S2E17: s2E17John Purcell - Building a Sustainable Future by Falling In Love with the Solution, Not the Science


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Episode Summary

Join Harry Duran, host of Vertical Farming Podcast, as he welcomes to the show President and CEO of Unfold, Dr. John Purcell. John has dedicated his life to helping farmers safely and sustainably grow food using less of the earth’s natural resources.

In his new role as President and CEO of Unfold Bio, John is continuing this same mission to improve the food ecosystem with more sustainable, fresher, and better-tasting fruits and vegetables. In this episode, Harry and John discuss John’s previous work at Bayer and Monsanto, which led to innovations and diverse technologies for important global crops.

John opens up about the passion he has for sustainability, the respect he has for farmers and his family ranching operation in Montana.

Episode Sponsor

Ceres Greenhouse Solutions

Key Takeaways

  • 02:29 – Harry welcomes to the show John Purcell, who shares his background in vertical farming, the impact of COVID-19 and the value he places on sustainability
  • 09:21 – What John learned from his time working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and highlights from his career overall
  • 16:12 – Leaders and mentors who have influenced John’s career
  • 20:17 – John details his time at Bayer and the transition to his current role as CEO of Unfold
  • 24:40 – John speaks to the challenges of growing a startup and building a team
  • 29:58 – John reflects on the many segments of vertical farming and where Unfold operates in this landscape
  • 36:45 – John defines the term ‘germplasm’ and talks about how he decides which crops to work on
  • 43:28 – John provides his thoughts on preparing for unforeseen circumstances
  • 44:59 – A tough question John has had to ask himself lately, something John has changed his mind about recently and what excites John about the future of vertical farming
  • 51:45 – Harry thanks John for joining the show and let’s listeners know where they can learn more about Unfold

Tweetable Quotes

“Any definition of sustainability also has to include the economic sustainability for the farmer.” (09:01)

“It’s great to have incredible science – and we need incredible science – but if you’re using that science to come up with a solution that actually tackles a really big challenge we have, that’s just so rewarding.” (14:51)

“The missing ingredient has been genetics; it’s really been the biology side of things. And I think that they’ve done an amazing job of building these production facilities and are able to control the environmental parameters so exquisitely.” (28:34)

“A lot of the time and resources you spend to have that seed that works well – in open field for example – is to build in resistances to diseases or pests…so you have to have seed that withstands all of this variability from an environmental perspective.” (37:52)

“Anytime you can shave days off of how long it takes to get to the store and then to the consumer, that’s huge.” (42:23)

“One of the things I hope the industry does is don’t disparage other ways of producing foods cause everybody’s working their butts off trying to do things right. My mom always said, ‘don’t raise yourself by pushing other people down.’ And, I always took that to heart.” (49:27)

Links Mentioned

Unfold Website

Unfold Twitter

Unfold LinkedIn

John’s LinkedIn

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