Look Over the Hill and Around the Corner: Q&A with RB Halaby

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RB Halaby, chairman and founder of AgriCapital, discusses the never-ending concept of change and how the seed industry should react.

HalabySeed World: What’s your favorite book on your bookshelf?
RB Halaby:
I am fortunate to have read many books in my lifetime and it is hard to choose a favorite. William Dalrymple, a noted historian, is one of my favorite authors and has written many fascinating books about the history of the Indian Subcontinent. “Lawrence in Arabia” by Scott Anderson does a wonderful job of relating the history of the Middle East at the turn of the 20th century which explains what is happening there now… I also highly recommend a book I am halfway through now: “The Food Explorer” by Daniel Stone. It is the story of David Fairchild, an employee of the Department of Agriculture in the 1880’s. He traveled the world collecting new food plants to help improve the diet of Americans and the profitability of farmers. Fairchild’s adventurous spirit, integrity and caring is in the DNA of every seedsman I have known.

SW: No.1 Hobby?
RH:
Photography by a long-shot. There is so much beauty in the world, so many fascinating people, places and things, that I get great satisfaction from capturing images that capture my fancy. I have two simple ground rules in photography: 1. Time, tide and light wait for no man; and 2. If something hits your eye, shoot it!

SW: Favorite travel location?
RH:
I have been fortunate to have traveled extensively in my lifetime, and I have so many favorites. If I had just one month to live, and I was offered a trip to anywhere I wanted, I would visit The Temple of Jupiter, Baalbek; the Taj Mahal, Agra; the Hagia Sofia, Istanbul; the Parthenon, Athens; the Pantheon, Rome; and the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona. All stunning edifices with so much history and so indicative of humankind’s genius. If given a reprieve and another month, I would go “nature” and visit the Great Barrier Reef, the Pantanal, the Galapagos Islands, the Grand Canyon and a safari in the Okavango Delta, Botswana.

SW: What do you think makes a good leader?
RH:
Caring, commitment, curiosity, and an uncanny ability to see over the hill and around the corner.

SW: How has working with ASTA influenced your work at AgriCapital?
RH:
ASTA is a world class trade association that represents the most critical component of agribusiness. Yes, “First the Seed!” In the 35 years of AgriCapital’s existence we have worked and interacted with innumerable seed companies globally and these have had a most profound effect on AgriCapital’s growth and success. Seedsmen are a special lot, smart, creative, open to ideas and willing to take the leap.

SW: What are your thoughts on mergers within the global seed industry?
RH:
The seed business, like other sectors in ag, is under pressure to consolidate. This is being driven by three main factors, the consumer with increased demand and who is also becoming more demanding as the food he/she consumes; globalization; and technology. Industry is becoming increasingly unforgiving of financial inefficiency.

SW: Any advice for seed companies?
RH:
There is no rest for the weary as change is never-ending. Stay on your toes!

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