Corn growing in Burkina Faso.
Dan Custis CEO and Co-Founder, ABM

As CEO, Dan Custis oversees all company financial, marketing and sales operations, as well as new product development. Custis’ agricultural expertise is centered in the fungicide and insecticide seed treatment and legume inoculant markets. He has worked for and held various positions with national and multinational companies. Custis received his Bachelor of Science in agriculture from Eastern Kentucky University and his master’s in business with a focus on small business development and startups from Regent University.

More than 20 years ago, I came across a graph projecting global food demand, which was expected to double by 2040. That graph illustrated the per capita food consumption per day of certain regions around the world and has been at the back of my mind ever since. 

As we were creating ABM, and since then, my point of view has been how do we improve this? How do we help feed the world? There are many countries in which people do not have access to the food and nutrition they need. I have been to some of these countries. I have seen the poverty. I have seen the hunger. I have seen, firsthand, the challenges people in these countries face feeding their families. 

Why is it that people in the least developed countries aren’t being fed? Some are war-torn countries and have suffered many years of external or internal conflicts. Yet, at one time, these countries grew enough food to feed everyone and were able to export the rest. 

Organizations help farmers in Burkina Faso by providing microloans and agronomic training. Recently, ABM sent product for trialing.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a perfect example. Prior to war and conflicts, the DRC grew everything it needed to feed its own people. At the time of my last visit, the DRC was importing 80 percent of its food requirements. How do we shift this paradigm?

Part of the solution is to teach the people of those countries how to grow their own food because those skills have been lost. There are a number of organizations that do this. For example, USAID spends time training farmers agronomically, so they can take care of the crop from preparation of the soil through planting and harvest. Another such organization is the Centre Missionary D’Espoir Church.

Farmers are being taught to grow a variety of crops, so prices don’t take a dip when they bring their crops to market. Because it is mostly women who do the farming, these programs ensure they are getting the help they need. 

Peanuts treated with Excalibre Gold (on the right) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Another organization provides microloans to small stakeholder farmers in Burkina Faso. The loans are for seed and fertilizer and everything a farmer needs to grow a crop. At the end of the growing season, some of that crop will be used to pay for the loan. 

Recently, we sent product with this organization, which is called Kingdom Investment International, to Burkina Faso. I know the products we make help large- and small-scale farmers. I also know when our products are used in Thailand and Vietnam, we increase rice yields, and in the DRC we increase ground nut (peanut), corn and cassava yields. 

In Burkina Faso, farmers grow a lot of potatoes and sweet potatoes. I ask myself, how can we improve crop quality for those farmers in addition to increasing yields. Because how well we improve crop quality affects how well those farmers feed their families.

I have to make a profit for our company, but at the same time, our products are very affordable for small stakeholder farmers like those in Burkina Faso, who are farming, maybe, only one acre. Granted, on that one acre we don’t make a lot of money, but that’s okay because we’re also providing products to commercial businesses and large-scale farmers. I see this as a win-win situation.

Treating casava with Excalibre Gold in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Our first priority, from a business perspective, is to make money; however, there isn’t any reason why, as a company, we can’t participate in these projects in developing countries teaching people how to grow their own food as well as providing products which will enhance that endeavor.

I recently received a phone call from a friend I’ve known in the ag industry for 30 years. He told me he’s getting ready to retire and he wants to give back. He asked me if I could put him in touch with one of the groups that work in Burkina Faso. He’s getting involved. This is what drives me now — encouraging people and companies to get in touch with local organizations in other countries to feed the hungry.

Increasing food security worldwide isn’t a completely altruistic act — it’s actually one of the keys to our success. At ABM, we’re successfully integrating agronomy, seed science, herbicide and insecticide use, soil science, biological science and research and development, fermentation and formulation excellence, which is all tied to distribution and logistics. We do all of this to capture the market in food sustainability and security around the world.

How do we help feed the world? I don’t think you can be a do-gooder and take on the entire world, but you can be a do-gooder and be good at what you do. I want to leave a legacy, don’t you?