We made a new agriculture practice easier and more profitable

Art direction and UI design: Kelsey Cavitt, Photo by: Snowflake

Project overview

I designed a mobile and web app experience that allowed farmers to create their own Variable Rate Prescriptions. A prescription creates a precise plan of the amount and location of fertilizer or seeds to apply on the field to optimize for maximum crop growth.

About FarmLogs

FarmLogs is farm management software to help farmers run a more efficient and profitable operation. FarmLogs managed 65M+ of 275M total acres of U.S. farmland, coming out to 2 of every 5 farms.

Company: FarmLogs

Role: Lead product designer

Team: Sam Pierce Lolla, Jason Amor, Nick Donahue, Chris Schneider, Rodney Lyons, Christian Schwartz, Faith Bradley, Andrew Kirkegaard, Jesse Vollmar

Timing: December 2015 – June 2016

Typical prescription 1Typical prescription 2Typical prescription 3

The problem

Our team saw an opportunity to simplify the creation of Variable Rate Prescriptions, an emerging farming practice that can optimize crop production on a field.

Adopting Variable Rate Technology (VRT) at a farming operation came with challenges:

  • Clunky software: Prescription software is dated and unintuitive, and usually requires hiring consultants to learn how to use them or implement a program.
  • Time-consuming: Farmers spent hours manually inputting data for just one field's prescription. Larger operations could have hundreds of fields and thousands of acres.  
  • Expensive: the equipment is costly. An initial investment between $150,000 and $250,000 for this equipment is not uncommon.
  • Uncertainty: With VRT being such a new practice, farmers were unsure investing in equipment upgrades would be worth it without knowing if prescriptions could actually increase their yields.

Art direction: Kelsey Cavitt, photo: Motion Parade

The objective

Empower farmers to create and execute their own Variable Rate Prescriptions by making them less intimidating and easier to adopt.


Though we couldn't change the cost of equipment upgrades, we wanted to make it more cost-effective for farmers to implement their own prescriptions simply and universally. We first tackled helping farmers who already had VRT-enabled equipment.

Success metrics

We aimed to meet our 2016 Q3 Sales Projection revenue plan, calling for selling 46,700 acres worth of prescriptions to our pilot customers (we sold prescriptions at $2/acre).

Desired outcomes

  • Increase yield (more bushels/acre harvested)
  • Maximize farmers' profits
  • Increase yield (more bushels/acre harvested)
  • Help farmers not waste seeds and fertilizer, ultimately saving them money spent on inputs
Batch prescriptions sketch on the whiteboardPaper sketch of what a FarmLogs prescription can look like on the inputs page Whiteboard sketch of creating a FarmLogs prescriptions only one prescription at a time versus doing multiple at a time.


The beginning of the project was fairly ambiguous. To see how we could shape solutions, we conducted user interviews using low-fidelity design concepts. We presented our ideas to get initial reactions from customers and help scope the needs and requirements for an MVP.

We set out to get feedback on:

  • Prescription capabilities, like the ability to have more control of rates and application zones
  • How users would use prescriptions during the various seasons (planting, fertilizing, harvesting, and planning)
  • How Prescriptions could be integrated into our existing product

What we learned:

  • Farmers find it simpler and more useful to set an average rate across management zones, but want the ability to edit rates in each zone individually.
  • They the ability to edit application zones, but it's not as important as having control over the rates.
  • Historical access. They want to be able to download the file to use in the tractor and access the prescription again at another time for historical reference.


In January 2016, we officially kicked off the feature work under a new way of working at our org: agile. We definitely experienced some "growing pains" because we were working under a tight timeline while also having to learn a new methodology for working together.

Before we began, I worked with our PM and Design Director to break out the entire project into phases. We were given requirements by our Product Manager, who was pretty green to the world of product managing because his expertise was in farming and agriculture, not building software. It was one of the areas of the project that made the project challenging. It was up to the design, eng, and research teams to work together to figure out what could be in scope and what couldn’t. We followed the requirements for the users, then interpreted that into the work we were going to achieve.


  • Generate a Prescription (both Nitrogen and Seeding, each had a different set of requirements in order to create them)
  • Edit a prescription
  • Download a prescription (or, convert to controller file)
  • Average rate editing (which ended up being different and more complex than editing an entire prescription)
  • Build the feature for all platforms: iOS, Android and Web


To generate a prescription, we were going to do something that hadn't been done before in the industry.

Rather than using antiquated soil surveys and consultants looking at every inch of your field, we decided to pair historical performance data with historical weather data to generate a more well-informed prescription.

How it works

At least 5+ years of 5-meter resolution multispectral satellite imagery is amalgamated with historical weather and environmental data. Similarly performing areas of the field are then clustered into "management zones." These zones inform how much nitrogen or seed to put down that gives the field its most optimal performance output.

Photo credit: Kelsey Cavitt


"Gripping it and ripping it"

At FarmLogs, we had a saying: "Grip it and rip it," coined by one of our designers, to mean just use your expertise and don't over-rotate. With such a constrained timeline, I decided to explore handing off low-fidelity mockups (aka sketches, low-weight wireframes) to garner early feedback and to more quickly jumpstart engineers on laying the foundation. It gave them enough for framing of the feature while I worked through the visual design details.

Early web concepts


Deciding on user inputs

I facilitated collaboration between the product and research teams to determine the simplest required information to ask our users to provide. The data needed to work with varying tractors and integrate with the historical weather and performance data (going back 7+ years).

