Digital Transformation for Agribusiness

Learn how agribusiness companies from traditional farmers and growers to digital native cannabis companies are transforming their businesses.

Table of Content

    Digital technologies like AI, machine learning, and the IoT are transforming agriculture in profound ways.

    They’re enabling orgs to take on the challenges that farmers have faced from the very beginning. And – they’re helping growers tackle new ones like climate change, hunger, and an unforgiving regulatory landscape.

    Under the “agribusiness umbrella” there’s a lot of diversity – produce farmers, cannabis growers, horticulturists, etc – each with its own challenges and needs.

    At the same time, agriculture businesses have many critical pain points in common – many of which link back to fragmentation and data management problems.

    Growers Guide to Microsoft Dynamics 365Growers Guide to Microsoft Dynamics 365

    In these next few sections, we’ll explore how real ag companies – from traditional farmers and growers to digital native cannabis companies – are transforming their businesses at every level.

    Overcome Fragmentation with Industry Accelerators

    In a lot of ways, the history of agriculture also charts the history of data – from stone tablet ledgers and almanacs to today’s high-speed data streams and sensor-enabled tractors.
    But, while the act of capturing and analyzing data goes all the way back to the very first farms, today’s growers still have trouble turning raw data into measurable value.

    Agribusiness orgs need to unify cultivation, harvesting, and quality control with finance and accounting — otherwise, they can’t transform.

    The problem is, there aren’t any good out-of-the-box solutions built for this niche. CRMs and ERPs generally don’t include things like seed-to-sale software, baked-in quality assurance tools, or integrated insights that track individual plant growth.

    Microsoft Dynamics 365 changes all that. Rather than relying on patchwork solutions, agriculture orgs can tap into the benefits of the D365 ecosystem with industry accelerators that build on the system’s core functionality. That way, they can put together an integrated system that aligns perfectly with their niche requirements.

    Microsoft does offer some accelerators directly to subscribers, but only for a handful of industries including, nonprofits, financial services, and healthcare. Meaning, agribusinesses will need to find an ISV solution from one of Microsoft’s partners.

    For example, Velosio’s Greenhouse Cloud Solutions bring greenhouse management functionality directly to D365 BC. So, growers can track product costs, identify growth opportunities, and replace spreadsheets with intelligent accounting, finance, and inventory capabilities — all from one intuitive system.

    Keep in mind, the “partner” element matters a lot. When we worked with United Plant Growers, the plant broker had been in business for 40+ years, but tripled the number of stores it serves within the last five years.

    As UPC grew, it became untenable to manage orders and inventory with Excel spreadsheets — prompting them to contact us for help unifying all of their systems, locations, and customers.

    We’ve helped them through hundreds of upgrades and tweaks to optimize performance and adapt to changing conditions.

    Manage & Automate Complex Operations

    A core part of digital transformation is building these connected systems that span the entire business — allowing data to flow between different apps and processes in real-time.

    As mentioned, agribusinesses have historically had to juggle different platforms and rely on manual processes, making it difficult, if not impossible, to keep track of inventory, crop yields, quality testing, and so on.

    Cannabis growers have a particularly hard time — not only must they meet certain quality standards, they also need to meet compliance requirements that vary from state to state. On top of that, they’re also dealing with customer orders, inventory, and sales forecasts.

    SilverLeaf, our Microsoft ERP solution for cannabis growers integrates all data sources in D365 Business Central. That includes state-mandated tracking systems, core finance and operations, sales reports, customer insights, and everything that goes into planning for the upcoming coming season. Growers can automate operational processes, track costs, and ID opportunities to improve business performance.

    Centralized visibility, combined with the power of the IoT can also help agriculture companies keep operations secure.

    As an example, global agribusiness company, COFCO, deployed Microsoft Sentinel and Microsoft Defender for IoT to proactively manage and secure all of its operational technology (OT). Each plant had specialized equipment from a diverse range of vendors, making it difficult to get a holistic view of its security operations.

    The cloud-based solution unified all OT data in one place — bringing agentless monitoring and control to each plant’s employees, while also providing a global view for the security team.

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    Balance Productivity with Climate Challenges

    Digitizing agriculture has massive implications for the entire food chain, the human race, and the future of our planet. Meaning, the stakes are much higher than the “typical transformation,” where successes and failures are generally felt by a specific group of stakeholders, not the actual Earth.

    According to an Agricultural Economics paper agriculture companies face several challenges re: increasing productivity while simultaneously reducing the negative impact their operations have on the environment.

    For example, conventional practices like using chemicals to kill weeds and pests, row cropping, and others are no longer sustainable – depleting soil nutrients and carbon stocks and, in some cases, causing harm to nearby communities via poor air quality or compromised water supplies.

    Increasingly, growers are looking toward AI-enabled technologies to collect information about growing conditions, as well as things like how much nitrogen is in the soil or the presence of weeds and pests.

    Final Thoughts

    Agribusinesses are especially vulnerable to a whole host of problems that range from poor visibility and quality control issues to inventory and accounting challenges that wreak havoc on profit margins.

    Our experts can help you unify core financials, inventory, CRM, operations, project management, and the rest of your business, optimize processes, and provide ongoing, proactive support.

    Reach out, and Velosio’s can offer agribusiness solutions that help clients drive growth, meet customer demands, and make decisions that have a positive impact on the environment and the bottom line.

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