A major New Zealand fresh produce software provider is already looking at expanding its operations globally, after securing its latest partnership with a major Australian potato and onion company.
This week it was announced that Radford Software will provide operational-specific platforms to transform South Australian based Mitolo Family Farms' current manual systems and processes across the entire business. Chief Executive Officer Adam Cuming said this includes everything from farm management and product traceability to sales and marketing, business reporting and planning.
"They realised their need to fully digitise their business, and realised their need to future proof the legacy that they have built, into the future," he said. "They embarked on an RFP process to select the best provider possible to help them on their journey. What we suggested in our proposal was to do an upfront detailed scoping session to give them the full plan and what it meant end to end for their business, which they agreed with around the end of March and from there, there were negotiations to bring together the whole solution; which involves not only Radfords as a lead vendor, but we have brought Microsoft partner, Intergen and Empired, to do the financial general ledger and balance sheet."
Mitolo Family Farms is a fully integrated business encompassing seed development, farming, processing, packing and distribution. It produces multiple lines over 40,000 hectares in three states for domestic and export markets. Radfords will be involved in its end-to-end onion and potato operations together with its on-farm vineyards.
“For Mitolo, the choice of Radfords as our primary implementation partner for our new ERP system became obvious throughout the selection process," Mitolo Family Farms chief commercial officer Sue Edwards said. " The product will provide a relatively off-the-shelf fresh produce solution for our fairly complex application requirements from growing seed through to dispatch. As well as the solution, what differentiated Radfords was their practical, on-the-ground knowledge of fresh produce and a genuine willingness to help us succeed in our project. To date, as we move through detailed design, that has not wavered and we have a high level of confidence in the Radfords team."
Mr Cuming notes that Mitolo has been very engaged and enthused in the process of onboarding this new software, and is confident they will be able to reap the benefits from uniting the departments of the company under the same daily operating system. The first phase is expected to go live in May.
"In terms of the benefit, there is this whole relationship between the sales team, the production team and the guys on the farm," he said. "To bring that all together we will use our planning tool, where they view demand from retailers or supermarkets and match that to production capacity, in terms of what is going to be harvested in the field. That process is being supported by our business intelligence toolset, called FreshInsights. This can also bring in data from other hardware, and machinery such as the grader, and Microsoft's financial module. It is all housed in the one information store, which is important for a business the size of Mitolo."
Radfords are already well involved in the fresh produce industry in New Zealand and Australia, and Mr Cuming says expansion plans involve targeting the Northern American market.
"We cover a widespan of the New Zealand market, being our heritage market," Mr Cuming said. "So, Zespri for example, 100 per cent of their supply of kiwifruit goes through independent packhouses who all use our software. We are across a large portion of the apple, cherry, avocado, citrus and tomato verticals as well. In Australia, we have some big names including Pinata Farms, Red Rich Fruits, Seeka Australia, Raffa Fields and other major players. In order to build on this success, we are looking to expand further across the Australian market and to more fully launch into the North American market. Over the last year, we have become a focus customer of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) – a government growth agency. We have been working with NZTE, and they help with business intelligence around new markets and assist with co-funding. We have been working with them over the past year to build up our Northern American entry; we have three clients there and are ready to start marketing heavily."
Radford Software solution provides platforms from "soil to supermarket"
Mr Cuming says Radfords objective is to provide systems that help streamline day-to-day operations on farms and orchards, ensuring input and resource data is captured and maintained in one central location. There are four modules that interact to achieve this purpose; FreshGrow, FreshPack, FreshQuality and FreshInsights.
"We are providing a solution that really helps them manage their farms on tablets and using a web solution," he explained. "That's FreshGrow, which helps them manage the cycle of their plantings, their harvests, their people management and their machinery and chemical inventory. When you manage the (large) scale of crops, you need to manage the inputs and outputs. It also involves putting together a diary of events that easily disseminates what their actions are for the day and plan for the coming months."
From there, once something is harvested and in the process of being put into the supply chain, Mr Cuming says the FreshPack system can create the inventory and manage warehouse logistics, and supply to the retailers.
"There is an electronic relationship between the retailers and the suppliers, in this case, Mitolo," Mr Cuming said. "We handle that interaction electronically; so, they would get the incoming order and say we have the inventory picture from the FreshPack system and select which pallets are going to be consumed to that order, and also communicate with the customer about what is on its way in terms of pallets and codes - and the invoice also flows from there."
Another important part is quality management, according to Mr Cuming, who says the FreshQuality platform covers everything from what happens in the field through the packing process.
"We have a tool that is tablet-based and allows users to do assessments on the quality of the stock in the field and what happens to the produce along the supply chain," he said. "From our point of view, I think as fresh produce specialists, we really understand the industry. So, when people come and talk to us, it is not like they are talking to an IT consultant, where you need to educate them on the complexities of the industry. We really get what people mean and understand quickly. Therefore, when customers invest in a big digital transformation, we believe Radfords de-risks that investment because we understand the context of the industry."