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Customer stories Microsoft: How CRV is using cloud technology to deliver better lives for farmers and cows

Netherlands-based cooperative CRV is a global leader in cattle improvement. With the motto “better cows, better life,” the company helps farmers make sure that their cows feed the global population in a healthy and sustainable way. While in the process of migrating to the cloud, the company recently adopted Azure Red Hat OpenShift, a container solution jointly managed and engineered by Microsoft and Red Hat. The technology frees up CRV’s developers to focus on creating new digital innovations for their farmers.

13 mei 2021   |   Nieuws   |   Door: Conclusion Future IT

Deel

“Our aim is to have one of the best breeding programs in the world, to support farmers worldwide, and make sure that their cows feed the global population in a healthy and sustainable way.”

Els Van Eekelen, Global Manager IT at CRV, is describing the role her company plays in the agriculture sector. A Dutch cattle improvement cooperative, CRV is committed to using technology and data to make cows healthier and more efficient, as well as promoting sustainable breeding.

“Our job is to combine all the data that we can gather and provide our farmers with the best solution for them,” she adds. “To support farmers in breeding cows that are healthier, live longer, are more efficient, and therefore are more sustainable.”

A data company since its early days, CRV now wants to take advantage of new technologies to stay ahead of the competition. Over the years, the amount of data available to CRV has increased dramatically, becoming what Van Eekelen describes as a “Mount Everest of data.”

“We’ve been looking to become more flexible in the way that we help our farmers make decisions, and show them what works best for them,” Van Eekelen says. “At the same time, we wanted to inspire our IT engineers to innovate and invest in their learning.

“We needed a solution that would allow us to refocus our efforts on climbing that mountain of data and unlocking new innovations for our farmers and customers. And we’ve found that with Azure Red Hat OpenShift.”

A data-led agriculture leader

From Belgium to New Zealand, South Africa to Brazil, and the United States, CRV helps farmers manage their herds, with the motto, “better cows, better life.” Owned by Dutch-Flemish farmers, the cooperative's roots go back to 1874, and it is now an advocate of smart breeding management solutions.

A lot of time has passed since then, but the heart of CRV’s business has remained the same. “Our company has relied on data for more than 100 years,” says Van Eekelen. “In the early days, this was mainly a case of sketching and comparing offspring on paper, while now we use genomics and sophisticated technologies to provide greater insights.”

“You can get a lot of information by studying a cow or bull’s DNA, and you can combine that information with the environment in which they’re bred and the management conditions that the farmer provides,” explains Roy Willemse, Head of Software Development at CRV.

“With the right technological support, we can use this data to advise our customers, focusing on the health and efficiency of their herds,” he adds.

Not only are these insights beneficial to the farmers, but they can also have positive impacts on the environment. The global agriculture sector is under pressure to become more sustainable, and this is something that touches CRV at its very core.

“The sector is continuously innovating to improve welfare and sustainability,” explains Willemse. “Within our company, we have regular conversations on what we can do to help the industry transition to an even more sustainable place,” he adds. “Data is key to this, since it helps reduce waste, providing fast and precise information that can help support decisions.”

For example, CRV uses data to advise farmers on how to monitor their herd’s health, fertility, and feeding targets, alongside developing tools that help them manage their farm’s carbon footprint. “Cows live longer when they are strong and healthy,” says Van Eekelen. “This is something that we can help farmers achieve through our data-based insights.”

Freeing up time to ‘climb the mountain’

With Microsoft Azure as its main cloud platform, CRV now has the technological capabilities to process the mountain of information it has. “We have a data-learning support platform that helps us manage and understand the data. Now what we need to do is see how we can make this more accessible, usable, and valuable for our customers,” says Willemse.

Achieving that added value for its customers has required a rethink about how CRV focuses its resources. “As a company, we are used to doing everything ourselves,” says Van Eekelen. “But as our cloud-first strategy has developed, our perspective on that has changed.

“We want to focus on innovation, on creating tools and finding insights that bring real value to our customers—not so much on managing our infrastructure,” she says. “This is also what makes us attractive as a company to work for.”

That is exactly what Azure Red Hat OpenShift allows the company to do. Hosted on Azure and collectively managed and engineered by Microsoft, Red Hat and CRV’s local IT service provider Conclusion, Azure Red Hat OpenShift takes the hassle out of managing the company’s OpenShift clusters.

“We’ve been using OpenShift for a long time,” says Willemse. “But running it had become a bit of a stretch for us.”

He continues, “And since we want to focus on delivering new services through innovation, it made perfect sense to ask Red Hat, Conclusion, and Microsoft to run our clusters for us with Azure Red Hat OpenShift.”

As part of the partnership, open source specialist Red Hat has provided an enterprise-ready container platform, which it then manages in conjunction with Microsoft. Meanwhile, Conclusion is tasked with configuring it.

