Seed is a living, changing product.
Cropmark not only track the type or variety they produce, but the line numbers represent the actual paddock where the seeds were grown. Cropmark also records the tests the seeds are subjected to, such as purity, germination and endophyte. Because it’s a living product, the quality of seed changes over time. Seeds are tested when first harvested and packed, and also while they are in storage. Cropmark records any changes or degradation in quality throughout the time the seeds are with them, to ensure they meet industry standards and remain fit for sale.
There is also a growing trend in the world of agribusiness where buyers are keen to know precisely where the seed is from, and when it was harvested.
A season of change
Ravensdown, a farmer-owned fertiliser co-operative, formed a strategic alliance with Cropmark in late 2011. The new relationship was predicted to dramatically increase the amount of sales transactions, so Cropmark knew they needed to review their current business operations systems.
The incumbent accounting and operations system had been in use at Cropmark for many years. While reliable, with little downtime, the system was clumsy to operate, and the overall performance slow. There was no possibility of the system keeping up with Cropmark’s future growth and the anticipated volume of transactions. It was obvious that its day was done.
Cropmark had several business objectives.
They needed to capture and manage even more detailed seed stock information than before. They also needed to improve operational efficiency, including the removal of duplication from the sales dispatch process. Cropmark wanted to provide all the benefits of modern-day mobility for their field staff, and future-proof the company at the same time. And of course, they had to increase their capacity to handle the increased volume of sales transactions due to the Ravensdown alliance.
Choosing a new solution
The choice of a new solution was critical to Cropmark’s future, so they threw the net wide and looked at around 20 solution providers.
This was quickly narrowed down to just three solutions which appeared to fit well with the particular complexities of their business and product. "One of our most important objectives is looking after our stock,” said Paul McKenzie, Cropmark’s Financial Controller. "The seed business isn't just about quantity, but quality.”
Quality is critical for a company dealing with a living seed product. The perfect business solution would need to allow Cropmark to identify their seeds by variety and line number, capture and update any quality changes as the seeds age. Seeds are increasingly sold as a mix, so it is critical to Cropmark that they could clearly identify the individual components.
Fusion5 and their NetSuite solution hit the spot with Cropmark. Paul said “We were really impressed with our first look at NetSuite, we could have almost rolled it out as it was. Fusion5 showed they’d understood our business very well, and NetSuite was clearly an excellent fit. Where most of the other providers struggled, we could see straight away it would handle our seed quality needs effortlessly.”
Moving to the cloud
While NetSuite’s capability to manage quality was the deciding point for Cropmark, they were also keen to embrace a true cloud solution. The catastrophic earthquake in Christchurch in 2011 highlighted the risks for businesses with onsite technology. “Although the Board was a little cautious about the step,” said Paul, “in hindsight, it was the smartest thing we did.”
As an accountant, the last thing Paul wanted to worry about was the expense and bother of maintaining and managing the hardware needed to run the company’s business software. "That was a bonus of moving to the cloud," he said. "I couldn’t go to the Board and justify having to appoint an IT specialist. That would just never happen with a company of our size.”