Fostering Innovation

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From the culture created at the national level to that of RiceTec, CEO Mike Gumina says creating an environment that encourages innovation is the future of agriculture.

Seed World: What’s on your bookshelf?
Mike Gumina: I’m afraid most people would find my library rather boring … Over the past two years, we have been using the Patrick Lencioni books on teamwork to help guide a cultural transformation. “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team,” “The Advantage” and “The Ideal Team Player” have been particularly helpful.

SW: How do you think RiceTec has improved since 2014?
MG: We continue to evolve from a product-focused company toward a customer-focused company. We also strive to operate with a bit more discipline in our internal processes. Finally, we are beginning to operate more effectively as a single global organization. All of these changes are designed to help us create a continuous stream of solutions that will have a positive impact on customers.

SW: What concerns you most about the industry?
MG: The past three years have been challenging for most of the seed industry due to a drop in commodity prices. A natural reaction to this type of economic stress would be to reduce the investments in research and new talent. As an industry, we need to continue investments in both of these areas to be sure we can meet the future demand for food, feed and materials.

SW: What is the biggest opportunity in agriculture?
MG: I am intrigued by the potential of the new breeding techniques. It seems these methodologies may help us quickly solve issues like emerging diseases or tolerance to abiotic stressors such as drought, heat or flooding. It also appears we can use these techniques to tailor the output of our production to specific end user needs. Longer term, our best opportunities will come from creating an environment that fosters innovation.

SW: Favorite hobby?
MG: I enjoy outdoor activities like mountain biking, snowboarding, running and mountain climbing. Beyond the almost immediate stress relief factor, I find that these activities encourage me to look back and appreciate the obstacles I overcame and the course I just completed. In the seed business, we almost always look ahead, but it is healthy from time to time to reflect on our accomplishments.

SW: What do you want people to know about agriculture?
MG: Agriculture is as fundamental to human life as air and water.

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