Leadership Challenges Within BioAg Companies

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Navigating the leadership journey with resilience, authenticity, and a sense of purpose


Feeding our rapidly growing global population, nearing 8 billion, is a paramount challenge. BioAg, rooted in ecological balance and diversity, offers a pivotal solution. Agriculture companies recognize the urgency of transitioning to BioAg, with increasing interest and investment from the sector. This has led to a rise in significant mergers and acquisitions, underscoring the industry’s commitment to innovative BioAg products and technologies.

Effectively navigating the BioAg landscape demands resilient, authentic, and intentional leadership. The closing session of the 4th BioAg World Congress 2023 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, brought together CEOs from prominent BioAg companies. They shared their leadership journeys, followed by a round table discussion. Sponsored by AgBiTech, this session provided valuable insights for conquering the dynamic and evolving BioAg landscape, addressing the global challenge of sustainable food production.

Meet the CEOs:

  1. Amy O’Shea, President and CEO of Certis Biologicals and Session Chair, boasts over 25 years of specialty chemical market experience, with a focus on agriculture. Her career spans diverse roles, from sales and management to executive leadership, across the US, Latin America, and Global Markets. Amy is not only an expert but also a dedicated advocate for professional growth, development, and mentorship, making her an invaluable BioAg leader.
  1. Antonio Zem, CEO of Biotrop, brings a wealth of experience. He holds a Master’s in Entomology and a PhD in Agronomy. With a 3-year stint at Embrapa and an impressive 38-year tenure at FMC, he has honed his expertise. Antonio has also served as CEO, partner, and founder of BIOTROP, alongside his roles as a grower of soybeans and corn, and a producer and exporter of table grapes. Additionally, he serves on the boards of several agribusinesses, passionately advocating for biological solutions and emerging as a strong proponent of regenerative agriculture.
  1. Carlos Ledó, Strategic Advisor Rovensa Next, CEO & Founder Idai Nature, is a prominent figure in biocontrol. As the founder and former CEO of Idai Nature, he has made a significant mark. Carlos has a rich career history, serving as the COO of Rovensa Biocontrol since 2018 and transitioning to the role of Rovensa Next Strategic Advisor in  With over two decades in biocontrol, he has founded over 17 companies. Carlos is an agricultural engineer, holds an Executive MBA from ESIC, completed an Entrepreneurship Development Program at MIT Boston, and participated in the 15×15 program at EDEM. His multifaceted expertise underscores his lasting impact on biocontrol and agriculture.
  1. Lain Abarca E., Regional Director AMAS, COMPO EXPERT. started his journey in the family wheat-growing business. In 2004, he joined BBVA, followed by his tenure at COMPO EXPERT, Chile in 2006. Lain’s dedication and expertise propelled him to become the Controller for the AMAS cluster in 2015 and, later, the Regional Director for the Americas in 2016. In addition to his roles, Lain provides pro-bono consultation to small companies, actively contributing to the industry’s growth.
  1. Alejandro de las Casas, International CEO, Kimitec, is a seasoned professional with a remarkable track record. Over the last three years, he has driven Kimitec’s international expansion into over 90 countries, establishing subsidiaries in the USA, China, Brazil, and LATAM. Alejandro’s expertise spans B2B operations, strategic business development, and international markets. His educational background includes degrees in pharmacy and international commerce, complemented by an MBA, making him a dynamic leader at the forefront of global BioAg innovation.
  1. Adriano Vilas-Boas, CEO of AgBiTech, brings over two decades of invaluable expertise across various domains, including marketing, strategic planning, product development, and commercial management. A prominent figure in the Crop Protection industry, he held significant commercial positions for a decade before assuming the role of Brazil General Manager at AgBiTech in 2018. Adriano rose to become the CEO of AgBiTech in July 2020. Alongside an MBA and a BS in Software Engineering, he boasts executive graduate program certifications in agriculture leadership.
  1. Roger Tripathi, Founder and CEO, Global BioAg Linkages, is a dedicated and globally experienced agribusiness leader, with a track record of driving change and elevating businesses. His broad-based multicultural background spans agro-forestry, feed, seed, agrochemicals, fertilizer, and now bio-agriculture. With over 35 years of global experience with companies like Bayer, Cytozyme, Acadian Plant Health, and now GBL, Roger excels in innovative and results-driven leadership. He’s known for his proactive management style, team-building skills, and adept tactical planning. He’s recognized for building enduring business relationships and tackling challenges effectively, both internally and externally.

Their insights and reflections form a comprehensive guide for leadership, presented as the “Ten Success Mantras.” These mantras offer invaluable wisdom and actionable Do’s and Don’ts for future BioAg industry CEOs. In a market-driven landscape, these principles and strategies can empower future leaders to effectively navigate the dynamic BioAg sector, fostering customer connections, driving growth, and adapting to market changes. Embracing these insights allows CEOs to lead with intention, nurture balanced teams, cultivate vibrant cultures, and advance industry evolution.

