Case study – Fonterra Nitrogen Project

Managing Nutrient Management Compliance

As part of Fonterra’s commitment under the Sustainable Dairying Water accord, Fonterra set out to create a system that could make it easy to collect data from all dairy farmers to model Nitrogen (N) loss and N conversion efficiency from those farms using the Overseer nutrient model.


Collecting, analysing and presenting data on farm nitrogen inputs and losses required Fonterra to embark on a major collaborative effort four years ago, utilising the Overseer data and Rezare’s system skills to couple the nutrient programme to the co-operative’s own recording sources, and ultimate reporting needs.

The process began with Fonterra collecting farm data from every farmer shareholder and processing this data in the stand-alone version of Overseer, utilising its own sustainable dairying team, along with other service providers including QCONZ and Ballance Agri-Nutrients. With over 10,000 farms to process, this quickly resulted in the need for a system to manage the data collection, schedule work flow and provide for reporting capabilities.

A key challenge for Rezare Systems’ designers was to integrate the Overseer nutrient budget model into Fonterra’s bespoke reporting system, essentially using the “raw” Overseer inputs for reports tailored to the particular parameters Fonterra was seeking.

“A key requirement was for the system to be web-based to enable access to the files at anytime, anywhere with its processing team based around the country.”

“One challenge was that there were just over 8000 suppliers to handle, and the data needed to be ready at the start (June 1) of each farming year. These also sometimes involved processes running files every night to generate snapshots of a property’s nitrogen status,” says Don Wilson, Rezare Systems project manager.

Gavin Marshall, Fonterra’s environmental programme leader for the nitrogen programme says the Rezare-created database enables the co-operative to delve into the data with some 150 parameters available to report on. This provides valuable insights nationally, by catchment, by farm, on key environmental performance such as N loss and N conversion efficiency, allowing Fonterra to provide this back to farmers along with performance benchmarking.

Key performance indicators for nitrogen use and loss are at hand simply at the push of a button, providing powerful data simply and clearly.

Don says Rezare Systems worked to create an interface for Fonterra staff that provided the data in clear numerical and graphic form, and similarly for the co-operative’s farmer shareholders.

“At the start of the season suppliers can either go to their FarmSource website and complete their Sustainable Dairy records to form the basis of the Overseer file, or provide data in the Sustainable Dairying booklet that can be scanned in and automatically logged into the correct place.”

Handling and storing the multiple documents and reports was as critical as having a good user interface for the final information.

The system provides a transparent, auditable trail of file receipt and processing, including who created it, recognising it as a key reporting file, and locking it down as such and providing the ability to record notes and comments from report authors.

“So we can extract not only the key environmental base data, but also any notes and additional information that may be important to accompany that data.”

Functionality introduced since the system was created includes work flow management with automated randomised file selection for auditing.

Gavin says the level of knowledge Rezare Systems staff had on the Overseer system was critical to the project’s ongoing success for the past four years, giving them a running start on Fonterra’s needs.

“Their knowledge of agri-data has also been critical. I don’t think the system would have been as successful working with just a standard IT company unfamiliar with the industry and the information we needed.”

He says Fonterra staff also appreciated the one on one relationships they established with key Rezare personnel managing the project.

Key achievements in Fonterra project:

  • Automated email uploads of OVERSEER and background files.
  • Successfully improved the workflow for processing nutrient management compliance for Fonterra.
  • Provided processing and auditing queues for managing the workflow.
  • Extensive and flexible reporting and data extraction.