Bramley apple orchard in Sittingbourne

News from Fourayes

May 22, 2017

Phil's May Blog

Wanna Cry or Wanna Breathe a Sigh of Relief?

‘WannaCry’ or ‘WannaCrypt’. However you term it, the recent ransom-ware attack has caused major disruption across business and public institutions and garnered a considerable amount of national, and international publicity.

Reports indicate that by 15th May the perpetrators had gained around £33,000 in bitcoin payments. That might seem like a small gain for such a major attack. Having said that, we’ll probably find it’s not a bad return for two 11 year olds working out of a bedroom on an old Tablet they borrowed from one of their parents! But I digress.

It’s not a boast by any means but here at Fourayes I’m relieved to say that the attack failed to penetrate our firewall (despite evidence of it trying with some persistence) and that all of our administration and factory support systems are unaffected.

That very fact got me thinking about why.

Our IT Manager came to me around six months ago following a review of our systems. Although everything was stable and perfectly serviceable he talked about potential vulnerabilities.

It’s always difficult to make IT investment decisions: one man’s ‘vulnerabilities’ are another man’s ‘once in a hundred years’ events’.

What guided me, however, is our policy of investment in continuous improvement.

Our Low Oxygen and Ultra-Low Oxygen stores for Bramley apple have led the way in our industry. They have enabled us to win so many back-to-back long-term storage awards that there was no point in continuing to give out the accolade! However, that didn’t stop us from investing £1m in our new DCA (Dynamically-Controlled Atmosphere) stores that take the monitoring of stored apple stress to new levels. These stores offer real-time adjustment of the atmosphere to deliver fruit with retained pressures, improved taste and shelf life, control of many storage disorders and a reduced need for post-harvest (Smartfresh) applications.

Our Aseptic puree plant was the first, in our industry, to be installed in the UK, and it has enabled us to become the leading manufacturer of high quality Kentish Strawberry jam in the country. But that didn’t stop us from recently investing £1/2 million in installing a new aseptic puree plant with the added advantages of flavour and aroma capture as well as increased capacity and efficiency.

In both cases the investments we’d made previously would have stood us in good stead for a while, but they wouldn’t have enabled us to be the best we can be. And that’s the key: great progress happens for a reason – driven by need or the ability to improve.

My thinking was that IT should be no less subject to our continuous investment policy than any other part of the business.

It’s certainly paid off. In the case of the WannaCry issue, early reports show we were attacked over 1000 times by the ransom-ware at the height of its activity. No attempts got further than the third level of our security. In comparison to other organisations 1000 is a small number of course but as our IT Manager said (in his typically understated way) ‘it doesn’t matter how many times we’re attacked, it only has to get through once’. As a summary of the benefits our continuous improvement policy delivered I don’t think I could improve on that!

Phil Acock
Managing Director and Mad Scientist at Fourayes; the UK’s number one grower and processor of English Bramley apples and processor of fruits from the UK and across the globe.

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