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Digital Transformation

Azure and Advance: revolutionising a regional water world

When you’re pouring milk over your morning muesli, pause for a second and think: it takes 1,000 litres of water to produce one litre of milk.

In regional Australia water is often the most precious commodity of all. Australia’s famed “droughts and flooding rains” are a perpetual challenge to farmers as they wrestle either too much or too little water.

Getting the right amount of water to his cows each day is Tim Humphris’ first priority.

Humphris has always liked cows and loves taking care of them. He runs a dairy farm in Kyabram, Victoria – in the heart of the Goulburn River irrigation district where land and water rights have been separated and water is traded by a local co-operative.

His was one of the first farms in the region to operate completely on traded water. But until quite recently a paper based trading system meant Humphris and other farmers could wait a week for the water they had bought to be made available.

Now an online system, running in Azure means Humphris can use his computer or smartphone to keep an eye on water prices round-the-clock, buy water when the price is right, and have that allocation available for him the next day. No more thirsty cows.

WaterPool is the farmer-owned co-operative that allows farmers to trade water across the region. Looking for transparency and efficiency, WaterPool worked with local IT services company Advance Computing to replace the paper-based manual system with an Azure based cloud solution.

The online trading platform can be used by farmers and WaterPool staff. Being online means fewer errors, and there’s complete transparency about what is on offer, at what price, and who is buying it.

Advance is now exploring how to use Azure analytics to provide fine grained reporting for WaterPool. It’s also thinking about how machine learning could be applied to generate push-recommendations for farmers based on what water they have bought before at what price – the idea is that when a similar parcel of water is on offer the Azure based system will alert farmers directly.

For WaterPool the cloud based solution has already delivered significant efficiency gains and genuine transparency about the more than 200,000 megalitres of water already traded through the platform.

Instead of up to a week to complete a water trade, the 24-hour online trading room service means that water can be in a farmer’s account in as little as four hours. No more thirsty cows and your morning muesli’s looking good.