As Van Eekelen explains, this is a milestone in CRV’s metaphorical rise to the top of their Mount Everest. “It means our developers can work at a higher level on the stack,” she says. “They no longer need to focus on the more technical side of our business, which changes extremely fast. It frees up their time to focus on more innovative, cutting-edge aspects of the business.”

Attracting new talent with a culture of disruption, innovation

It is clear that the move to Azure Red Hat OpenShift is part of a broader cultural shift for CRV and its employees.

“We are innovative, passionate people, and we want that to come through in the way we work and the focus of the work we do for our customers,” explains Van Eekelen. “This is something that greatly appeals to our workforce, who we want to feel empowered to influence how the technology stack itself evolves.”

That emphasis on empowering their people to take risks and push for new ways of working has been a key ingredient since the start of the company’s journey to the cloud.

“When we decided it was time to migrate to the cloud, we put together a team of frontrunners, who represented the basecamp of our mountain climb,” Van Eekelen continues. “These were developers that we selected to test out different technologies and applications ahead of us.”

“It was a lot of fun because the initial selection of team members was made of the troublemakers, the innovators, the guys who already knew all sorts of modern technologies,” adds Willemse.

“What we did was give them their own version of a sandbox environment where they could experiment and break things to make them better. It was a journey of discovery.”

Although exciting for those involved, operating at the forefront of cloud technology also presents its own challenges. “The technology we use is so new and cutting edge that you can't find someone who has worked in this field for three years, because the field hasn’t existed that long,” adds Willemse.

“But that’s where the support from our partners has been invaluable. Especially the Microsoft FastTrack for Azure team, who have helped us figure out what skills we’ve needed throughout the journey and how to find them.”

From basecamp to more mountains to climb

As it continues to plan its digital transformation, CRV knows that basecamp has long been surpassed and the peak of the mountain is in sight.

But with so much more to do from a technological perspective, Azure Red Hat OpenShift is helping to make sure that CRV remains focused on its priority—improving herds worldwide and driving sustainability within the agriculture sector. “Because we can work at a higher level of abstraction, we can deliver much more value to our customers, much more quickly. It’s a game-changer,” says Willemse.

For Van Eekelen, CRV’s data-mountain journey has only just begun. “I hope that we never reach the top because then people will still be striving to go forward,” she concludes.

“But if ever we do reach it, I’m sure there will be plenty more mountains to climb, with Microsoft and our partners alongside us.”

Netherlands-based cooperative CRV is a global leader in cattle improvement. With the motto “better cows, better life,” the company helps farmers make sure that their cows feed the global population in a healthy and sustainable way. While in the process of migrating to the cloud, the company recently adopted Azure Red Hat OpenShift, a container solution jointly managed and engineered by Microsoft and Red Hat. The technology frees up CRV’s developers to focus on creating new digital innovations for their farmers.

“Our aim is to have one of the best breeding programs in the world, to support farmers worldwide, and make sure that their cows feed the global population in a healthy and sustainable way.”

Els Van Eekelen, Global Manager IT at CRV, is describing the role her company plays in the agriculture sector. A Dutch cattle improvement cooperative, CRV is committed to using technology and data to make cows healthier and more efficient, as well as promoting sustainable breeding.

“Our job is to combine all the data that we can gather and provide our farmers with the best solution for them,” she adds. “To support farmers in breeding cows that are healthier, live longer, are more efficient, and therefore are more sustainable.”

A data company since its early days, CRV now wants to take advantage of new technologies to stay ahead of the competition. Over the years, the amount of data available to CRV has increased dramatically, becoming what Van Eekelen describes as a “Mount Everest of data.”

“We’ve been looking to become more flexible in the way that we help our farmers make decisions, and show them what works best for them,” Van Eekelen says. “At the same time, we wanted to inspire our IT engineers to innovate and invest in their learning.

“We needed a solution that would allow us to refocus our efforts on climbing that mountain of data and unlocking new innovations for our farmers and customers. And we’ve found that with Azure Red Hat OpenShift.”

A data-led agriculture leader

From Belgium to New Zealand, South Africa to Brazil, and the United States, CRV helps farmers manage their herds, with the motto, “better cows, better life.” Owned by Dutch-Flemish farmers, the cooperative's roots go back to 1874, and it is now an advocate of smart breeding management solutions.

A lot of time has passed since then, but the heart of CRV’s business has remained the same. “Our company has relied on data for more than 100 years,” says Van Eekelen. “In the early days, this was mainly a case of sketching and comparing offspring on paper, while now we use genomics and sophisticated technologies to provide greater insights.”

“You can get a lot of information by studying a cow or bull’s DNA, and you can combine that information with the environment in which they’re bred and the management conditions that the farmer provides,” explains Roy Willemse, Head of Software Development at CRV.

