Microsoft picks small farms for ripe reward

Microsoft picks small farms for ripe reward


Farm Online News
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Global player says Australian producers can bear agtech fruit

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Quality control in Greenwood Orchards packing shed. The biodynamic producer is using new tech to harness crowd source tech solutions to fruit fly pests.

Quality control in Greenwood Orchards packing shed. The biodynamic producer is using new tech to harness crowd source tech solutions to fruit fly pests.

THERE is a lot of sizzle around agtech, but no scepticism from software giant Microsoft, which is making an entry into the market to stake its claim in the Australian opportunity.

The local division, Microsoft Australia, is driving an agtech push from its small business division, looking to partner with service providers and software developers.

Microsoft Australia’s small to medium business director Steven Miller said his company is targeting smaller partners to be close to common problems, rather than working with large corporates.

“We are working with agriculture through our small business division because that is where the rubber hits the road,” Mr Miller said.

“Being close to industry allows us and our technology partners to resolve problems in a much more compelling way.”

Mr Miller wants to get so close to farmers and he’s encouraging farmers with a problem, or tech heads with solutions, to contact Microsoft in person on 1800 718 177.

But why does the global giant Microsoft want to work with family farms?

“From a business model perspective, the question is how do we create platforms to drive people back to us?” he said.

Along with household name Windows and Office products, Microsoft is focused on signing customers to services such as its Azure platform, which provides cloud computing through its software platform and global network of data centres.

“When we get to a repeatable solution, that’s not about striking gold for Microsoft, it’s about reducing the cost of ownership for the customer,” said Microsoft Australia small to medium business marketer Isobel Boniface. 

“If we have to re-develop a solution 20 times from scratch the cost of development will be a consideration every time, but if it is repeatable, so that we can tweak it for a range of scenarios, the cost of development comes down exponentially.”

As it helps software developers create solutions that ultimately drive customers to its services, Microsoft is also engaged in a broader soft diplomacy. By increasing uptake it invests relevancy – or in other words hopes to increase the chances that when the next global tech phenomenon goes global, it will send business Microsoft’s way. 

One example of Microsoft’s early work in agtech is a crowd-sourced fruit fly monitoring solution it has developed for Lynton Greenwood, a Goulburn Valley orchardist. Microsost partnered with Advance Computing a Kyabram, Victoria based software provider to capture thousands of readings from traps on farm and around town and fed into the cloud.

Tech for crowd to cloud out fruit fly

FRUIT fly outbreaks can be fatal for farmers crops, which is why Goulburn Valley apple and pear producer Lynton Greenwood is working with the local community to crowd-source a solution.

With software developed by Advance Computing, a 25 employee software development company based in nearby Kyabram, and cloud computing capability from Microsoft at the back end, town residents and farmers have a smartphone app to record and GPS locate fruit flies in their traps.

The aim is to map hot spots for targeted controls, and to build up a data base to better understand population growth and predict outbreaks. Microsoft Australia said the cloud computing power required would have been unaffordable just five years ago for the biodynamic Greenwood Orchards, founded in 1896.

The step is photo recognition for the app to identify and count fruit flies, which may even lead to automated traps that do all that work themselves.

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