If you have ever been to rural Victoria, you just can’t ignore the air drenched with the beautiful aroma of fresh produce. Little do we realise the amount of sweat that rolls down a farmer’s brow to ensure his cows receive adequate water, the crop is safe from insect infestations and the fruit reaches the stores tasting as great as it was picked minutes before!
As a Digital Transformation Strategist and Microsoft’s brand ambassador, I’m fortunate to have visited several of these farms myself, got to know the struggles these farmers used to have and experience firsthand how empowering their people and processes through technology helped them overcome challenges related to lost efficiencies and rising costs!
During my exciting one day trip, I learned some worth sharing digital transformation lessons in action that can be applied to any labor intensive small business that wishes to reimagine its future through the digital lens, in particular the Australian Trades Services sector that I’m passionate about.
Lesson 1: You realise the need for change, only when you realise you have a challenge
Kagome, Australia’s largest tomato processing company, takes pride in delivering the highest quality tomato paste and dice products due to its ability to trace every single tomato right from where its picked till packaging.
However, the process traditionally required hundreds of phone calls involving several individuals and an overwhelming amount of paperwork resulting in time and resource wastage and hence shrinking profit margins.
It was then that Kagome realised they had a challenge and approached Microsoft’s partner, Advance Computing to digitally transform their entire process.
Using a Windows 10 Internet of Things based solution along with a range of Microsoft Azure cloud technologies, Kagome able collect RFID information about its raw product at each step of its journey from the farm to the factory, giving executives the kind of visibility and transparency they needed to ensure quality of their final product.
“It used to take well over 500 calls between individuals to get this coordinated. We’re now down to 40-50 and we are just doing it better, says Kagome CEO, Jason Fritsch.“In regards to our quality, traceability, and sustainability that’s where technology is playing a major part in that process.”
Lesson 2: Your every effort should be directed towards helping the community become stronger
Digital transformation is not only about changing processes, but also about changing lives by solving some of the world’s most complex problems.
A leading example of this is Greenwood Orchards, a biodynamic fruits and juices producer that was faced with a significant threat of fruit flies, with some farmers losing as much as 90% of their crop. The traditional traps alone were just not helpful enough!
When approached by Greenwood Orchards, Advance Computing services and sales director, Chris Motton concluded that his team needed to come up with a technology driven solution that would “empower people to start collecting that data (fly-count and location) and complement the traps and monitoring systems that people already have in place.”
By developing a crowd sourcing app, local farmers can now manually count the number of flies in their field or the traps, upload this data to Microsoft cloud, Azure, and use smart phone’s GPS to identify farms that are at greater risk of attack.
“Everybody can gain if we work together. That’s where this app comes in. It’ll map where the traps are, give us a reading, then we can concentrate our controls”, says owner Lynton Greenwood.
Lesson 3: If you can imagine it, nothing should stop you to make it happen
Yes, you could buy anything online, but water? Who would have thought! Well that’s exactly what farmers in regional Australia are doing to make sure their crop gets adequate water and their cows are never thirsty.
Water pool, a farmer-owned Co-operative allows farmers to trade water across the region. However, a paper-based system that was slow and prone to errors, meant the farmers needed to wait for a week before the water they bought was available for use.
Microsoft Azure cloud based online trading platform developed by Advance Computing provided farmers with complete transparency about the water availability, it’s constantly updating prices and who is buying it.
“I can hop on at midnight tonight and look at trades – if there’s 100 mega litres at $95 I hit OK and the water can be in my account overnight,” says Tim Humphris, who owns a local dairy farm in the region.
Australia’s agriculture sector is just one of the many industries that envision a brighter future for their business, their community and their customers through applying digital transformation technologies.
Other industries, most prominently the Trades Services sector which I’m passionate about is also rapidly revolutionising itself with a second-generation platform to streamline processes, empower on-the-road tradies with real-time information and gain powerful decision-making insights into their operations, while keeping their customers informed at all times and enabling them to become brand advocates.
The important thing to understand is that Digital Transformation is not an overnight miracle! Good things happen when you realise the need for change, are willing to work together with your local community to overcome challenges and always value technology leaders such as Microsoft Australia who are ready to extend their support with their local partners in your community.
Are you a progressive Trades Services business owner? then, we would like to show you how i4Tradies can transform your business and have the similar visibility, traceability, and sustainability of your business like the ‘progressive farmers’ are doing it in Australia
Disclosure: I’m an ambassador for Microsoft Surface