Over the course of eight months, a team of six graduate students from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) consulted the West African Rice Company Ltd (WARC), one of Sierra Leone’s largest domestic rice producers, providing both technical and research assistance ahead of the launch of one of its more recent projects: Digitalizing the Agricultural Economy of Sierra Leone (DAESL). In its initial articulation, the core objective of the DAESL project was to empower smallholder farmers at the bottom of Sierra Leone’s rice value chain to move beyond subsistence farming by combining the use of digital technology with traditional farming practices. During the preliminary phase, the SIPA and WARC teams worked to refine the scope of the DAESL project which resulted in finalizing the team’s primary deliverable: to develop and test a prototype of a digital platform ("Zinnia") that provides a bi-directional communication channel between smallholder farmers and value chain actors. This report outlines the SIPA team’s narrative in a series of phases, documenting the team’s conduct of desk research, fieldwork, and the development of WARC’s first iteration of the Zinnia prototype. The team relied heavily on Lean Startup methodology, and design thinking to gather data and develop a digital platform that is responsive to the needs and complex realities of its intended beneficiaries: smallholder rice farmers in Sierra Leone. Following four key principles of 1) value hypothesis, 2) market research, 3) agile development, and 4) human-centered design, the SIPA team was able to realize and test a MVP that will serve as the basis for full product rollout.