Established 20 years ago in Bannockburn on a 50ha vineyard, Akarua established its reputation creating pinot noir and sparking wine, with the winery releasing its first vintage in 1999. Then, in 2014 it made the move to purchase two more vineyards and recently, decided it was time to add another two to the operation.
In order to keep up with demand and take advantage of the opportunities provided by technology, Akarua needed the right business with which to form a partnership.
As Central Otago’s largest family-owned winery – Akarua is owned by the Queenstown-based Skegg’s family – local connections are vitally important.
General manager Kathryn Pettit says having a localised company like Focus was key, as Akarua was looking for a partner in the true sense of the word.
“We needed to work with a business that could react relatively quickly if we had any issues, but really the key reason we chose Focus was because not only were they local, they were reputable and known to deliver on their promises.”
Prior to working with Focus, Akarua was working with an out-of-town IT company and Kathryn said they noticed a huge improvement after making the change.
“Focus is very proactive in looking after our needs and requirements. They really improved on what we already had in place and made sure that all of our systems and data were secure, which was very important to us.”
Kathryn says Akarua’s 16 full-time employees readily admit they are not particularly computer-savvy, but that was not a barrier to working with Focus.
“Working with people who explain what is going on in simple terms and who can react to our needs has been key. And that’s across the board – Focus’ engineers and service people have been great, as well as those we deal with from a business perspective too.
“Everyone has actively listened to what we want and have been consciously proactive in forming really good, solid relationships. We have a great rapport with Paul Dayman, our engineer and we really enjoy having him in the office.”
Kathryn admits that Akarua’s systems are not exactly run of the mill, but that hasn’t proved an issue for Focus.
“Our systems are quite complex, for example we run a lot of our irrigation through a wireless network, and Focus has been instrumental in developing that new technology for us in-house. Not many vineyards would have that technology and Focus has been able to work with us to implement new ideas and make what we already have, work better for us.”
Because the operation of the vineyards relies on highly technical systems, fixing any errors as soon as possible is extremely important – not only is the day-to-day business reliant on the networks but so too is production.
“There’s one example recently, we had some sort of virus rip through our system and Focus were just on to it,” Kathryn says.
“We can contact them out of hours and they get to it straight away, we’re never pushed into a queue or anything like that.”
In order to deliver the technology required by Akarua, Focus not only had to take into account their needs but also some of their unique challenges, says Focus account manager Karen Iremonger.
“The area surrounding Akarua is rather hilly and with vineyards in Bannockburn and surrounding areas, it makes communications and WiFi connectivity more challenging as they require line of sight between their sites. As their core IT provider they used us as a sounding board and understanding their geographical challenges has been really helpful.” Karen says.
The Wi-Fi runs the irrigation system from Parkland Products, which allows vineyard management staff to use a mobile app to monitor water usage and moisture levels around the vineyards. Probes are put in the ground to establish this, and all of the Wi-Fi antennas are run off of solar power – provided by Akarua’s irrigation company.
While Akarua decided to opt for an on-site server to run its key applications, it did move to Focus’ cloud-based email system as a ‘hybrid-environment’, Karen says.
The result means the server is no longer swamped with running emails, with the grunt work now done on Focus’ end, freeing up the new server to run the business applications they do use – their irrigation system, their vineyard management system and their financial application.
Focus continues to work with Akarua as they grow and evolve, ensuring the technology, systems, core applications and key providers are working in together.
“We run an annual review with clients which is an informal sit down to talk through how they’re going, and map out any growth or changes that may be coming up. The key for us here is often reading between the lines for changes that can lead to an impact on technology, as sometimes the clients don’t always make the link. We can then highlight things to look out for and help budget for items that may be needed, assisting in the overall future planning of the business. In this area Akarua do very well at recognising change.”
Both Kathryn and Karen agree the partnership between Akarua and Focus is a strong one that looks set to continue for many years to come.
“Focus fit in well with us and they really get our business – even though we’re on the smaller side they’ve really taken on board what we do and worked hard to understand what it is that we require,” Kathryn says.
“That’s the real standout for me.”
“Focus fit in well with us and they really get our business – even though we’re on the smaller side they’ve really taken on board what we do and worked hard to understand what it is that we require.”