• A Tractor In An Agricultural Field

    The modern day odd couple

    The how (and the why) behind the tech giant teaming up with a farmer-owned co-op historically best-known for butter

    Bacon and chocolate. Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart. Pineapple and pizza. These are just a few examples of things that should not, in theory, have much in common. But given the opportunity to collaborate, surprising synergies result and unexpectedly wonderful things emerge.

    The same can be said for our partnership with Microsoft.

    A tech giant teaming up with a farmer-owned co-op historically best-known for butter? The news undoubtedly raised some eyebrows.

    The past

    It’s true we’re an unlikely duo. What began as a traditional relationship quickly grew into a strategic one. And since officially starting to work together in 2013, we’ve hit some great milestones:

    • Company-wide, Microsoft technology has transformed our farm-to-fork perspective, infusing Purina and WinField United with increased capability for doing cutting-edge and far-reaching work.

    • In 2014, Land O’ Lakes began its wholesale journey to the cloud by embracing the Microsoft’s Azure Cloud.

    • And, it’s nearly impossible to wander the halls of headquarters without seeing a Microsoft product or tool empowering our workforce and enabling success.

    “Microsoft is a key collaborator not only on the IT operational side of my portfolio, but also in helping Land O’ Lakes achieve its overall vision of feeding the world in the most sustainable way possible,” says Mike Macrie, Land O’Lakes’ CIO. “We’re completely aligned not only in technology direction, but also in our vision for the planet.”

    The present

    This year marked a new level of visibility and achievement with Microsoft, as Land O’Lakes became a poster child for the amazing things made possible by technological innovation. For starters, Land O’Lakes is one of six companies featured in Microsoft’s Digital Transformation #InRealLife showcase in their new, state-of-the-art Executive Briefing Center.

    This interactive “exhibit” illustrates the myriad ways technology is disrupting business models across industries. With Land O’Lakes’ display, visitors can test-run our ag tech solutions, and make planting and harvesting decisions in real-time relying on in-the-field intelligence like agronomic research, weather information and satellite data.

    Most recently, our Ag Tech innovations took “center screen” as the star of the premiere episode of Microsoft’s new web series “Work, Reworked.” The goal of the series? To again illustrate that technology is transforming industries far outside the Silicon Valley bubble.

    For the filming, Microsoft and a production team (complete with a producer more familiar with the drama of Los Angeles-based reality television than the farm fields of the Midwest) took a 900+mile road trip through the countryside to help tell our transformative Ag Tech story.

    From Dane, Wis. to Moweaqua, Ill. to our headquarters here in Arden Hills, Minn. the production crew was dedicated to fully capturing the breadth and depth of our ag tech capabilities and prove that when it comes to technology, Land O’Lakes can play in the big leagues.

     

    “The relationship we have with Microsoft is a special one,” says Teddy Bekele, vice president, Ag Technology.

    “Together, we have the opportunity to intelligently advance agriculture using sound agronomic insights from our Answer Plots coupled with Microsoft’s technological innovations. We are on the midst of a profound transformation and we are excited to have a collaborator like Microsoft deliver capabilities such as cloud computing, machine learning, and applied Artificial Intelligence.”

    The future

    The fun doesn’t stop here. Everyday we’re thinking of new ways to collaborate and further leverage our combined powers. Next up in 2018? HoloLens (hologram technology), artificial intelligence, Big Data and additional decision support services not only in crops, but also in animal husbandry are all projects on deck.

    We also just kick-offed an initiative aimed at helping bridge the rural/urban divide through providing broadband internet to our farmers in the field. While the plan in still in its infancy, the implications could be massive.

    “In working with Microsoft we’re aiming to transform one of the oldest industries on Earth,” Mike says. “We have truly transformed how we work and serve our cooperative members, and the benefits are clear to our business and to our mission to feed human progress.”

    For the odd couple of Land O’Lakes and Microsoft, the future looks bright.

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