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BEHIND-THE-SCENES STRATEGIES
WEB-ENABLING CASE STUDIES FROM AGRIBIZ.NET
A year ago many agribusinesses were adopting Internet technology for technology’s sake. This was driven by a fear that technology would be adopted so quickly and the new business models would be so powerful that existing businesses and their dealer networks no longer would be needed.

"The fear was unfounded and the mood has changed. Reason has prevailed," says Grant Robinson, chief executive officer of Agribiz.net. "There is no silver bullet or magical technology solution. There are business issues that need to be addressed, and technology can be an enabler for addressing these business issues."

Guelph, Ontario-based agribiz.net is an e-business strategist and Web development provider to the food and agriculture market in North America, and a major international Web Exchange development company. The company has provided Web strategy and development services to many of the food and agricultural industry’s leading participants and suppliers. Below are overviews of projects for four clients.

SEAMLESS SYNGENTA SITE

After the merger of Zeneca Agrochemicals and Novartis Crop Protection, Syngenta needed to quickly combine the former crop protection Web sites into a seamless site, reflecting the vision of the new company. This had to be done in a very short timeframe in order to meet the advent of a new crop year as well as comply with global guidelines for Web site development. The company also wanted to easily update the information on the site in-house on an ongoing basis.

Syngenta and agribiz.net met and drew up a plan, which was executed in six weeks, to merge the content of both sites in a way that presents the material in a consistent manner to farmers. Entirely database-driven, the design allows Syngenta to add and update products, insects, diseases and MSDS/label information. It also includes customer-focused pages for identifying and e-mailing customer service representatives local to the farmer. All this was done in compliance with global system and technical guidelines, and met the company’s requirement for switching between French and English at the click of a mouse.

The components involved in the production of this site include a document management system based on an SQL Server database, graphic design, extensive use of ASP, MS-Site Server-based bilingual search engine, JavaScript and HTML.

NEW CONFIGURATIONS FOR FARMS.COM

For Farms.com, a North American provider of business-to-business e-commerce solutions for the agricultural industry, the job was to develop a scalable platform for business transactions, data aggregation and information analysis. "With the merger of eHarvest.com and Farms.com in April 2000, Farms.com has had significant database amalgamation challenges where agribiz.net has taken the best technology from each source to form the robust final hybrid," Robinson says.

He adds that the shear size of each database made scalability a major challenge during the merger of the two sites. "Preparing for the launch of Farms.com last fall, agribiz.net worked with ASP and JAVA to create the final site that includes functionally superior trading platforms and proprietary farm management solution software," Robinson says.

Farms.com focuses primarily on the $240 billion North American agricultural market. The site offers an independent, comprehensive information service and implementation tools targeting the beef cattle, swine, and feedstuffs marketplaces. Through one highly functional and easy-to-navigate e-commerce hub, Farms.com provides input suppliers, producers, processors, distributors and consumers with the ability to manage risk, transact commerce online, and make timely and profitable decisions.

Technical components include online auctions, exchanges, farm management solution software, pricing indexes and a leading user interface for functionality in the agricultural industry. Farms.com also will be configured to operate on the Palm handheld device.

GLOBALCOAL.COM ADDS LINKS

Globalcoal.com came to agribiz.net with different issues. "Integrating an in-depth understanding of both the physical and financial markets with expertise in Internet technologies, GCM provides the most innovative efficient means of accessing coal markets around the globe," Robinson says. "With headquarters in London, GCM is dedicated to providing the highest quality Internet service in the coal industry."

Ian Richardson, president of agribiz.net, says Global Coal needed a site that would intelligently link buyers and sellers based on preferences and interests. "Their specific site needs included a communications system enabling members to correspond with one another on an anonymous basis to allow users to obtain further information directly from the counter-party simply by submittinga query in respect to the relevant orde," he explains.

The site also included a unique member profile that allows each member to specify details of the coal they are interested in. "The system must automatically inform members via e-mail of new orders which comply with their profile," Richardson notes.

The Physical Order Market allows market members to submit detailed physical coal trades directly to GCM’s Web site. Orders are immediately displayed on an anonymous basis, for viewing by more than 250 registered members. In addition, new orders are potentially e-mailed to more than 700 key players in the coal industry, thereby allowing maximum market penetration in minimum time. The system operates on a 24-hour, 365-day-a-year basis where members can update any aspect of their orders at any time from any Internet terminal.

The technical components include an online auction, a buying and selling exchange platform, a futures pricing index, an intelligent matching agent, and functionally superior user interface.

DYNAMIC DUPONT DATABASE

Another agribiz.net client, DuPont Canada Agricultural Products, had different needs of technology to enable its business processes. "DuPont needed a marketing tool that would create awareness and interest for their agricultural products," Robinson says. "The company wanted to add to and enhance its existing Web site and provide some industry-specific information concerning pest control. DuPont also needed a site that provided the agricultural world with up-to-date comprehensive information on crop protection, dealer information and current news."

Agribiz.net also provided an intelligent database solution that could be modified simply and in a timely fashion. "DuPont also benefited from a method of controlling, gathering and organizing large amounts of complex information and variables to develop their one-to-one marketing relationships," Robinson says.

A database was created to allow DuPont to realize the value of its Internet site. The site allows DuPont staff to fill out simple, online forms to add, modify and delete content including news items, product information and more. All of this content is manipulated intelligently by the database, requiring only minimal maintenance time from the DuPont staff. The site provides crop, pest and product information to farmers across Canada.

The components involved in the production of this site include a dynamic ColdFusion database, graphic design, a news manager, e-mail digest, Web site monitor, JavaScript and HTML.

"The power of the Web is real," Richardson says. "The ability for technology to be an enabler of the business and add value to every aspect of the business also is very real. The approach to applying the technology is to be clear about what the business issues are, ensure that the business is prepared to adapt and adopt the technology and finally, to move forward with a solid business solution that is technology enabled.

"It is an exciting time for all of us as we change," he continues. "The change is best done in a way that understands, while technology is about software and hardware, people-ware is an important part of the solution." AM



Warren E. Clark is owner of Chicago-area Clark Consulting International Inc., which provides agri-marketing e-business consulting.


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