Zespri is the world’s largest kiwifruit marketing company – it will ship an estimated 190 million trays of kiwifruit to over 50 destination markets in 2024. Its world-famous green and gold kiwifruit are produced by more than 2,500 local growers and 1,500 international licensees, so taking care of these growers is vital to the success of the Zespri brand.  

“We’ve been growing significantly over the last five to 10 years, and future growth is also very promising,” says Dave Scullin, Chief Digital Officer. “Demand for our product is ahead of supply all the way through to the 2030s – so we need platforms that can support that growth, as well as providing efficiency and productivity gains.”  

A new ‘front door’ for thousands of Zespri growers 

One platform which hadn’t kept up with Zespri’s fast-growing brand was its online grower portal, Canopy. It provides news, tools and resources to support growers, but a 2021 survey discovered that growers felt frustrated by Canopy’s clunky navigation.  

“People couldn’t find what they were looking for – that was the key thing we discovered in our research,” says Roger Linney, Solution Delivery Manager. “Over the years we had accumulated a lot of valuable knowledge, but growers couldn’t unlock that. We have always wanted to do more for growers, and Canopy is their front door, so it was an ideal place to start.” 

Zespri wanted a partner with the right scale, technical skills and UX/UI design capabilities, and Datacom was an ideal match. Together, Datacom and Zespri developed and relaunched Canopy in just 10 months, on a new platform: Adobe Experience Manager (AEM).  

Canopy platform web homepage display showing featured news and upcoming events with green background
Zespri's refreshed Canopy platform offers a simple user experience, intuitive navigation, and intelligent search capability thanks to Adobe Experience Manager, implemented by Datacom.

AEM provides a simple user experience, intuitive navigation, and intelligent search capability. Its fresh look and improved useability immediately impressed its audience.  

“The very early responses were fantastic,” says Liam Gallacher, Programme Director. “Growers have said how much easier it is to use, although peak growing season will be the real test.”  

One grower told the team: “When I previously thought of Zespri Canopy, it was a case of ‘Okay let’s get in there and do what I need to do’, with a sigh. My reaction now is, ‘This is quite inviting, I might actually enjoy this’.”  

Machine learning serves up tailored content  

Since its launch, the platform has had an unusually high number of sign-ups. Linney says this is thanks not only to curious growers, but also to entirely new cohorts. 

“Bank managers, for example, always wanted to access Canopy. We can now use different tiers of access, so someone can be a basic user and just see what’s applicable to them, rather than all the growing content.”  

Not only do different users now get tailored access, AEM’s combination of intelligent search and machine learning allows Canopy to customise the information that users receive.  

“Our earlier research and design work with growers meant we were able to put them at the centre and give them a 360-degree experience with Zespri,” says Scullin. “We were able to gather behavioural archetypes or personas that let us tailor content. This means we will be able to present you with content that’s relevant to you, not just broad-brush information. For example, if you’re a green [kiwifruit] grower, you’ll only get information on growing green, not gold, and vice versa.”  

In addition to adding tailored content, Canopy will soon expand to include sites for international growers. This will include new language options, such as Italian and Korean, to help growers in those regions.  

28% under budget and delivered on time 

The project was delivered exactly on time, which took a few people within the business by surprise, says Gallacher. 

“We had some calls from nervous members of the board with questions about our promise to go live on the date.”  

The new Canopy also came in 28% below the original budget. This allowed Zespri to fund and add more value via a continuous delivery team across several months.  Additionally, it allowed budget to be released to fund other Zespri initiatives. 

“Datacom had a large part to play in getting in on time and on budget,” Gallacher adds. “The technical work was well planned and executed. And we were kept well-informed, which is a rare thing.”  

Plus, adds Linney, Datacom already managed other environments within Zespri, which meant good relationships were well established. “This made getting responses from other areas of the business was painless, so the project moved through design and implementation quicker.”  
Datacom’s Blair Macandrew, GM in the Digital Experience team, says the focus for his team is to create connected and personalised digital experiences that are responsive to people’s needs. 

“Zespri listened to their customers’ needs and delivered a seamless experience that now allows their growers to access the right information at the right time. This has set the foundation for Zespri to offer a truly exceptional digital experience that will further set them apart from their competition.”  

A platform built for the future  

By using the AEM cloud platform, Canopy will be regularly upgraded by Adobe to maintain its security and keep adding functionality.  

“Canopy is now built for the future,” says Gallacher. “Our old platform was becoming obsolete from the day we installed it, but with the new Canopy we can keep building on it. We designed it to enable continuous improvement and change based on feedback. We even have a feature that means we can get on-page feedback from users so we can respond.” 

Datacom’s Associate Director – Digital Platforms, Elias Billeh, says using AEM enables Zespri to leverage value from an enterprise platform and to engage with its growers in really tailored, relevant ways.   

“It also brings really important benefits to the Zespri team around holistic management of all their digital content and assets, smart analytics and reduced time and costs.” 

The Canopy project is just one strand of the grower enablement work. Spray diaries, another pain point for growers, are the next task on the to-do list, and the work won’t stop there. Improving the grower experience is only a small part of Zespri’s global transformation of systems and processes. The company has already rolled out new finance and offshore supply chain systems, and a new tool to assist with market access requirements will soon be in development.  

“I want to acknowledge the AEM team at Datacom who helped ensure such a smooth launch,” Gallacher says. “I can’t remember many, if any, projects where the development work has gone so well, consistently ahead of schedule and with so few issues.” 

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