Fonterra will become the first major user of Microsoft's New Zealand Azure datacentre region, migrating many mission-critical operations under a new five-year strategic partnership.
Piers Shore, Fonterra’s chief information officer, said the dairy cooperative looked to build strong partnerships to meet its strategic goals, enabled by efficiency, innovation and sustainability to drive productivity and across the business.
"Microsoft is one of our key partners in helping us deliver our digital transformation," Shore said.
Transferring data from on-site datacentres to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform would vastly increase the amount of data Fonterra could gather and analyse in real time, using everything from IoT sensors on farm milk vats to smart machines in its factories to help optimise its operations, he added.
Fonterra is already trialing machine learning to detect improperly sealed or faulty bags of powdered milk in its factories.
“The Microsoft partnership forms part of a wider set of strategic partnerships between Fonterra, Microsoft, EY, SAP, and HCL focused on fundamentally reshaping how Fonterra delivers IT," Shore said.
"The cost savings and investment in Fonterra from our strategic partners are a major benefit to Fonterra, but the deep relationships between our organisations are the real win here.”
The new platform aimed to bring together all parts of Fonterra and build a culture around data, he said.
Capturing and integrating data across the organisation would create a foundation for actionable insight and enable Fonterra to deepen its relationships with farmers and customers, optimise its supply chain and manufacturing operations and deliver better products and services.
Fonterra’s chief operating officer, Fraser Whineray, said the cooperative's strong sustainability focus was an important part of the move to Microsoft’s cloud platform.
“By shifting to a technology platform that will enable Fonterra to maximise its efficiency while using renewable resources, we’re also building on our sustainability commitments," Whineray said.
"Microsoft’s pledge to use only renewable energy in its datacenters aligns with our own long-term goals and provided another benefit to the partnership.”
Vanessa Sorenson, managing director of Microsoft New Zealand, said the faster pace of innovation, greater sustainability and cost savings enabled by cloud technologies were just a fraction of the significant benefits New Zealand's agrifood sector was poised to gain from digital investment.
“Watch this space. This is the first customer signing of many," she said.
"When we disclosed the launch of the New Zealand datacentre region, we knew there would be an appetite for the scope and solutions that it would provide to unlock innovation across so many industries."
Fonterra’s employee experience and business resilience were also set to benefit from the partnership, Microsoft said.
Even before the recent COVID-19 disruption, organisations recognised the need to become modern workplaces, enabling mobile, flexible working and remote service delivery.
Under the agreement, Microsoft Surface devices will be provided to key Fonterra staff across Australia and New Zealand to support business continuity and collaboration across the cooperative's network of 19,000 staff and 10,000 farmers.
"By helping Fonterra connect better with customers and partners globally, this partnership is not just a tremendous step forward for Fonterra and Microsoft, it also helps build and cement our country’s ongoing success on the world stage," Sorenson said.