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Fonterra named Microsoft's first major customer for new data centre region

30 Jul 2020

In its first major customer signing since announcing its new data centre region in New Zealand, Microsoft has today announced it has entered into a strategic ‘digital transformation’ partnership with the country’s biggest company, Fonterra.

The move will see the dairy giant migrate a large portion of its operations and critical data from on-premises data centres to Microsoft Azure once the ground-breaking data centre region is launched. The partnership is set to last five years.

Microsoft says Fonterra’s migration to the cloud will boost the amount of data the company can gather and analyse, and will aid in the company’s process automation aspirations – from having IoT sensors on milk vats to having smart machines in its factories.

“To meet our strategic goals, which are enabled by efficiency, innovation and sustainability, we look to build strong partnerships with great companies to drive enhanced productivity and efficiency across the business,” says Fonterra chief information officer Piers Shore.

“Microsoft is one of our key partners in helping us deliver our digital transformation. 

“The Microsoft partnership forms part of a wider set of strategic partnerships between Fonterra, Microsoft, EY, SAP, and HCL focused on fundamentally reshaping how Fonterra delivers IT," says Shore.

“The cost savings and investment in Fonterra from our strategic partners are a major benefit to Fonterra, but the deep relationships between our organisations are the real win here.”

Shore says the partnership will also bolster the company’s quality control through means such as machine learning, which the Fonterra is already using to detect improperly sealed or faulty bags of powdered milk in its factories.

“The new platform aims to bring together all parts of Fonterra and build a culture around data,” Shore continues.

“By capturing and integrating data across the organisation, this will create a foundation for actionable insight and enable Fonterra to deepen our relationships with farmers and customers, optimise our supply chain and manufacturing operations and deliver better products and services.”

Microsoft says the benefits of digital transformation in the form of cloud migration are many – and the tech giant expects this partnership to be the first of many.

“Watch this space. When we disclosed the launch of the New Zealand data centre region, we knew there would be an appetite for the scope and solutions that it would provide to unlock innovation across so many industries,” says Microsoft New Zealand managing director Vanessa Sorenson.

“And it’s such a privilege to have Fonterra as our first major anchor tenant customer. By helping Fonterra connect better with customers and partners globally, this partnership is not just a tremendous step forward for Fonterra and Microsoft, it also helps build and cement our country’s ongoing success on the world stage. 

“We’re not only excited at the opportunity to support Fonterra to grow and achieve more as a business, but at how this will demonstrate how we can achieve greater efficiency, innovation and sustainability across New Zealand’s entire agrifood network.”

A focus on sustainability, says Fonterra chief operating officer Fraser Whineray, was a major draw for the company to collaborate with Microsoft.

“By shifting to a technology platform that will enable Fonterra to maximise its efficiency while using renewable resources, we’re also building on our sustainability commitments,” he says.

“Microsoft’s pledge to use only renewable energy in its data centres aligns with our own long-term goals and provided another benefit to the partnership.”