ExtendAg: Leading the Future of the Fruit and Vegetable Crop Supply Chain

Author: John Roos, General Manager, ExtendAg

As we continue our journey into 2024, I’d like to reflect on ExtendAg’s evolution and look ahead to the priorities that are on our radar this year and beyond.  

Since joining ExtendAg in early 2023, my focus has been on leveraging the strong foundation the company has established over the past 45 years. Our commitment remains steadfast: to collaborate closely with fruit and vegetable crop processors, driving innovation and streamlining the efficiency of the supply chain. We believe our success hinges not only on innovation, but also on our ability to excel in operational execution, delivering and supporting mission critical solutions processors rely on.  

Our Evolution to Industry Leadership  

Together, with our customers, we’ve designed and built vertical solutions tailored to meet the unique demands of the raw product supply chain. Our commitment to becoming an industry leader has always been about addressing the needs of processors who rely on technological advancements to scale and increase profitability.  

As we look to the future, our focus remains on exceeding our customers’ expectations while tackling several key challenges that are critical to enhancing the efficiency and sustainability of the world’s most important industry.  

Innovating Supply Chain Forecasting and Management 

We’re working towards addressing the intricate challenges of supply chain forecasting and management. In the agriculture industry, achieving a comprehensive understanding and control over supply chain activities from planning to harvest is crucial. Our efforts are focused on enhancing the ability of businesses to navigate these complexities with greater precision and foresight.  

Championing Environmental Sustainability 

Sustainability has emerged as a significant priority in the agriculture industry. Our initiatives are geared towards understanding the needs of processors and developing solutions that will empower processors to manage sustainability practices effectively. This includes, but is not limited to, exploring opportunities to improve the capture, management, and reporting of sustainable practices to meet regulatory standards and consumer expectations for environmental stewardship. 

Embracing Digital Transformation 

We’re investing in advancing our technological foundation to ensure that our solutions are robust, scalable, and accessible on a global scale on a cloud platform that supports our commitment to continuous innovation in analytics, mobile applications, document management, API integrations, and more. These investments support food processers on their own digital transformation journeys, enabling them to leverage technology to further increase efficiency in their organizations. 

As we move forward into 2024 and beyond, ExtendAg is passionate about transforming the fruit and vegetable crop supply chain. Our dedication to innovation, sustainability, and technology sets us on a path to redefine the future of agriculture.  

Join Us

We invite you to join us in the journey towards a more efficient and sustainable future for the agriculture industry. Follow us, share your thoughts, and be part of the evolution.  

Evolution of AgTech

If you follow AgTech news, not a single day goes by without yet another announcement from a startup or large tech company highlighting their groundbreaking innovative product that targets a key piece of the agricultural supply-chain. All this investment activity and technical innovation has even attracted the eyes of the big tech firms—such as Google (Farmers Business Network) and Amazon (Plenty)—who have set up their own investment vehicles to capitalize on it. All of this technology investment going into agriculture has to be a good thing, right?

Stephen Berry, VP Information Technology

The six key components making up this emerging platform for 2021 and beyond include:

  1. 1. IoT (Internet of Things) sensors to gather vast amounts of ever-increasing raw data at the source
  2. 2. Edge-computing to enable local processing of the data volumes, minimizing network latency
  3. 3. 5G networks to provide high speed, reliable, and widespread network capability, connecting the Edge to the Cloud
  4. 4. AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) to make sense of the massive amount of data and automatically deal with the mundane, freeing up humans to deal with the exceptions
  5. 5. A growing number of APIs (Application Interfaces) into ERP transactional systems closes the loop, enabling the AI and ML to automatically process transactions
  6. 6. Blockchain to reliably and securely store the data in a scalable way without the risk of exposing critical information via unauthorized access

Data Democracy: Unlocking the Insights Hidden in Your Data

The ever-expanding volumes of data being generated from multiple internal and external sources is increasingly challenging most organizations. Figuring out how to analyze, interpret, and use the data to gain market advantage is a key challenge all businesses are facing.

Data democratization means removing all the bottlenecks that restrict access to the data, providing an easy way to organize, understand and access it. The ultimate goal of data democratization is to expedite the decision-making process and identify new opportunities by getting the right data to the people who need it when they need it.

There isn’t a “silver bullet” approach because every business has a unique set of circumstances, but there are a number of common challenges that need to be understood before a holistic strategy can be formulated. The enabling technologies are also immature and evolving fast, making the situation even more difficult for businesses to take the first step.

Why Implement a Data Democracy Strategy?

Business performance and growth is driven by empowered individuals across the organization when they are provided with improved decision-making capabilities based on immediate access to easily understood data.

Opportunities exist within the agri industry for innovative companies with a forward-thinking outlook to make the first leap, disrupt the marketplace, and gain significant market share. Other industries are already ahead of the curve, so the lessons learned from their leading proponents can be used accelerate ahead of the competition.

Concerns and Challenges

Not everyone is sold on the idea of data democracy. A number of concerns get raised, including:

  1. 1. Poor decisions could result from the misuse or misinterpretation of data.
  2. 2. There is potential for duplication of efforts across different teams without a centralized analysis group.
  3. 3. Uncontrolled access to data could expose sensitive information.

Additionally, there are challenges that still need to be addressed, including:

  1. 1. Most organizations don’t have a data-driven culture and lack the desire to use data effectively in the decision-making process.
  2. 2. Data still exists in hidden silos. People don’t want to let go, and others don’t know it is available.
  3. 3. Data quality and duplication issues across aggregated data sources need to be corrected to gain trust before people will believe in and use it.
  4. 4. Data governance needs to be put in place to make sure the right information is only available to the right people.
  5. 5. Business models that have been sustainable for years are suddenly required to change.
  6. 6. New types of data like streaming, social, and third-party data need incorporating together.
  7. 7. Complex ecosystems need businesses to work with and coordinate efforts across multiple vendors.

