Kiwi Dairies has launched a $10 million Web portal for farmers, the cost of which the company hopes to recoup through efficiencies and online sales.
Fencepost.com has been launched as a separate division of the business to act as a "virtual rural community" on the Internet.
The dairy company says the portal will serve its 6500 suppliers and the wider farming community, about a third of whom have Internet access.
The site provides market prices, news and weather, discussion groups, farm management programmes and deals on farming equipment.
Dairy farmers can access information and analysis about dairy milk supply, quality and quantity, as well as comparative information about other farms in their district. They can also have their own production figures reformatted and receive business advice.
Kiwi says the system will be funded by efficiency savings the portal is expected to bring Kiwi Dairies and revenue from online sales of farming supplies. Current deals include discount computers from Dell to help farmers get wired.
Kiwi Dairies chairman Greg Gent says fencepost.com will help farmers achieve better production and better deals for supplies of everything from fence posts to fertilisers.
"The $10 million investment in setting up the site reflects only a fraction of the value it will have for farmers in the longer term," he says. The cost includes integration with and upgrades to all the company's systems.
Northland Federated Farmers president Ian Walker, whose region supplies Kiwi, says the portal seems "very expensive". He wonders whether such an investment can be justified, unless the company expands.
"We will just have to wait and see what the benefits are. Let's just hope it's not an expensive toy," he says.
Kiwi used US-based Sapient technology and Cardinal systems for the development of the interface and back-office systems. About 25 staff have worked on the project since April, which will have a permanent crew of four.