevant and valuable. And they can be! For example, the emission factor-based ERF methods can be used to provide initial estimates of carbon sequestration outcomes with minimal input from the landholder, resulting in a ‘quick and dirty’ view of what’s financially possible without the need for expensive testing or data collection.
  • Working across scientific disciplines means finding ways to effectively share expertise and find synergies toward the common goal of a digital design solution. During our face to face workshops, which we have twice a year, we discuss ways of reducing the complexity of ERF projects while still offering value in the digital experience. We explore how far we can push our agricultural modelling capabilities and how new types of markets can provide the incentive structures needed to promote action and engagement.

An invitation to participate

You are invited to provide feedback to the LOOC-C tool and to tell us about what kinds of tools and policies would appeal to the agricultural community related to carbon farming practices. Knowing that many types of farms exist and that land use decisions are complex, we can work together to develop decision support tools and related policy that responds to the actual needs of the Australian agricultural community – ultimately making scheme participation feasible and desirable.

Feedback sessions typically last 45 minutes and can be in person or by videoconference.

To participate, contact Dr Cara Stitzlein, human factors researcher, on cara.stitzlein@data61.csiro.au.