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March 23rd, 2009
Growing Business with Timbercorp

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PR – The
Australian-built technology, GeoSamba, from geospatial company NGIS
Australia, has been used to build a sophisticated web mapping
analysis and business planning application, that has been integrated
into the daily operations of one of the largest public companies in
Australia’s agribusiness sector.

Managing
high-quality, large-scale forestry and horticultural projects for
investors, Timbercorp needed a consolidated view of its operations
(described as a “single point of truth”) that allowed the company
to manage its many facets, using relevant and up-to-date information.

The
company manages all sorts of farm land, covering everything from
eucalypts and olives to almonds, avocadoes and mangoes, and has to
manage different life cycles for different crops across thousands of
hectares of land.

Agrigate
allows Timbercorp to manage its operational budgets, along with an
associated works management program, by providing a complete tool for
precision tree-farming needs.

This
includes activities such as planting, pest control, nutrition and
fire control operations, among others, and provides an auditable
quality management framework to ensure quality is embedded within
their operations.

“Essentially,
Agrigate is an engine that enables Timbercorp to manage all of its
assets with ease. An integrated spatial component allows people to
see different aspects of their operations, such as how much of a
plantation has been fertilised – and with what – or whether it
was subject to a pest control activity,” Agribusiness Program
Manager, Alden Lee said.

Timbercorp
has gone through two “go-live” stages with Agrigate – the
first, in early 2008, involved data transformation and migration,
bringing together all the disparate forms of land and plantation
information. This was necessary to prepare for the implementation of
the works management component in stage two.

The
second stage was aligned with Timbercorp’s financial year from
October to September, configuring budgets and establishing suggested
management activities, according to regions, plantations, rotation
cycles and best practice.

“This
helps to better manage tree farm (and eventually other crop) assets
by allowing Timbercorp to create a workflow,” Alden said.

“So
when it’s time to thin the plants, for instance, a work order is
sent to a contractor. You can audit the work as it is being done,
processing payments against the activity.”

Agrigate
has the flexibility to plan, monitor and track projects online and in
real-time, enhancing management control over every phase of the
production process. This delivers a complete operational portal that
is:

  • Fully-linked
    to multiple sets of corporate and operational data, all in one
    location.

  • Integrated
    with real-time spatial intelligence.

  • Linked
    to budgets and operational and financial sectors of the business.

  • Automated
    with multiple business processes.

As
a tool, Agrigate connects location-based data to business databases,
leveraging existing data and systems by integrating them into one
place, providing enhanced management control over business processes.

Key
benefits to be gained from implementing Agrigate to existing business
systems include improved operational insight, budgeting, audit and
compliance reporting tools, significant productivity savings and
optimised workflows.

Agrigate
was developed in partnership with Timbercorp, leveraging experience
gained from a previous NGIS Australia product known as ForMS
(Forestry Management System).

“FoRMS
was basically a precursor to the Agrigate system, created for Great
Southern Plantations, one of the largest public companies in
Australia’s agribusiness sector,” Mr Lee said.

“As
a result of rapid growth, Great Southern’s silo-based business
systems – including GIS, work order, accounting and environmental
management systems – no longer provided an adequate means of
managing plantations nationally; nor provided the operational
transparency required to demonstrate compliance with stringent
environmental and industry standards.

“It
also gave the organisation a secure and reliable means of integrating
multiple applications and data sources, creating a single,
centralised repository of plantation data.”

FoRMS
went on to become a winner in Asia Pacific Spatial Excellence Awards
(natural resources category) and a finalist in the Western Australian
Industry and Export Awards, thanks to the following features:

  • A single,
    centralised system providing the ability to access and update
    plantation data in real time.

  • Improved
    operational awareness – a single, spatially-enabled view of the
    business allowed plantation managers to accurately track and manage
    costs and better plan for the future.

  • Location
    transparency – ForMS was accessible from any web-enabled machine
    with an ultra-thin browser interface guaranteeing performance over
    the thinnest of bandwidths.

  • A 235%
    productivity gain, achieved through the automation of previously
    laborious, paper-based tasks, as well as increased data integrity.

  • Auditable
    work trails and the tools required to easily demonstrate compliance
    with necessary quality assurance.