All of that being said, none of these challenges are insurmountable and can easily be addressed with a well thought out strategy.

 Keys to Success

To be successful, organizations need to formulate a comprehensive strategy that focuses on all four pillars of data democracy:

  1. 1. People need to be empowered to incorporate the data into their decision-making process without having to overcome any hurdles.
  2. 2. Processes need to be put in place to ensure corporate governance requirements are met.
  3. 3. The technology needs to be easy to use. Shield the users from complexities.
  4. 4. The data has to be trusted by being comprehensive and accurate.

Failure to address any of the pillars could put the overall strategy at risk and fail to deliver the full benefits data democracy can deliver. 

The Future of Data Democracy

It’s too soon to realize the full benefits and impact data democracy will bring. Businesses need to develop and execute their strategy and evolve internal processes alongside the evolving tools to fully exploit them. If you don’t, the competition almost certainly will and you will be left scrambling to catch up and survive.

There are a number of evolving technologies that support data democracy, such as:

  1. 1. The Cloud provides unlimited storage and the processing capacity to manipulate vast quantities of unstructured data in real-time
  2. 2. Data Federation which creates virtual databases from data aggregated across multiple diverse sources
  3. 3. Data visualization that allows manipulation of data without the need to understand the technical details of how it is stored
  4. 4. BI (Business Intelligence) “self-service” tools that provide simple ways for non-technical users to analyze and interpret data

The ExtendAg Approach

There is no “one size fits all” approach to data democratization as each business has unique requirements based on multiple factors.  ExtendAg can play an integral role in that strategy.  By providing visibility to the entire raw product supply chain from production planning, thru crop husbandry, to harvest estimations, receiving/grading and ultimately final settlement payment, critical functionality is provided to your ag operations group.  Incorporating ExtendAg into your data democratization strategy leverages that operational functionality to support your strategy by easily providing access to data previously hidden in silos and disparate systems, thereby enabling our processing clients to gain valuable insights.

Author: Stephen Berry, VP Information Technology

Originally posted: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/data-democracy-agriculture-industry-unlocking-hidden-insights-berry/

Postmodern ERP: A Pragmatic Approach for Ag Processors

Postmodern ERP is the latest iteration of Gartner’s thinking on the best strategies to be adopted when implementing enterprise-wide solutions. It’s a response to the inexorable rise of the monolithic single vendor, single solution approach that has resulted in a number of high-profile failures with massive hits to both bottom lines and reputations.

In 2014, Gartner defined Postmodern ERP as “a technology strategy that automates and links administrative and operational business capabilities with appropriate levels of integration that balance the benefits of vendor-delivered integration against business flexibility and agility”.

This latest evolution is a recognition that ERP solutions can be great for core business administrative functions such as HR, finance, payroll, etc. However, across large organizations there is normally a variety of diverse business models that need custom solutions that closely address their unique operational needs. The result will usually be a trade-off between overall operational efficiency versus business flexibility and agility.

Postmodern ERP is not a platform or set of tools. It is a strategic approach that recognizes every business is unique and needs to formulate a strategy based on their specific needs. The overall strategy will be a combination of two different sub-strategies that address both administrative and operation requirements separately.

Integrations are key

Successful postmodern ERP is dependent upon the integration capabilities of the various components and a key consideration during the selection process. The integrations are normally the most complex and challenging aspects of any postmodern ERP strategy and can involve coordinating effort across multiple internal teams and external vendors.

However, the main reason monolithic ERP implementations often do not succeed is a failure to address the impact of (and resistance to) changing long established business practices and cultures. By leaving these unchanged and moving the challenges to the software integrations, this is something addressable by IT without any significant impact on the operational business users.

What should be done

At ExtendAg, we have observed first-hand the challenges faced by our enterprise customers and their attempts to address them. Several have learned the hard way that implementing a company-wide monolithic ERP usually comes down to a fundamental choice between the high cost of tailoring ERP software to address multiple often conflicting requirements, or changing long established business processes and cultures to work the way the software does. Neither is an attractive or straightforward option.

In addition to these difficult tradeoffs, the lengthy release cycle inherent to monolithic ERP systems not only adds significantly to the ongoing “total cost of ownership” (TCO) but hamstrings the ability to move “at the speed of business” to adapt changing market conditions.  In the meantime, facing the risk of missing a market opportunity, the business will find ways to address their needs, often leading to adoption of less-than-ideal solutions (think spreadsheets, unapproved apps, secluded data) to bridge the gap.

Other than the large ERP vendors themselves, no one in today’s challenging business climate would recommend implementing a single monolithic ERP solution unless their client is in a stable and established marketplace where the agility to support rapid growth or adapt to changing market conditions is not a requirement.

At ExtendAg, we appreciate these difficult decisions (regarding tradeoffs).  Designed from its origins as a subsystem to an ERP, ExtendAg can be a key component to your Postmodern ERP strategy.  Focused exclusively on raw product procurement and grower management, ExtendAg delivers the functionality your supply chain operations require without requiring wholesale change to business processes or grower interactions.  Our flexible approach of integrating to your specific ERP deployment maximizes the efficiency and value you derive from this strategy.  Lower initial cost, lower ongoing TCO, quicker deployment and disconnected release cycles all lend credence to the Postmodern ERP strategy.

Author: Stephen Berry, VP Information Techology

Original post: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/postmodern-erp-return-pragmatism-stephen-berry/