Using Oracle Exadata to improve crop yields

It is not often you read about how the agricultural industry uses data warehousing so this article in latest edition of Oracle Magazine, with the related video from OOW 2013, on how Land O'Lakes is using Exadata caught my attention:  The Business of Growing, by Marta Bright http://www.oracle.com/technetwork/issue-archive/2013/13-nov/o63lol-2034253.html

A little background on Land O'Lakes: Land O’Lakes is a US company that has grown far beyond its roots as a small cooperative of dairy farmers with forward-thinking ideas about producing and packaging butter. It is a Fortune 500 company and is now the second-largest cooperative in the United States, with annual sales of more than US$14 billion. Over the years, Land O’Lakes has expanded its operations into a variety of subsidiaries, including WinField Solutions (WinField), which provides farmers with a wide variety of crop seeds and crop protection products.

This implementation on our engineered systems highlights one of the key unique features of Oracle: the ability to run a truly mixed operation + data warehouse workload on the same platform, in the same rack. Land O'Lakes uses a lot of Oracle applications which push data into their data warehouse. In many cases we talk about the need for the data warehouse to support small windows of opportunities. For WinField solutions this is exactly why they invested in Oracle. 

What makes seed sales unique and challenging is that they are directly tied to seasonal purchasing. “There’s somewhat of a Black Friday in the seed business,” explains Tony Taylor, director of technology services at Land O’Lakes. “WinField is a US$5 billion company that sells all of its seed during about a six-week period of time”. With that sort of compressed sales cycle you need to have unto date information at your finger tips so you make the all the right decisions at the right time. Speed and efficiency are the key factors. If you watch the video Chris Malott, Manger of the DBA team at Land O'Lakes, explains the real benefits that her team and the business teams have gained from moving their systems (operational and data warehouse) on to our engineered systems platform.

Land OLakes

Click on the image above to link to the video. If the link does not work then click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MDYI7IakR8

WinField is maximising the use of Oracle's analytical capabilities by incorporating huge volumes of imaging data which it then uses to help farmers make smarter agronomic decisions and ultimately gain higher yields. How many people would expect Oracle's in-database analytics to be driving improved crop yields? Now that is a great use case!

WinField also drills down and across all the information they collect to help identify new opportunities and what in the telco space we would call "churn" - for instance in January they run reports to identify particular farmers who typically purchases seed and products in November but has not yet ordered. This provides WinField the information it needs in order to perform proactive outreach to farmers to find out if they simply haven’t had time to place an order.

“We’re able to help farmers and our co-op members, even in cases where we’re not sure whether it’s going to directly benefit Land O’Lakes or WinField. Because this is truly a cooperative system, these are the people we work for, and we’re willing to invest in them.” -  Mike Macrie, vice president and CIO at Land O’Lakes. 

For next steps, Land O-Lakes is looking to move to Database 12c and I am sure that will open up even more opportunities for their business users to help farmers. Hopefully, they will be able to make use of new analytical features such as SQL Pattern Matching.


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The data warehouse insider is written by the Oracle product management team and sheds lights on all thing data warehousing and big data.

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