GM crops, precision agriculture, robots and supercharged photosynthesis. All these revolutionary changes in science and technology hold huge promise for global food security.

However, real change can only come about by the people in charge leading both cohesively and conscientiously in the field (sometimes literally).

“Ultimately science and technology cannot yield impact on its own – it takes visionary leadership to drive it forward,” states  Ron Woessner, Head of the Agribusiness Practice at Odgers Berndtson’s Minnesota office, and previously with CHS, now the world’s largest grain, fertilizer and feed cooperative.

“Tomorrow’s agricultural leaders have to have a global mindset and incredible translative capacity, someone who can both communicate and empathise with farmers, financiers and consumers.”

Thinking together

Inspired by the phenomenal disruptive ability of technology, an entire cadre of new leaders and young entrepreneurs are already leveraging (sometimes simple) technology to enhance food security in some of the world’s most challenging environments.

Woessner believes that this new era in agriculture – anchored in a world where commerce, science and technology are changing at breakneck speed – hinges on a collaborative mindset.

“Leadership is not about one person doing everything, it’s about enabling everyone around you to realise a common vision. Food security is a common goal we share with everyone around the world,” he says.

Seismic changers

Carl Casale, the former CEO of CHS Industries, a Fortune 100-listed US agricultural co-operative, agrees.

“This perfect storm ahead needs a fundamentally different leader, one who is far more adaptive, forward-looking and inquisitive. The core skills are not so much about functional knowledge as they are about transformative leadership. When you couple that with technology, that’s when seismic change happens.”

This article is adapted from an in-depth look at food, science and technology by Natasha D’Souza in the latest copy of the Odgers Berndtson magazine, OBSERVE.

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Ron Woessner

Ron Woessner is the Head of the U.S. Agribusiness Practice and Co-Head of the Private Equity Practice based in Odgers Berndtson's Minneapolis office. He focuses on C-level and board searches with c...

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