Technology and Agribusiness: Challenges IT Can Address

by | Mar 25, 2021 | Technology Strategy

When fresh produce companies look at the work they do, it comes down to how they can provide the highest quality products to their customers. And it’s like that for the broad majority of businesses that operate within a market like an agribusiness, which relies heavily on the supply chain. Each and every organization along that chain has a role to play. They are an essential piece of the puzzle. And missing one piece or slowing the process down because one organization is unable to meet the needs of its part of the chain can be detrimental to the rest of the ecosystem.

Take a salad kit, for example. While there are farms that produce the various kinds of greens that are part of the pack, there’s also the external packaging, the package of pre-measured toppings (each and every one a different ingredient), and dressing that are a part of the overall product. Each of these components is rarely produced at the same facility, which means the process must be seamless to deliver a product to supermarket shelves in a timely fashion. To add to that, a broad majority of this process is automated using technology that signals the progression from one stage to another.

Each piece of the puzzle is dependent on core technology-driven business systems and as more agribusinesses embark on the digital transformation journey, ensuring each component is functional is crucial. However, there are ongoing challenges that are unique to these companies that are difficult to navigate without additional support from a managed services provider (MSP) or IT support partner, such as:

Growing season shifts. There are a number of growers that move around the country to maximize growing seasons, which can make securing users and credentials at various workstations a challenge. Policies and procedures can go a long way to ensure proper levels of access to systems by users.

Changing workforce needs. Similar to the above challenge that sees a shift in location, this also triggers the need to deploy cloud-based and remote infrastructure that enables companies to navigate the requirements of the supply chain around delivery, shipments, and invoicing.

Up-to-date systems. Security threats arise each and every day, and software providers release updates to their systems regularly to help address holes in security, new features, or critical upgrades to service. Any vulnerabilities in these systems can expose the network to external threats that can shut down production and result in a loss of productivity and – ultimately – revenue.

New ways to collaborate. If 2020 taught us anything, it was that we need to be ready for anything. This includes “going remote” at a moment’s notice. While so many employees within a shipping or production facility must be on-site to perform their jobs, non-essential works, such as those in administrative positions, must have the ability to perform their job roles remotely like many states mandated throughout the pandemic. Now that some states are reopening, more companies are adopting hybrid options for their employees, allowing them to work from both the office and remotely in an effort to align with social distancing mandates. Technology that is adaptable can be a challenge for agribusinesses used to conducting business in one way and these organizations can benefit from external guidance on the tools available for better collaboration among teams that aren’t in the same building.

Technology best practices.This may be an unpopular opinion, but you can implement all of the most advanced technology in the world, but if your teams don’t know how to use it in a safe and secure way, it’s not going to do you much good in the long run. The same can be said about the tech used at production facilities: implementing best practices around password safety, multifactor authentication, and access levels is critical to maintaining the integrity of these systems.

How technology helps

We’re seeing a trend among agribusinesses around the need for additional hands in the IT department. So many times, there is only a handful of employees monitoring and updating systems with hundreds of users. In this case, these individuals can become hindered in the day-to-day support requests, help desk calls, and menial tasks that can detract from the IT department serving as a strategic partner for streamlining operations.

Engaging with an MSP that can offload some of these functions goes a long way in shifting the knowledge within the building toward leveraging technology to solve complex problems across the organization. Here are some of the ways an expert MSP can leverage technology to drive competitive advantage in your organization:

Cloud. The advent of the cloud has enabled fresh produce and agribusiness companies to streamline their operations and allow for more remote access to business systems. Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud (GCP) are some of the options available.

Networking, wireless, and SD-WAN. Many new technologies promise increased performance, reduced downtime, and lower operating costs. By architecting solutions for Ag-specific environments all three can be achieved using advanced Cisco SD-WAN deployments.

Disaster recovery. Insurance policies protect the products, buildings, and employees, but it’s just as important for companies to have a plan around covering core business systems and software. Disaster recovery plans are essential and can be customized based on the needs of your organization to help with recovery and ensure minimal impact when disasters strike.

Security. We read about it in the news each and every day: scams and phishing attacks that prey on employees and open an organization up to thousands of dollars in loss (if not millions). Whether you have a large in-house IT team that needs point technology solutions or entirely outsourced and fully managed services, ZAG can make a recommendation based on your specific needs.

Business continuity and reliabilityThere are few industries where the availability of business applications software is as essential as agribusiness. From the core system, all the way down to the label printers at the dock, technology can help keep your business running.

Help desk and technical support. Since production is a 24/7/265 business, technical support should be available throughout the day and night when the need arises. Customized support can mean the difference for your organization between the trucks shipping on time and revenue loss due to delays.

Why managed services matters

Working in an industry as unique as agribusiness means that there is no “one size fits all” approach to managing the IT that serves your organization. Uptime and cybersecurity are two things that an MSP like ZAG understands.

Customized managed IT services allow organizations in the agribusiness sector a way to tailor a unique solution that provides industry-leading support on all the things that matter to them without paying for unnecessary services. These solutions can help improve business intelligence and reporting, meet and maintain compliance regulations, and give you the reliability and uptime you need to run your business.

Ready to see how ZAG can help your business? Take a look at our guide to agribusiness and food technology.

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