As social distancing and self-isolation rules have curtailed face to face research methodologies such as focus groups, the power of contacting farmers by telephone is in the spotlight as it is effective, reliable and excellent value for money.

KG2 has been conducting a significant amount of research with farmers since the outbreak of COVID-19 in February, all by Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI). During these surveys, the resilience of the agricultural industry has been evident as they have experienced extreme situations such as prolonged drought, biosecurity threats, fires, floods and now a pandemic.

KG2 prefers to conduct both quantitative and qualitative research with farmers by telephone.

  • Quantitative CATI research is typically a 10 to 15 minute survey of more than 200 farmers. The results can be provided as raw data or cross-tabulations and can include analysis and a report.
  • Qualitative CATI research involves a small number of in-depth interviews, usually quite unstructured to reveal unanticipated themes, and each may take up to 90 minutes. The information is then transcribed into a report which may inform quantitative research.

There are many advantages of using CATI to survey or interview busy farmers at any time, and particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic: 

  • Telephone interviewing is the most efficient method for farmers as it can be done anywhere with reception and requires little effort by the farmer beyond their time.
  • Response rates for telephone surveying is higher than for other methodologies.
  • Farmers are now reliant on mobile phones, increasing their availability and receptiveness to a phone survey.
  • Call-backs allow the interview to be conducted when it best suits the farmer.
  • Quotas can be effectively managed to ensure a representative sample. KG2 has an extensive database to select from and can monitor the progress among sub-groups such as state or farm type to ensure the final sample is representative.
  • KG2’s knowledgeable and empathetic interviewers are trained to engage respondents and probe them to maximise the information provided.
  • The data collected is readily available for data tables, statistical analysis and reporting.

As well as the above advantages, CATI provides special benefits over focus groups or internet surveys.


In-depth interviews using CATI are superior to traditional focus group research:

  • Telephone surveying eliminates any social distancing issues and allows the farmer to remain on their property and be contacted at a convenient time. Under the current regulations, a focus group would not be allowed.
  • A more representative selection of participants can be achieved by phone rather than only those willing and able to travel to a set location at a set time for a focus group.
  • Willingness to participate in an in-depth phone interview is much higher than for focus groups. The interview can be scheduled and re-scheduled if required and, if a farmer must withdraw, they can be replaced  by another farmer with similar characteristics.
  • CATI is much more cost-effective than focus groups.

Quantitative CATI surveying is a superior methodology to online surveys for farmers:

  • Online surveys provide little control over the quality and composition of a sample and may limit or exclude those who are not computer literate, are suspicious of online surveys, or do not want to use valuable home time to do a survey.
  • An online survey may also attract people who have an unusually strong opinion about the topic. Less responses may be obtained from those uninterested in the survey but relevant to the sample. This can induce non-response error, undermining the validity of results.
  • An online survey puts all the effort on to the respondent, typically resulting in a very low response rate (typically <0.5%).
    Online surveys often result in a high level of incomplete surveys, quick responses that are not well considered, and no opportunity to probe for complete information.
  • It is difficult for online surveys to capture in-depth information or verbatim comments as respondents are often not prepared to type a long response.
  • Online surveys require a very large database of correct and active email addresses.