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Amy Yoder: “Communicating your idea can be challenging”

From an agricultural perspective, I don’t see any unintended consequences from utilizing our technology. From a manufacturing basis, our carbon footprint is less and we’re able to reuse existing facilities, so we’re not having to build anything new. We can repurpose organic waste and our technology is able to be utilized by all farmers on […]

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From an agricultural perspective, I don’t see any unintended consequences from utilizing our technology. From a manufacturing basis, our carbon footprint is less and we’re able to reuse existing facilities, so we’re not having to build anything new. We can repurpose organic waste and our technology is able to be utilized by all farmers on every acre — a very solid first step in an overall sustainability plan. Additionally, we don’t have a negative footprint in terms of manufacturing pollution.


As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change the World in The Next Few Years,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Yoder, president and CEO of Anuvia Plant Nutrients. A sixth-generation farmer, Amy has been in the agricultural industry for more than 20 years. She has held key roles with Arysta LifeScience, Monsanto, and Spectrum Brands and served on the boards of CropLife America and RISE (Responsible Industry Sound Environment). Amy is currently a board member of Compass Minerals and Arcadia Biosciences. She also promotes agriculture through her directorship of the Clemson University Foundation board and has been an avid promoter of women in agriculture as a former president of the Sigma Alpha Foundation.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up on a sixth-generation farm shaped my love for agriculture. I can remember being little and helping with chores on the farm while my father instilled the importance of conservation and keeping the soil healthy for future generations. My farm is the same land that my great-great-great-grandfather bought when he came over from Ireland. While I had always known I wanted to do something in agriculture, I discovered my passion for agriculture engineering and soil and crop science while studying at Michigan State University. I focused on soil because it is everything to a farmer — soil needs to be passed on in a way that’s still productive. If the soil’s productivity is depleted, then there’s nothing left for future generations. After graduating from Michigan State, I had the opportunity to work around the country and world learning various aspects of the industry. I was always thinking about the next big idea to benefit farmers. I was offered the chance to look at Anuvia’s technology and saw a technology that could work on all farms and truly make an impact for farmers in terms of sustainability and profitability.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Back in the ’90s, I was a sales rep for an ag company. In that job, I created relationships with farmers across the county. Well, just recently, Anuvia ran commercials on RFD-TV (agriculture-focused cable station) that highlighted our SymTRX product and talked about its benefits to farmers and agriculture. Almost immediately, I heard from three farmers who I have not talked to since the ’90s. They called to say how great it was to hear about the product and asked when would it be available in their area. What was particularly gratifying was that they each told me that they always knew I would do something that would help agriculture. I was so impressed that they kept my number and actually remembered me. This showed just how interconnected we all really are.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

I’ve been lucky to learn firsthand about agriculture in different parts of the world. I’ve worked with farmers from the West Coast to the Deep South and outside the U.S. to Canada and Australia. I learned that no matter where you are, there are important fundamental principles that hold true for agriculture. The principles of both profitability and nurturing the land for future generations have guided my passion to make a long-term, positive impact for farmers. When I came across Anuvia’s technology in 2015, it was the first startup technology that I thought could actually work in mainstream agriculture. For me, that was a big deal as a lot of technologies just focus on specialty crops, while Anuvia can fit into mainstream agriculture, positively impacting large-scale farming.

OK, thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change the World”?

Anuvia produces a bio-based plant nutrient that utilizes repurposed organic matter, which typically is discarded, and delivers nutrients more efficiently into the soil. This allows farmers to accomplish what nature does in months or years in a matter of minutes. Anuvia’s technology increases ROI by up to five times, reduces greenhouse gas emissions up to 32%, and helps preserve soil for future generations.

How do you think this will change the world?

