Meet Dragana Ćuk
Junior associate in the Product Development Center, the most important link between the users of BioSense applications and the developers who work on them
- What is it like to work at the BioSense Institute, a scientific beacon, but also an innovation hub where the process “from idea to realization” is nurtured and truly useful digital solutions for farmers and other actors in the sector are created?
For me, working at BioSense represents a great challenge and constant acquisition of new knowledge and experience. I have always liked jobs that involve communication with people, organization and teamwork. As my job involves contact between the developer and the user of the application, and I am not a developer by profession, it was initially a challenge for me to participate in this type of communication. Our applications are created when an idea is born about how to properly help farmers and other actors in this sector in their daily activities, and the path to realizing that idea is something that fulfills me. Along the way, there are constant changes and adaptation of the application to the clients, and daily contact with the application creators – our developers and the transfer of requests and suggestions from the clients, for me is a great pleasure but also a challenge. It is necessary to properly convey messages from clients to developers, determine priorities and deadlines for each task assigned to a developer. Also, it is a great pleasure to see how much the daily work in our applications contributes to and facilitates the work of our clients.
- What projects are you working on and what is your role in them?
SMARTAGRO – Application for Generali insurance in agriculture. There is a web and mobile application. The mobile application is used for damage assessment by assessors in the field. The web application is used to view policies and claims, view reports, assign tasks to assessors, etc.
DDOR TERRA – Application for DDOR insurance in agriculture. In addition to the mobile application for appraisers, there is also a mobile application for users, i.e. clients who have insured their plots against damage. This way, it is possible for the user to report the damage himself, but also to monitor the weather forecast, the movement of hail clouds, etc. In the web part of the application, it is possible to review all the data that is of great use for assessing the damage on the insured plots.
AGROSENS APV – Application for grants at the local self-government level. There is a mobile application for assessment on the field and a web application for entering tenders and applications, scoring, contracting and ranking applications, as well as viewing various reports.
AGROSENSE – A platform that helps farmers monitor crop conditions and plan agricultural activities. There is a web and mobile application. The mobile application is for entering data and taking photos of crops in the field, and the web application is quite comprehensive, providing options such as activities input, monitoring the weather forecasts, monitoring the latest news about diseases and pests for each crop, plot zoning and proposal of sampling points, recommendation of the amount and type of fertilizer based on the latest soil analysis, etc.
My role in these projects is to turn client requests into developer tasks, set deadlines and priorities. When the tasks are completed, I test them and write the instructions for the application. If the clients notice some errors or want to make some suggestions, they contact me, and I further communicate with the developers.
- It seems that all these projects have a great social, but also economic impact?
Each project contributes to the social community in its own way but also has a great impact on saving money in agriculture and protecting the environment.
Agricultural insurance applications are very beneficial to the employees of insurance companies in various ways. Assessors throughout Serbia use our mobile applications every day to assess damage to crops. In addition to important data, this application also enables them to take photos of the damage caused to the insured plots and send them, and managers and coordinators to see all this data through the web application and to assess the damage based on that. On the web applications, there are various options, such as viewing parcels on a map, cloud and hail radar, assigning tasks to assessors, as well as viewing various reports.
Applications related to grants are also useful in many ways. In addition to being useful for employees working on the grants, entering applications and ranking lists, these applications also benefit users who can apply online for the grants. It is possible for them to fill in data and attach documents through the application, and if it is necessary to supplement the documentation, they will be notified by email. Through the application, one can see the number of points and track the status of the application.
Although we are proud of all our applications, I must highlight the AgroSense platform and the contribution it makes to our farmers in digitizing Serbian agriculture and increasing the efficiency and competitiveness of domestic producers. AgroSense is a digital platform that provides support to farmers and agricultural companies in monitoring crop conditions and planning agricultural activities, and the use of basic services is completely free.
Basic services include:
- Weather forecast at the plot location;
- Diary of agricultural activities;
- Review of crop photos;
- Overview of soil analysis;
- Satellite crop indices that describe plant growth, photosynthesis intensity and availability of water and nutrients;
- Information about the appearance of pests and diseases in the area around the plot.
Additional services are available for advanced users, such as:
- Collection, visualization, and analysis of data from own sensors: weather stations, soil and leaf moisture sensors, etc.;
- Storage and visualization of own data from agricultural machines (yield and moisture map, terrain profile map, etc.);
- Storage and visualization of maps of the physical and chemical composition of the soil;
- Determination of management zones.
The AgroSense platform enables the zoning of the plot based on a satellite image, and with the help of an algorithm, recommended sampling points are generated for the given zones. The mobile app helps users find those points on the plot by navigating them to each point. This way, soil sampling is greatly facilitated, and after analyzing the soil and entering it into the application, a recommendation for fertilization is obtained. This significantly reduces the costs of fertilization and avoids over-fertilization, which is very common and lowers the quality of the soil and pollutes the environment.
- What is the best part of your job?
This business, although it may not look like, can be very creative. The process of designing what the app will look like is the most beautiful part for me. It is necessary to put the client’s requests into practice, to connect all the parts into a perfect whole. It’s actually a very complex process where we often draw the layout of each screen and design how the app will look and function. We find the best solutions and implement ideas into action.
Also, when developers finish a task or a form, I am the person who checks it and finds errors. Finding bugs and communicating with developers is also something that is interesting to me. When everything works as it should and there are no “bugs” I feel satisfied and fulfilled.
- Given that you participate in the creation of applications and that you are in some way the link between users and developers working at BioSense, what is necessary for your role to be successful, and for users to get the digital solution they need?
In my job, everything depends on good communication and organization. It is necessary to observe the wishes of the clients individually, but it is also important to have a vision of how the application will look in the end when it represents the whole. Communication is important in defining the wishes of clients, but apart from understanding their wishes, sometimes it is necessary to propose the most adequate solution, from the point of view of the user but also from the point of view of the solutions that developers can offer. There is no such thing as impossible for us. With the help of the great team that I am a part of, it is possible to find a solution for every situation. As far as organization is concerned, it is necessary to know how to set priorities and how much time is needed for which task. It happens that users come forward and report an error. Then you need to put everything aside and react quickly. Multitasking is also something that is very important in this job. Working on multiple projects requires switching from one project to another multiple times during the workday.
- When developing an application, the vision of how it should look and what functionality it should have is constantly changing. How do you deal with changes and challenges during the development process?
It is true that in the process of creating an application, there are often changes in functionality. This happens because sometimes it is not possible to immediately see what is necessary at the beginning. And sometimes it happens that it is necessary to change some functionalities in order to leave the possibility for further development and upgrading, which would be more useful for the client in the long run. There is never one person on the client’s side, but several of them, and because of this, during the process of creating an application, new proposals, ideas and more useful solutions come up. Sometimes we are the ones who notice that a solution can be reached in another, more adequate way, so we make changes accordingly. All these changes are made with the aim of better functioning of the application and easier use of the application by the user.
As for my dealing with challenges during these changes, it has never been a problem for me. Right from the beginning, I understood that it is an integral part of the job and that it is necessary to achieve a better end-result. In fact, there is a charm in these changes because it is a sign that we have come up with better ideas and the most adequate solution.