Picking the right colors

In early designs, we used a red/yellow/green color scale. We had received feedback that it was confusing for our users, as it was the same color scale used for yield maps. So I set out to create a new one.

A view of the first step of a creating a FarmLogs prescription in the web application. 

The first question reads, "Which type of nitrogen prescription do you need?" With a dropdown button to select either "sidedress" or "pre-plant".

The second question displayed is "What did you harvest on your field in 2015? Knowing your previous crop helps us credit nitrogen that might be in your soil." A user can decide to add a crop with a button.

The third question is "What is your yield goal for this field? Your yield goal is used to determine your crop's overall nitrogen needs." A user can input the yield goal for bushels per acre and then they can save it.

The fourth and final question is "What type of fertilize do you plan to apply? Knowing the fertilizer type helps us convert your crop's nitrogen needs into the amount of product to apply." A user can then choose a fertilizer.

A user can decide to cancel their prescription or continue on to the next step.
For our MVP, we decided to ask for just the essentials: the farmer's yield goal for the field, the previous crop grown on the field in the last year, and what seed or fertilizer they wanted to apply.
Early concept for FarmLogs Prescriptions map
Yield map in the FarmLogs Android app

I decided to use a sequential, colorized scale, which is best suited to display data that progresses from low to high. The scale also worked better for color blind users and worked at grayscale (as farmers like to print their prescriptions).

Here's one of our farmers creating a seeding prescription on his phone before planting corn on one of his fields in Illinois. Photo credit: Kelsey Cavitt


Prescriptions can be created and managed from the FarmLogs Web, iOS, and Android apps. We wanted our farmers to be able to access and utilize them from anywhere.

FarmLogs prescription UI shown on a mobile device and a laptop.

Creating a prescription on the web

Most prescriptions are pre-populated using existing FarmLogs previously logged activities to make the creation process even more seamless.
The overall design is simple and has the ability to edit the average rate of each management zone.
The Prescription can be logged as an activity in FarmLogs so farmers can keep track of which prescription was applied on which field, and when. This is critical, as farmers use FarmLogs to log and keep track of their activities across hundreds of fields and thousands of acres.
Shown is a moving gif of the process of create a prescription on an iPhone.

Creating a prescription on mobile

The first step of the mobile prescription experience, which asks a user, "What is your yield goal?"

First, users tell us their yield goal for their field, or how many bushels per acre they are wanting to harvest.

The second step of the mobile prescription experience, which asks a user, "What type of fertilizer do you plan to applyl?"

Then, they select the fertilizer or seed they want to apply.

The third step of the mobile prescription experience,which asks a user, "What previous nitrogen applications did you apply to your field?"

Lastly, the user confirms the seeds and fertilizers they put on their field in the previous year.

The fourth and final step of the mobile prescription experience shows the user their prescription on their field. A user can make edits, view the management zones and see the amount of nitrogen that will be applied to the field.

Voi​là! A prescription is created! Users can interact with the prescription and edit the rate.

A larger field view of the FarmLogs prescription on the map. This view shows a user how many seeds or nitrogen to apply per acre within a specific zone of the field.

A user can take a closer look at the management zones to see the rates.

A mobile FarmLogs prescription is displayed on a user's field detail page. A user can access the prescription from here at any time.

Prescriptions are easily accessed from the FarmLogs app any time.

Applying a FarmLogs Prescription on the field

We made the prescription application process as seamless as possible, integrating the ability to see prescription on a field's detail page. A farmer downloads the prescription, save it to a thumb drive, and put it in their cab's monitor.  

A FarmLogs prescription is accessed on the user's field detail page. A user can download it at any time.A FarmLogs prescription being shown on the monitor of a tractor cab.

Here is a FarmLogs prescription on a tractor cab's monitor. The prescription tells the Variable Rate machine how much nitrogen to apply in different zones of the field, taking out the guesswork and waste of money and resources.


With our pilot customers in the first season of using prescriptions, we learned that fields who used Prescriptions on average were able to increase their yields and decrease their wastes:

• $60 per acre
• $8/acre Nitrogen savings

By 2017,  prescriptions were used on over 435K acres.

Farmer stories

1. Corey

In 2014 Illinois farmer, Corey H., adopted new nitrogen management strategies that boosted his yields by 15 bushels/acre and reduced nitrogen waste by about 10%.

By 2016, we partnered with Corey to pilot prescriptions with to add to his management strategies. In the first season, he saw an estimated additional 5-10 bushels/acre to yields on test fields compared to his standard variable-rate nitrogen program.

“What makes this nice is that it keeps track of weather, so you know what is happening to nitrogen prior to side-dressing and throughout the growing season,” he said. “A big thing for us was going from hand-writing prescriptions to getting prescriptions with a push of the button.”

The following year, he expanded the use of prescriptions to over half of his fields to continue testing its efficacy for his program.

2. Chad

Farmer Chad K, from Nebraska, trialed Prescriptions with us in 2017. He said, "15 years ago I explored variable rate using soil maps and saw little benefit. Naturally, I was skeptical, but when FarmLogs approached me to trial their prescriptions, I agreed because I’ve been so impressed with what they have done in the past. This year, with a FarmLogs prescription, one of my toughest fields had its best yield ever.

“What makes FarmLogs Nitrogen Prescriptions nice is that they keep track of weather, so you know what is happening to nitrogen prior to sidedressing and throughout the growing season.”

– Corey H., Illinois, FarmLogs Prescriptions customer