Anuvia’s technology offers major benefits for the farmer and the environment. What’s unique about Anuvia is we actually increase crop yield while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Anuvia’s technology will feed plants in a more efficient manner, resulting in higher yields and performance. Unlike other technologies, Anuvia puts carbon back into the soil. This, in turn, feeds the microbes in the soil, which is essential to the regeneration of the soil’s productivity. Because traditional fertilizer contains no organic material, it does not maintain soil health in this way. The technology also reduces nutrients from volatilizing, which dramatically reduces greenhouse gas. To put this into perspective, for every million acres that use our technology, the reduction of greenhouse gases is equal to removing 20,000 to 30,000 cars from the road. If Anuvia’s products were used on just the U.S. corn crop, which is 90 million acres, this would conservatively translate to 1.8 million cars removed from our roads in perpetuity. A huge change for our country and world.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

From an agricultural perspective, I don’t see any unintended consequences from utilizing our technology. From a manufacturing basis, our carbon footprint is less and we’re able to reuse existing facilities, so we’re not having to build anything new. We can repurpose organic waste and our technology is able to be utilized by all farmers on every acre — a very solid first step in an overall sustainability plan. Additionally, we don’t have a negative footprint in terms of manufacturing pollution.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

At first, Anuvia’s technology was going to be focused only on turf. However, I looked at the analysis and thought about how a farmer can use the technology and will it fit within a standard agricultural program. That was the “tipping point” which led to the big idea of making the technology beneficial to all farmers in all geographies, farming all crops. By helping commercial agriculture be more sustainable, we have the greatest impact on people and planet.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Actually, we’re getting really close to widespread adoption right now. We have proven the financial and climate benefits, so our product fits in well with the recent focus on increasing sustainable practices. In addition, by adding carbon to the soil, we represent a potential source of income to farmers in the form of recently introduced carbon credits in agriculture. Additionally, Anuvia’s products work with all current large-scale farming operations and machinery, as well as the latest precision farming advancements. It can be used alone or in conjunction with traditional fertilizer and there are no barriers or requirements for use. We have also recently announced our equity raise of 103 million dollars in Series C funding, which will be used to increase production capacity and expand commercialization of our innovative technology.

What are your “Five Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Communicating your idea can be challenging: It’s so important to be able to communicate your idea to others so they can easily understand and believe in it. Anuvia’s vision was immediately clear to me when we started, but it took a lot of work to translate it in a way people could really buy into the vision.
  2. No matter how much you think you know about your industry, you can always learn more: When you do something new, you need to change the paradigm, and that shift can be very challenging. Therefore, you really need to understand your market intimately and from varying angles, many of which are new to you. You can never be done learning if you intend to lead.
  3. No matter how much money you have, you don’t have enough money: One of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve had is seeing how much time it takes to raise capital. Once it comes together, the idea gets out and starts to catch on; the exponential speed at which things move is incredible.
  4. Being a woman means you need to be twice (if not three times) as good: As a woman,in order to be thought of as half as good, you actually have to be twice as good. If you want to be successful in this world, you need to always be prepared and go the extra mile, especially as a woman.
  5. You need to be a quick decision maker: Things shift, and you need to pivot and adapt based on the feedback you receive in a timely manner. If you are indecisive, you are setting yourself and your organization up for failure.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Two things are very important to me: setting goals and persistence. I keep a list of goals for the day, month, year, next five and 10 years. I actually review my goals every single morning and track my progress against them. My second “success mindset” is persistence and a strong belief in yourself. In the beginning, when you introduce something new, people will tell you why it won’t work. You need to maintain a mindset that says, “We can do this, we will do this, and this is how we’re going to move forward.” It is crucial to have a strong belief in yourself, in your product, and in your company so you can stand up to defend your position and continue to move forward. I learned these mindsets when I was a student-athlete in college. This is why I still get up every morning and row. It keeps my mind in that same competitive, resilient place.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

From an ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) standpoint, the product that we provide can work for farmers in all geographies and we can make farming more sustainable. There is no one else out there that can do what Anuvia does — increase crop yield while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. No one.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter

LinkedIn

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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