Farming portals beef up for rush

The country's two dairy farming web portals are picking up momentum in the face of their probable merger and the result of farmers taking to the internet in droves.

The country’s two dairy farming web portals are picking up momentum in the face of their probable merger and the result of farmers taking to the internet in droves.

Kiwi Co-Op Dairies' Fencepost portal has strengthened its transtasman links with the implementation of content publishing system Interwoven Teamsite, which is shared by a sister site in Australia and allows contributors from around the country and Australia to post their work simultaneously, while NZ Dairy Group's RD1.com has opened its member-only site to 3000 farmers and begun work on transaction payment services with shareholder ASB Bank.

PC sales to farmers are also booming after the sites offered cheap PC deals as incentive to boost their user base. RD1.com chief executive Neal Murphy says his company sold over 120 PCs to farmers over the Christmas break.

“There is a whole new rash of farmers coming online,” says Federated Farmers dairy chairman Charlie Pedersen.

Fencepost is now recognised by AC Neilsen as one of the country’s top 400 websites with between 6000 and 10,000 visitors a month.

Pedersen says farmers are taking to the portals because of time saving services such as Fencepost's almost-daily updated milk analysis. Farmers can check how to balance feeding for better milk quality without waiting for an analysis docket to be handed over next time the tanker comes back. Pedersen calls it “instant gratification”.

The two portals' chief executives concede a merger is likely rather than a sale if their parent companies' merger goes ahead, because the two sites' strengths are complementary - Kiwi’s Fencepost favours information services and RD1.com merchandising. But both are continuing planned service rollouts.

Fencepost, which was built using Jade and Sapient, has implemented a US content management system from Interwoven that can consolidate contributions, after standardising the content into HTML and through templates. Teamsite, which is browser-based and organises content into ”editions” for publishing, also allows multi-user collaboration on individual pieces of work. It has been teamed with a US-based ATG e-business platform.

Fencepost technology chief Mark Baker says it was chosen ahead of systems such as Vignette’s Story Server, which is used by Xtra, Stuff and TVNZ, because it was a quarter of the price and because it is used by Fencepost’s sister site in Australia, farmshed.com.au.

Fencepost and farmshed, which is independently owned, now “use absolutely the same technology” and can share content and merchandising lists, Baker says. This will become more important as further contributors add data for other industries, he says. Fencepost already includes wool and livestock statistics.

Oracle-based RD1.com, in which Dairy Group is the cornerstone shareholder with ASB Bank holding 10% and New Zealand Post 8%, has opened its doors to all 10,000 Dairy Group suppliers that have internet connections and are retail store Anchormart account holders. But Murphy says the site will soon add payment services and link to ASB’s Fastnet and ASB Securities services, with rural banking managers contactable online. He says insurance will also be added and discussion groups went live last week.

Murphy expects to open the site up to all rural people, not just dairy farmers, around May this year.

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