Patrick Lee Headshot
  • Patrick Lee
  • March 20, 2023

To build a truly farmer-centric tool, we need to always put ourselves in farmers’ shoes.


At Combyne, we understand that a farmer’s tools must withstand the demands of working in the field, whether it’s a sunny summer or a blistering cold winter. As a result, we’ve built a crop marketing management hub that allows farmers to optimize the value of each bushel on their farm, even when they are out in their fields. Our research team abides by the belief that to build a truly farmer-centric tool, we need to always put ourselves in farmers’ shoes, which is why we conduct user experience (UX) research right at our farmers’ doorsteps.

In the Fields

We take every chance to get out on the road, chat with farmers, see things from their perspective, and keep up-to-date on what truly matters to farmers across the various agricultural regions in Canada and the USA. I still remember the first road trip to farms that I took with Combyne – it was a cold winter day in Saskatchewan, and our interviewee warmly welcomed us. It was during that chat I truly began to appreciate the extensive expertise that farmers put into practice every day, drawing on their knowledge of chemistry, biology, economics, and more. It’s through these research trips that we gain a deep understanding of farmer expertise, wishes, feedback, and ideas; and then build a tool based on those understandings. 

Research Fieldwork

At Combyne, we prioritize conducting UX (user experience) research. UX research aims at understanding and appreciating peoples’ priorities and needs, along with exploring solutions from the perspectives of those people. UX researchers then convey user perspectives to other stakeholders – such as developers and designers on a software development team. Through this research, it becomes possible to develop tools and services that truly innovate.

Our research team uses a variety of UX research methods to understand the perspectives of Combyne users. Importantly, we talk to real users of our tool in order to best understand their needs, which may take the form of in-depth interviews, or creating surveys to reach a large number of farmers. We also conduct usability tests; bringing Combyne (especially prototypes of new features in Combyne) to farmers to try out, in order to gauge how well it works and how easy it is to use. Each of us at Combyne have our own skill sets, and while I’ve had the opportunity to draw on my own research background in anthropology to conduct UX research with the team, our research importantly allows us to ensure that it is always the voice of the farmer that guides the development of the app.

User Research Flow

What We’ve Learned at Combyne

Through talking to farmers across Canada and the USA, we’ve come to appreciate what farmers want in a tool. We understand that ag tools, frustratingly, all too often, never speak to one another, and that as a result, all of the vital information for the farm is in different data silos. This is why we’ve built Combyne to be a crop marketing management hub that brings a farmer’s data together in a way that optimizes crop marketing decision-making, and as we say here at Combyne, optimizes the value of every bushel. For example, farmers can easily bring together inventory data with their contract data from multiple buyers to receive pricing & performance insights – and to always know how much grain they have left to sell, all in a user-friendly, mobile-first format. And with the development of Combyne Connect, farmers will be able to opt in to link their Combyne account with a growing array of other software & tools so that vital data can be drawn in.

Combyne innovatively utilizes on-farm data to optimize the value of every bushel, while keeping in mind that farmers want control of where their data is going, what it’s being used for, and who has ownership of & access to it. This is why we are proud to be ADT certified – which means that the data you enter into Combyne 100% owned by you, your data is never sold to third parties, your trade document data is seen by you and you only, and you can always delete the data you enter into Combyne.

The Year in Numbers

These important insights allow us to make a truly farmer-centric crop marketing management tool, and are why we frequently head out on the road to hear what farmers have to say. Since January 2022, we:

– Went on 7 different road trips to visit farmers;

– Traveled to Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Minnesota, and North Dakota;

– Conducted 52 interviews with farmers on those research trips;

– And conducted many additional research sessions remotely (over the phone and video conferencing).

While out in the field, we did everything from generative interviews, so we can learn what farmers are looking for; to usability tests with prototypes of new features that emerged from such interviews, so we could evaluate how those prototypes actually held up in the field. Our discussions with farmers, where we’ve had the opportunity to hear farmer expertise and feedback, have been a key component of developing Combyne. If you’re interested in helping build a tool that is right for you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our research team at We can’t wait to chat with you on our next fieldwork trip – see you in the field!


Cheers, from the Combyne research team:

Patrick Lee (UX Researcher & Customer Success)

Myelle Schwarz-Frederickson (Lead UX Researcher)

Kellie Wright (Director of Product Management)

Anastasia Mikhailitchenko (UX Designer)

Guli Agzamova (Product Manager)



Baxter, Kathy, Catherine Courage, and Kelly Caine. 2015. Understanding Your Users: A Practical Guide to User Research Methods. Waltham: Morgan Kaufmann.

Nunnally, Brad, and David Farkas. 2016. UX Research: Practical Techniques for Designing Better Products. Sebastopol: O’Reilly Media, Inc.

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