Trouw Nutrition’s Personalized Mobile App Maximizes Customer Profit

Trouw Nutrition’s mobile portal allows farmers to conduct scenario analysis on their profits, offers personalized product recommendations, and provides resources to help optimize production

Global dairy farming is a 500 billion dollar industry held up by over 133 million farmers. Despite producing a commodity, farmers are often up against the same challenges as most other businesses in 2022:

  • Risk and impact of COVID-19 on supply chains, especially while transporting a perishable product
  • Impact of climate change on the environment and food supply for dairy cows
  • Shifting consumer perceptions and competitive pressure from plant-based alternatives
  • Environmental regulations which require an emphasis on sustainable practices, leading to investment and change

To maximize profits and future-proof the health of their business, farmers must find ways to optimize dairy production while reducing their ecological footprint. Data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations indicates that increasing milk yield is “highly related to the way of feeding” dairy cows, which organizations like Trouw Nutrition optimize.

Trouw Nutrition, a Nutreco company, provides nutrition and feed to farmers in 105 countries with the goal of raising animals in a smarter, more sustainable way. Trouw engages with suppliers of farm feed as well as farmers. “Trouw Nutrition offers knowledge platforms for different species, offering solutions for different problems a farmer can encounter in growing the animal and producing meat and milk,” says Marketing Species Coordinator, Mireille van Empel.

It is entirely possible to run a farm sustainably while generating a good income at the same time –especially in the long term. But to ensure profitability, the lifetime daily yield, or the average milk production per day of life, must be increased. To aid in this shift to a more sustainable and profitable farm, Trouw used Mendix to create the FarmProfit app, which serves two main purposes:

  • Providing farm advisors and farmers an estimate of their current lifetime daily yield based on several variables, the ability to see how changing certain variables would impact profit, and actionable recommendations to meet their goals.
  • Solidifying Trouw as the right partner in increasing their lifetime daily yield by offering supporting resources, services, and products in their LifeStart and HealthyLife programs.

Meeting users where they are

People want to be able to conduct their business whenever and wherever – which most often means on their phone – and farmers are no exception. Trouw Nutrition offers a version of the FarmProfit application on their website but saw several new opportunities in developing a mobile app.

“To make the calculator more user-friendly and applicable for our customers, mainly farm advisors and farmers, we thought it would be relevant to have the calculator accessible via an app on a phone or iPad. Farmers and farm advisors do always have a phone in their pocket,” says van Empel.

“My role is to bring in digital solutions,” said Esther de Zwaan, Digital Business IT Manager for Trouw Nutrition. “I took inventory of what was needed, and we realized that a lot of our competitors were a little further with digital innovation. So, we were going to be lagging behind if we didn’t hurry up and do something about it.”

According to de Zwaan, “[The UX] didn’t look as good on a mobile phone, but there were also extra functionalities that we needed that weren’t there.” This included multilingual capabilities and the ability to incorporate regulatory parameters specific to the industry, such as a maximum number of animals and phosphates per farm, so that any recommendations within the app are always following regional requirements.

de Zwaan was “responsible for the content, stakeholder management, talking to sponsors, communicating timing, and team alignment” throughout the project. Based on her previous experience with Mendix, de Zwaan enlisted a development partner to build the new mobile application with low-code.

Initially considering PowerApps, de Zwaan ultimately made the case for Mendix for one key reason: “I was able to make a mobile app and put it in the App Store, and I couldn’t do that with PowerApps.”

A rich, personalized mobile experience

The FarmProfit app includes 3 key areas:

  • Variable Input: A farmer will start by filling out a form that spans 3 tabs and 10 parameters, including factors such as their volume of dairy cows, total rearing cost, and annual milk production.
MyTrouwNutrition app entry screen where FarmProfit is displayed, and variable input tabs.
  • Results & Scenario Analysis: The FarmProfit app then delivers a report to the farmer which includes their future profit, impact on rearing balance, and financial results. The report is dynamic, and the user can then adjust variables to see the impact on each area in real-time.

  • Personalized Recommendations & Support: Once the farmer has reached the desired outcome, they will receive content and product recommendations from Trouw Nutrition that directly support their goals.
Users can explore additional resources related to recommendations.

“Based on what you filled in, there is an explanation on how to do certain things better and on the products the farmer should use to improve the problem. [You can also] have the results sent to your email,” de Zwaan said about the end-to-end experience. Beyond content and product recommendations, users are also given an option to connect with a specialist via email, contact form, or phone.

Intuitive functionality

Replicating a web form comes with pros and cons: the Trouw team had a good foundation for what needed to be built into the application, but how to present the same experience in mobile required a critical rework of the UX.

“We had to go from a big website form to a small mobile phone form, and that was difficult,” said de Zwaan. “So, we did think a lot about the [UX], including the 3 tabs.”

“We wanted to be cost-effective and efficient, so we used a lot of standard Mendix functionalities, and that resulted in the 3 tabs, which was quite easy. The first time you go to the app, a window appears to tell you that there are 3 tabs to complete…which made it pretty intuitive.”

Crafting a personalized experience

A key component of the FarmProfit app is offering customization based on user inputs. This starts even at the most basic level of being able to select one’s language. “We have two languages right now…we’re building it in English as well, but at this moment you can choose between Dutch and French,” said de Zwaan.

Once users have completed their assessment, their options are to either:

  • Learn more about how to meet their goals through Trouw’s resources
  • Explore recommended products to help achieve their goals
  • Contact a specialist from Trouw for more support

Based on the results, a specialist from Trouw can easily connect farmers to the appropriate next program for support, such as LifeStart, which focuses on the rearing of young livestock, or HealthyLife, which supports in transition and lifetime production.

Creating a more digital enterprise with low-code

Beyond the simplicity of getting the FarmProfit application into the App Store immediately, de Zwaan and her team decided to leverage Mendix for a few reasons, namely control and speed. De Zwaan was no stranger to Mendix. “I had worked with [Mendix] before. I had set up a Mendix team at FrieslandCampina before coming to Trouw… And our other SHV companies were using Mendix already, so that helped as well.”

Having enterprise-wide buy-in and access to partner support in the development process was critical for Trouw, which does not currently have its own Mendix developers on staff. “We’re not asking Mendix to come into our company and take over. We’re just asking a vendor to build something for us.”

“Another reason to use Mendix [compared to traditional development platforms] is the ability to develop quickly, and that’s what I wanted to do,” de Zwaan continued. The initial FarmProfit application was completed in 4 weeks, just 2 sprints, and launched in November  2021.

Just a few months out from their launch, the Trouw team has started to receive anecdotal feedback on the FarmProfit app. “I know salespeople that have shown it to their customers, and they are positive about it,” de Zwaan said. Today, the application is being used by about 100 farmers. FarmProfit is built as part of the MyTrouwNutrition suite of applications, so, in the future, farmers will be able to access additional support tools such as a ThermoApp, which alerts farmers to local changes in temperature and humidity days in advance to prevent adverse effects on animals in the case of extreme heat.

“For farmers and farm advisors, it can be difficult to define which elements could be improved to make the biggest impact on lifetime daily yield, efficiency, and farmer income. Today, farmers can use other farm management support tools, such as heat detection or a support application tied to their machines,” said van Empel.

“However, the FarmProfit application gives a total farm overview including financial numbers and insights on the farm’s potential to optimize production,” she continued, “Ultimately, we want to help farmers make the right decisions.”