Crop Advisors Independent Alliance: ResilieNtWEB in Practice
A successful buyout and partnership business with a long standing reputation, Crop Advisors Independent Alliance offers independent agronomy (land cultivation, soil management and crop production) and group purchasing for over 400 farmer members, farming in excess of 80,000 hectares across the South of England who pay an annual subscription fee for the service provided.
By working closely with their independent Alliance Agronomists providing technical expertise, Crop Advisors aim is to ensure that their farmer members benefit from the significant savings gained from their independent purchasing expertise, their advice on the most cost effective products to use and gain the best possible return from their crops.
Whilst steeped in traditional values farming is a fast changing industry, with the emerging generation of farmers in particular using innovative technology and digital platforms to maximise the potential of their crops. Keen to continue developing a long term, sustainable business and harness technological change Crop Advisors wanted to step back and check where best to focus their own business resources; they contacted WSX-The Design Programme for help.
Analysing the opportunities
Step 1: Strengths & Challenges, Quick Scan
Focusing on gaining an insight to the business, its challenges and its opportunities the first meeting included a review of current successes and challenges and a mini diagnosis of its economic, people and environmental resilience using the ‘QuickScan’ tool.
The 6 key themes in the Quick Scan reiterated some of the points discussed. Crop Advisors rated highly in terms of learning capabilities; the way the business learns from experience and engages and involves all their people i.e. their staff. Their ability to anticipate issues; how they use their extensive knowledge of the industry, keep up to date with forthcoming changes and future economic and industry trends, regularly assessing what they do, also rated well.
Making use of its knowledge, skills and experience to adapt and evolve its business was the key challenge identified; implementing innovation and creativity; whether products and services or processes, driving through innovation to develop its business to remain competitive and resilient.
Step 2: Business Model Canvas and Short Term Action Plan
Used specifically to brainstorm the current Crop Advisors Model using a visual Business Model Canvas (BMC) technique, a lively second session identified challenges, opportunities, and potential new markets helping to rethink through future business models. This also provoked a discussion on revenue streams and key priorities.
With an outdated static website and plans to introduce innovative services like Precision Farming coupled with an increased use of technology amongst farmers, the need for an to date Digital Platform and Communications strategy emerged as one of their top actions. Embracing e commerce to add value to their service and look at the way it uses resources would help Crop Advisors remain both competitive and resilient.
Step 3: Implementing Short Term Action Plan
Calling on ResilieNtWEB’s expertise, Crop Advisors used the resources allocated to the programme to develop a practical specification and tender process for a digital platform.
Joined by two agronomists, the next session used the BMC to identify how e commerce could be exploited. With an overall consensus for the design of the upgraded site and its business proposition, the team were looking for a build that could be used to integrate relevant business functions and provide a platform for future development as Crop Advisors extends its offer to members and new business opportunities. It would also need to be an efficient communications tool that could be used anytime or anywhere by farmers working in the fields.
Using Design Programme resources to identify potential suppliers, write a tight specification reflecting the work required and provide an objective view on the tender panel, Crop Advisors are now in the process of selecting a Design expert to develop the platform.
Next steps : long term actions
In addition to providing further support throughout the development phase when needed, the last stages of the programme will include a review of priorities, actions and the return on investment on the key action supported, in this particular case, the development of a digital platform.
The programme will also provide Crop Advisors with a long term action plan drawing out the other key actions identified throughout the programme and that will help the company enhance its economic, people and environmental resilience.
An article by Julia Pearson, WSX Enterprise – The Design Programme