Leading New Zealand software provider Radfords has fast-tracked the evolution of its fresh produce data reporting system FreshInsights as global customers demand new technologies to future-proof their businesses.
Chief executive officer Adam Cuming said the global pandemic had accelerated the thinking in many people's minds around the concept of digitisation and how it can help support faster decision making and create opportunity to streamline business areas where labour is scarce.
"People have heard of the need to digitise and become part of the fourth industrial revolution, but have not always known where to start. It's as simple as starting with data. Import it, centralise it and provide easy to digest access to it to help your people make decisions, Mr Cuming said.
The pandemic had forced many fresh produce businesses to rethink how technology could help them overcome issues around human separation, leading to a growth in demand from new and existing customers, he said.
"The FreshInsights toolset - originally developed seven years ago - has matured so that it is now able to handle the proliferation of data sources available from smart automation hardware or software. New hardware solutions while internet capable, tend to exist in a silo and that information can become much more valuable once brought into an end-to-end data eco-system, Mr Cuming said.
"This customer-driven evolution is coming from the urgent need to more quickly respond to challenges like supply chain disruption, reduced access to labour, visibility of one version of the data truth especially when more of the workforce can be working remotely from one another."
Consolidating data into a central warehouse
Business intelligence team leader and FreshInsights' product owner Leslie Nesbitt said there were several specific core principles that had been met by FreshInsights to deliver real value to organisations committed to become more data driven in their decision making.
Mr Nesbitt said fresh produce operators had become increasingly frustrated with having to access information via separate spreadsheets throughout their businesses. Changes in staff could also cause disruptions accessing data.
"There is often a single person who holds the knowledge to how data works across the business. When that person leaves, that knowledge is lost. Our tools provide opportunities for more than one person to be across the data.
"FreshInsights continues to evolve as a powerful data warehouse by gathering and storing all data from multiple applications into a central location. This will enable businesses to gain insights in a user-friendly, efficient and meaningful way," Mr Nesbitt said. "Irrespective of whether all systems in a packhouse are Radfords systems or not, FreshInsights can work with existing systems or stand-alone."
"Having the correct data and ability for all involved in the business to see and analyse that data in real time will allow customers to make informed decisions in real time and open businesses to new opportunities for growth.
He said being able to access reports whilst users were mobile was a valuable feature. For people on the move, often outside of their work network, being able to access reports and data using a secure web portal has enabled businesses to be effective at supporting mobile or remote users.
Mr Nesbitt said FreshInsights had also evolved as a driver for planning. "There was a gap in tools for planning. Operators need to be able to predict volumes, then use the application to compare forecasts with actuals. Several clients in avocadoes and fresh herbs are using FreshInsights in this way," he said.
In 2020, Radfords worked with leading Australian fruit producer, Piñata Farms to consolidate its data systems to improve visibility.
Piñata Farms chief finance officer Chris Jones said the business previously had various sources of information from a multitude of systems within its business and had been looking for a "single source of truth” from which to report.
"Although we have had FreshInsights for a number of years, at the end of 2020 we made the decision to more effectively use the software to aggregate our data. We are now well into the journey of using FreshInsights as a central data warehouse and as our central business intelligence platform," Mr Jones said.
Radfords in R&D phase of Artificial Intelligence
Since late 2020, Radfords has been collaborating with its New Zealand research partner PlantTech to develop Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools to integrate FreshInsights with various technologies across the supply chain, such as soil and temperature sensors.
"By partnering with PlantTech, we have gained access to a specialised team of AI and data scientists who can fast-track opportunities for growth," Mr Cuming said.
"We're focused on ensuring information becomes more prescriptive rather than being presented. Eventually, some decisions will be automatically suggested, or even actionable decisions made where it makes sense for the context of the customer's business."
Radfords provides a suite of products including its flagship packhouse management system, FreshPack. "As a reporting tool, FreshInsights is the cream on top when used as a way to connect data sources across the business to give meaning to decision making," Mr Cuming said.
Radfords, which was established to work with leading New Zealand kiwifruit packhouse operators some 30 years ago, has since branched into avocadoes, apples, and various fresh produce operations in Australia, the United States, Europe and Asia.
For more information:
Adam Cuming or Leslie Nesbitt
Tel: +64 7 5791106