May 28, 2024
Case studies

Kickstarting a Business Intelligence ecosystem: LATRAPS story

Aivars Andris Vītols

Data Analytics Consultant

Business intelligence is a necessity for a wide variety of companies, it is not something that is limited to the finance or manufacturing industries. A case in point is LATRAPS, a farmer’s cooperative which started out as a small 12 farmer group and has grown to be the largest cooperative in Latvia with 1200 members.

The aim of the company is to leverage the combined size of multiple farm crop yields to attract more buyers for larger grain quantities, as well as buying the necessary equipment and raw materials in bulk to decrease the working costs per farm.

With the steady member increase, data has accumulated to levels which require an upgrade to the existing analysis systems, thus LATRAPS together with Scandic Fusion has embarked on a long-term plan to overhaul the BI capabilities of the company, in turn helping employees make more informed business decisions and streamline the analysis processes.

Picking the technology and first adopters

When starting out from scratch, it’s best to understand the intended use cases how the eventual reports and data are planned to be consumed by the client, and, with this knowledge, make a qualified choice of which data warehouse platform and business intelligence tools will be the best fit. For LATRAPS these were Azure SQL as the base for DWH solution and Power BI for reporting. Both components start out with a low cost and can scale as the usage and number of users increase over time, thus initially there was no significant financial impact that should cause the business to second guess the financial viability of the implementation. Secondly, the discussed desired functionality of the data consumption and distribution made it clear that no big enterprise solutions focusing on regular report distribution through emails or large table reports will be necessary, but that user self-discovery will be in the forefront, which meant that Power BI made the perfect fit for LATRAPS reporting needs.

At the start of the project, it may have seemed like a well-known and established process to go through: moving an ERP source system data to the data warehouse, creating the necessary data architecture, and providing the necessary analysis and reports to the business users. But as it often is, things tend to be more detailed and articulate than they first appear, and this was the case with LATRAPS. Because of the nature of the business – same farms from whom LATRAPS buys various grain are also the same farms which buy machinery and feedstock through them – the accounting system from the technical perspective is set up differently than in other cases, which meant the extracted data needed to be processed into the data model with different techniques than just taking them as they are from the source.

The necessary solution was achieved with thorough communication and great attention to detail, to make sure both the business side analysts and accounting department was happy with the data and felt comfortable to sign off on it.

Getting the first technical steps done is one thing, but achieving business user adoption of the new tools is as important if not more. When a company is at the start of a transition from people working from their own notes, files, and memory to using a centralized one source of truth, it has to be weighed up, which business department could be the most likely early adopter. The acceptance and willingness will usually be the best in a department which has been deprived of useful data accessibility in the past or one that is eager to try new approaches even before the project is started. When these users use the first reports and see their usefulness in their daily tasks, the positive outlook on the new tools will start to spread to other departments, and they will become more eager to try them out in their work as well. For LATRAPS the first adopters where the Agronomists, the people who go to the farmers, see how they are doing, what their needs are and what their plans on future grain deliveries will be.

In conversations I’ve had with the chief agronomist, it’s clear that the new inventory reports have already come in handy for agronomists in their daily work, granting them quicker access to fresher data than they could get their hands on previously.
Ilga Anita Bērzkalna, Head of Development Department at Latraps

Fruits of labor from the first ERP based reports can already be seen in the field. Agronomists during their visits to the various member farms now have greater ease in accessing data on each farmer’s financial position in the cooperative, thus allowing them to better advise on the amounts of materials or machinery the farmer would be able to sustainably receive, so as to not fall into financial woes.

Furthermore, inventory data is now available much more presently, agronomists are able to see exactly the amounts available for delivery while meeting the member farmers.

Lastly, not only are there premade reports ready for use, but also the LATRAPS business analysts themselves have been trained in the new tool so they could use the new data model and create their own more specific reports.

Moving beyond the basics

While Business intelligence creation for ERP system was the beginning, LATRAPS has multiple other proprietary systems in use which are crucial to the core business. Tight communication with IT experts from the company side is imperative to understand these systems and the data they store and create.  

One such system is LatGrauds: a custom-built grain procurement system, which holds grain movement and detailed agreements on grain deliveries and prices. Work has already started on bringing LatGrauds data into DWH and the first BI initiative is available to the analysts now. The amount of each grain type and quality group held by LATRAPS can be viewed in an easy-to-use report, where users can slice the results by type, quality, and time period. This is expected to be highly useful during the harvest season from July to September, when the grain deliveries and movements will be happening around the clock.  

Two other BI initiatives are in the works. First – delivering agreement analysis in combination with accounting data from the ERP system to gain a complete picture of each farmer’s financial standing and ability to deliver on their goals. The second – a complex report on average grain price per agreement. Each agreement with a farmer can be made up of multiple agreed grain deliveries, and each of those can be tied to a different grain futures index or fixed price, thus making the average agreement price available in already calculated form will greatly decrease manual calculations analysts are performing now and free up time and resources to plan ahead and make more informed decisions on future agreements and financial prognosis.

Future scope of LATRAPS data ecosystem

Looking further into the future, the sights are set at bringing even more BI tools into the fold to streamline LATRAPS business activities. Planning has started on Microsoft PowerApps integration and for it to become the main tool for data input in all grain intake points. This will reduce overheads and the time necessary for crucial data to become available throughout the company, both for analysts and management, and will increase the reliability and overall level of awareness of the day-to-day business activities.

Complexity lies everywhere, it’s imperative to seek it out and identify before work has been started to not create bottlenecks and headaches later down the line. This is not possible without great communication with the client and a willingness to achieve the goals set out at the start. Collaboration between Scandic Fusion and LATRAPS reminds us once again that no matter how many times something has been done, each new implementation needs to be approached with an open mind and it will give back new things to discover and learnings for all the parties involved.

Company facts


LATRAPS is a farming cooperative made up of Latvian farmers from multiple regions, specializing in grain trading, export, storage, distribution of raw materials and feedstock, and crop insurance.
Tech Stack:
Azure SQL, Azure Data Factory, Power BI
Operating in:

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