“With the right technological support, we can use this data to advise our customers, focusing on the health and efficiency of their herds,” he adds.

Not only are these insights beneficial to the farmers, but they can also have positive impacts on the environment. The global agriculture sector is under pressure to become more sustainable, and this is something that touches CRV at its very core.

“The sector is continuously innovating to improve welfare and sustainability,” explains Willemse. “Within our company, we have regular conversations on what we can do to help the industry transition to an even more sustainable place,” he adds. “Data is key to this, since it helps reduce waste, providing fast and precise information that can help support decisions.”

For example, CRV uses data to advise farmers on how to monitor their herd’s health, fertility, and feeding targets, alongside developing tools that help them manage their farm’s carbon footprint. “Cows live longer when they are strong and healthy,” says Van Eekelen. “This is something that we can help farmers achieve through our data-based insights.”

Freeing up time to ‘climb the mountain’

With Microsoft Azure as its main cloud platform, CRV now has the technological capabilities to process the mountain of information it has. “We have a data-learning support platform that helps us manage and understand the data. Now what we need to do is see how we can make this more accessible, usable, and valuable for our customers,” says Willemse.

Achieving that added value for its customers has required a rethink about how CRV focuses its resources. “As a company, we are used to doing everything ourselves,” says Van Eekelen. “But as our cloud-first strategy has developed, our perspective on that has changed.

“We want to focus on innovation, on creating tools and finding insights that bring real value to our customers—not so much on managing our infrastructure,” she says. “This is also what makes us attractive as a company to work for.”

That is exactly what Azure Red Hat OpenShift allows the company to do. Hosted on Azure and collectively managed and engineered by Microsoft, Red Hat and CRV’s local IT service provider Conclusion, Azure Red Hat OpenShift takes the hassle out of managing the company’s OpenShift clusters.

“We’ve been using OpenShift for a long time,” says Willemse. “But running it had become a bit of a stretch for us.”

He continues, “And since we want to focus on delivering new services through innovation, it made perfect sense to ask Red Hat, Conclusion, and Microsoft to run our clusters for us with Azure Red Hat OpenShift.”

As part of the partnership, open source specialist Red Hat has provided an enterprise-ready container platform, which it then manages in conjunction with Microsoft. Meanwhile, Conclusion is tasked with configuring it.

As Van Eekelen explains, this is a milestone in CRV’s metaphorical rise to the top of their Mount Everest. “It means our developers can work at a higher level on the stack,” she says. “They no longer need to focus on the more technical side of our business, which changes extremely fast. It frees up their time to focus on more innovative, cutting-edge aspects of the business.”

Attracting new talent with a culture of disruption, innovation

It is clear that the move to Azure Red Hat OpenShift is part of a broader cultural shift for CRV and its employees.

“We are innovative, passionate people, and we want that to come through in the way we work and the focus of the work we do for our customers,” explains Van Eekelen. “This is something that greatly appeals to our workforce, who we want to feel empowered to influence how the technology stack itself evolves.”

That emphasis on empowering their people to take risks and push for new ways of working has been a key ingredient since the start of the company’s journey to the cloud.

“When we decided it was time to migrate to the cloud, we put together a team of frontrunners, who represented the basecamp of our mountain climb,” Van Eekelen continues. “These were developers that we selected to test out different technologies and applications ahead of us.”

“It was a lot of fun because the initial selection of team members was made of the troublemakers, the innovators, the guys who already knew all sorts of modern technologies,” adds Willemse.

“What we did was give them their own version of a sandbox environment where they could experiment and break things to make them better. It was a journey of discovery.”

Although exciting for those involved, operating at the forefront of cloud technology also presents its own challenges. “The technology we use is so new and cutting edge that you can't find someone who has worked in this field for three years, because the field hasn’t existed that long,” adds Willemse.

“But that’s where the support from our partners has been invaluable. Especially the Microsoft FastTrack for Azure team, who have helped us figure out what skills we’ve needed throughout the journey and how to find them.”

From basecamp to more mountains to climb

As it continues to plan its digital transformation, CRV knows that basecamp has long been surpassed and the peak of the mountain is in sight.

But with so much more to do from a technological perspective, Azure Red Hat OpenShift is helping to make sure that CRV remains focused on its priority—improving herds worldwide and driving sustainability within the agriculture sector. “Because we can work at a higher level of abstraction, we can deliver much more value to our customers, much more quickly. It’s a game-changer,” says Willemse.

For Van Eekelen, CRV’s data-mountain journey has only just begun. “I hope that we never reach the top because then people will still be striving to go forward,” she concludes.

“But if ever we do reach it, I’m sure there will be plenty more mountains to climb, with Microsoft and our partners alongside us.”

Meer weten? Neem contact met ons op!

Leon van Meel

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info@cfit.nl
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