  • A
    scalable system, easily expanded to meet Great Southern’s ongoing
    growth needs.

GeoSamba,
the “mapping engine” used within FoRMS, was the first general
purpose software product that enables the combination of live or
static spatial information with business data and processes in real
time.

This
unique combination was pivotal to the success of breakthrough
commercial projects, ranging from ForMS through to real-time incident
monitoring during national counter-terrorism exercises.

When
Timbercorp expressed a need for a forestry management system, NGIS
worked with Timbercorp to define their specific needs and
requirements, and then developed specific modules aligned to these
requirements which now manifest itself as the Agrigate product.

“Timbercorp
had some stand-alone databases to manage its land holdings,
plantations and assets with everything else, such as financials and
inventory management, held in disparate systems,” Alden said.

“Agrigate
enabled the company to bring all this information back to just one
place where it could be accessed, rather than having to search across
different systems.”

GeoSamba
Universal is also used as Agrigate’s mapping engine, storing
spatial information relating to land and the location of plantations.

“This
allows Agrigate to record and display historical records of where
certain works were performed,” he said.

“If
a particular plantation spans a river, and you need a buffer zone of
50m either side during pest control spraying to prevent pollution,
this sort of information is stored within the system.

“It’s
displayed in terms of maps that are issued to contractors doing the
work, so they stay clear of those zones.

“The
web map component of GeoSamba is directly tied back into the Agrigate
application, so it’s a seamless integration, providing the spatial
element of what we hold in terms of information.”

Agrigate
is targeted at forestry management companies – and in particular
managed investment schemes – as well as various horticultural and
viticultural industries. It is in essence a land asset and works
management system, with geospatial capabilities.

Alden
said one of the product’s strengths is its ability to plan ahead
and manage regular activities necessary during the life cycle of the
tree or crop in question.

“There
are model activities for what you need to do over the lifespan of a
tree farm,” he said. “If you’re growing a certain species of
pine and it takes 12 years from seedling to harvesting the timber for
pulp wood, there’s a variety of work that needs to be done on an
annual basis.

“During
the third year, for example, the trees might have to undergo some
type of thinning activities and there’s probably some annual pest
control that needs to be done as well.

“Agrigate
helps to plan and budget these activities across annual cycles so
people know in advance what their model operations are – and, from
there, you can derive anticipated budgets and so on.

“Obviously,
you can vary what these activities should be but they would meet best
practice, according to a company’s own internal models on how to
best manage the tree farm.

“The
budgeting model might say you should spend $10,000 on pest control in
a particular area each year – but if there are reasons
necessitating something different, there are workflow processes where
managers provide authority to make those changes through an embedded
workflow and authorization process.”

Mr
Lee said Agrigate’s management system made it more easily
auditable, allowing forestry companies to effectively check against
necessary quality standards and benchmarks.

In
Australia, the agribusiness sector is worth about $111 billion each
year, employing about 670,000 people, across a rich mix of
multinational corporations, Australian grown corporations,
small-to-medium enterprises, investment management companies and
family owned businesses.

Australia’s
proximity to expanding Asian markets, well-established transport
infrastructure and counter-seasonality with the northern hemisphere
provides local agribusiness companies with major competitive
advantages.

With
one of the most sophisticated agribusiness industries in the world,
Australia has extensive trade and investment alliances that tap into
global networks.

“Agrigate
helps with this type of advanced farm management, helping to underpin
long-term competitiveness,” Mr Lee said. “It’s a strong product
delivering results for a strong industry.

“Achieving
maximum value from spatial technology in agribusiness extends well
beyond a simple geographical information system. Integrating spatial
technology with your other business systems, such as accounting and
environmental procedures, greatly enhances your operational
awareness, allowing you to more accurately track costs and better
plan for the future.

For
more information, contact Agribusiness Program Manager Alden Lee on
(+618) 9355 6092 or email Alden.Lee@ngis.com.au.

The
GeoSamba Universal product, a major component of Agrigate, is
available as a standard or enterprise system, or ready for use
off-the-shelf. Email geosamba@ngis.com.au
for all enquiries or visit
http://www.ngis.com.au/Products/GeoSamba+Universal/default.aspx

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