Conversation with Rob Wong, President and COO of Agri-Neo
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Rob Wong and Nicholas Dillon met while working for Bain & Co. Unlike many of their contemporaries, they chose not to go the high-tech route. Here’s the story of Agri-Neo, a company built to address global food challenges.
1. What does your business do?
Agri-Neo develops and markets novel chemistry such as low-risk chemicals, biologicals, and plant extracts for pest control in agriculture. We are driven by the fundamental belief that innovative agricultural products can be developed that are highly effective, have a positive impact on the environment, and result in safer food for all of us to consume. This principle drives our team to create sustainable solutions that can increase agricultural productivity. Our current focus is on piloting a number of technologies aimed target markets for disease control.
2. How long have you been in business?
Agri-Neo was incorporated in 2009, although our first set of technologies have been in development for almost 10 years.
3. Why did you decide to start your own business?
The founder of our first set of technologies, and current Director of Product Development, recognized the opportunity in developing innovative solutions that make agriculture more sustainable and productive. Given the confluence of demographic, environmental, and economic factors pushing the agricultural industry to produce more food with less resources, he knew that key inputs into the system, such as pest control, had to change meet the global food challenges presented by this major transformation. Drawing on his extensive experience as a biochemist, he formulated a set of technologies that demonstrated efficacy potential in controlling some of the most significant diseases in agriculture.
4. What makes your business unique?
Agri-Neo focuses solely on introducing pest control solutions that can both increase agricultural productivity and maintain environmental sustainability. We are able to do this because we work on proprietary novel chemistry developed internally, and with a number of R&D and commercialization partners.
5. What do you wish you knew before you started this business?
The most important thing we learned as a team at the outset of starting Agri-Neo was the importance of transparency. We were quick to share wins with everyone, but shied away from communicating setbacks. Eventually, we made course corrections to ensure that engaged the entire team and board on all major issues, good and bad, to create a more trusted environment and gather opinions on our path forward.
6. What goal did you have in mind when you started and has that goal changed?
Our mission is to help safely feed everyone. Although it seems simple, we had countless hours of debate to distill the common thread that motivated each of us to build a great company, and addressed what we saw as our contribution to addressing our global food challenges.
7. How did you finance the business?
We financed our business through angel investors and a number of federal and provincial grants. Since our company sits at the intersection of clean technology and agriculture, two areas of significant interest for the Canadian government, we were able to take advantage of all of the funding that came through public channels in addition to private money.
For more information on Agri-Neo, go to agri-neo.com.