  1. Embrace Passion: Let your fervor shine through. Channel your passion for the business and make it evident to your team and stakeholders, thus fostering enthusiasm and commitment. Embrace a mindset of aiming high – be the best version of yourself, always putting forth your utmost effort. Transform with purpose by envisioning a massive transformative purpose that encompasses changing the world and leaving a positive impact for generations to come, particularly in sustainable agriculture. Foster an environment of high engagement by ensuring your vision is embraced and shared by every team member. Cultivate the role of the visionary who empowers the team.
  1. Curate an Exceptional Team: Attract, nurture, and retain top-tier talents—individuals who are driven, diligent, and achievement-oriented. Building a team of go-getters is crucial for achieving collective success. The success of your enterprise hinges on cultivating a strong and capable team. Remember that building a stellar team from remarkable individuals is the key to business success. Ensure you have the right individuals onboard, with aligned passion and aspirations, at the optimal juncture of their careers. Strategic talent mapping is the way forward because competing against larger organizations requires mapping your talent profile, engaging with them, and cultivating an appealing vision to secure and retain exceptional team members.
  1. Culture as the Foundation and Cultural Transformation: Begin by cultivating a winning company culture as the cornerstone of a profitable enterprise. Champion your corporate culture as a strong ambassador. Embrace values like dedication, teamwork, sacrifice, and commitment. Supersede the entrenched culture of chemical use. Position your company as a transformative force by advocating for sustainable alternatives. Challenge the norm and disrupt the status quo of mainstream chemicals. Champion change and question established norms to pave the way for meaningful progress.
  1. Set a Clear Mission and Communicate Boldly: Define a distinct mission, set ambitious targets, and consistently challenge yourself. Effective communication is paramount for conveying expectations, deliverables, and outcomes transparently. Channel your energy and direct your strengths and capabilities towards your primary goal. Maintain unwavering focus on your core purpose.
  1. Customer-Centric Approach: Cherish customer relationships, your business’s lifeblood. Be their top choice by prioritizing needs and exceeding expectations. Innovate to tackle growers’ challenges through aligned R&D. Stay engaged, seek feedback, and build trust. Building confidence takes time and effort, key to success. Dive into the customer’s decision-making process, persuading growers of your product’s value for global impact. Keep your value proposition straightforward, enabling growers to grasp your product’s essence.
  1. Innovative Thinking for a Competitive Edge: Emphasize speed to market for a competitive edge. Swift responses and innovation are vital. Cultivate momentum and agility through rapid adaptation. Prioritize scalability by addressing constraints. Embrace creative solutions and explore untapped opportunities in BioAg. Foster a culture of continual evolution in the ever-changing biosolutions sector.
  1. Authentic Leadership: Lead with authenticity, inspiring your team to be their genuine selves. Encouraging this atmosphere fosters success. Cultivate trust and credibility. Becoming a trusted entity in the industry enhances your brand’s value and influence. To attain the pinnacle of leadership by being both inspirational and aspirational. Serve as a role model for your company while motivating other stakeholders in your sector.
  1. Curiosity and Adaptation: Cultivate agile curiosity and adeptly guide your team through change, promoting adaptability and growth. Embrace change and know that flexibility is key. Embrace adaptation to evolving circumstances, objectives, and challenges. This includes growth, shifting tasks, responsibilities, and new ventures. Master prioritization as a leader, prioritize effectively and allocate resources wisely to achieve major organizational goals.
  1. Leverage Experience and Pacing for Success: Draw from past successes to tackle challenges. Embrace the unknown courageously. Maintain team pride while staying open-minded and humble. Encourage less experienced individuals and value insights from seasoned ones. Embrace transformative opportunities for personal and career growth. Recognize the value of slowing down in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, often leading to better outcomes. Allocate resources wisely and dare to achieve the seemingly impossible. Bold strategies, with prudent decisions, yield remarkable results. Address growth constraints by identifying pivotal bottlenecks, especially with limited resources.
  1. Harness Mentorship, Balancing vs Integration, and Embracing Humor: Recognize the power of mentors and build your own personal Board of Directors for diverse perspectives, guiding your career and personal development. Understand that it’s about integration, not trying to do it all. Balance personal and professional aspects, managing both without sacrificing well-being. Last but not the least, Develop the ability to laugh at yourself, fostering genuine connections. Being relatable allows for more meaningful Relationships.

The session also highlighted avoidable pitfalls for maintaining a healthy perspective, fostering teamwork, and building resilience in the leadership journey. Staying vigilant against these pitfalls ensures future CEOs navigate their roles confidently and successfully.

  1. Avoid Self-Importance: Do not perceive yourself as a rock star; your role is to serve the company and steer a plan toward achieving collective goals. Stay focused and don’t be swayed from what truly matters by distractions. Maintain a steadfast focus on core objectives.
  2. Let Go of Microcontrol: Avoid trying to control everything. Delegate effectively and empower your team. Don’t obsess over the end result; enjoy the journey and daily progress. Maintain high standards and don’t settle for subpar performance. Strive for excellence and retain top performers.
  1. Balance Triumphs and Setbacks: Don’t excessively celebrate victories or become overly frustrated by setbacks. Approach both with equanimity. Don’t disregard your gut instincts and honor your intuition as a valuable guide in decision-making.
  2. Avoid Dual Messaging: Refrain from promoting biosolutions alongside chemicals. Emphasize biosolutions’ efficacy, extended shelf life, and potential as strong alternatives to chemicals. Believe in their potency and economic viability.
  3. Mindful Spending: Guard against overspending without yielding substantial profits. Balance investments to ensure sustainable financial growth. Exercise caution with external consultants. Safeguard your intellectual property and technology. While giving your marketing team creative freedom, maintain vigilance over sensitive information.
  4. Field Validation: Don’t become overly engrossed in scientific intricacies. Field testing and crop quality should speak for the product’s effectiveness. Avoid getting bogged down in excessive mechanistic understanding.

For another engaging and insightful discussion with top thought leaders in BioAg, save the date for the 5th BioAgTech World Congress from April 23 – 26 in North Carolina, Raleigh. Together, let us foster a robust community that supports each other and drives the advancement of BioAg.