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Tips for staffing a start-up in agri-tech

Posted on June 01 2017 | Author: Jessica Bowes

Hiring the first few employees is a big step for early stage businesses. Expanding the team could mean that the founder recognizes they can’t do everything by themselves or that they don’t have the necessary skills or experience for a specific aspect of the business. Or, maybe a new perspective is needed in order to grow.

Whatever the reason, fundamentally it will ultimately change the business by increasing bandwidth. If you can find the right person, suddenly you will be able to do more, faster.

So, how do ensure that you’re hiring the right person?

Know what you want and where you are willing to compromise. Keeping the stage of the company in mind, conduct thorough research on what the role will look like. Also, think about what kind of talent is needed today, 1 year out, 3 years out, and even 5 years out. It might be helpful to benchmark other companies in key areas.  Are you looking for someone with specific skills? Knowledge? Experience? What are critical skills for success: domain experience or behavioural/personal attributes? The reality is, having it all is usually not an option.

Cast a wide net. Recruit far and wide, searching in adjacent sectors or even geographical locations. Narrow the list through successive assessments. And, if you can afford it, work with sector-specific job sites, new-graduate programs, and talent acquisition firms. And, don’t forget to use your network!

Hire for potential, not just past experiences. Look for someone who has a strong interest or passion for causes that are similar to yours and the company vision. Whether it be a technical doer, an impact player with a unique set of skills (e.g. R&D manager), or a star performer who will achieve greatness no matter the task, try and find someone with a combination of skills and passion.

If possible, have everyone on the team interview the strongest candidates. Typically, an entrepreneurial team is made up of passionate people with very different personalities and work styles; so take the time for everyone to meet the star candidates. And don’t be afraid to have multiple interviews to ensure the new person will fit in well with the existing team. Establishing a productive working dynamic right from the get-go is crucial!

What you want won’t likely come cheap. Do your research to find out what the market is currently paying. If you hold out for your salary max, you may have to lower expectations. And remember, candidates are always looking for a step-up in compensation from their current situation.

For start-ups in the agri-technology sectors, there are some valuable recruiting resources and talent partners for consideration when it’s time to grow your team.

 

Kincannon & Reed

Kincannon & Reed, one of Bioenterprise’s corporate partners, is a retained executive search firm engaged by organizations around the world to recruit impact players in the food, agribusiness, and life sciences sectors. Unlike many “international” search firms, the company operates as a single office with multiple locations. Ideas, contacts, insights are freely exchanged among the principals and researchers globally. This enterprise-wide collaborative approach translates into a competitive edge for clients.

BioTalent Canada

As the HR partner of Canada’s bio-economy, BioTalent Canada focuses on building partnerships and skills to ensure the industry has access to job-ready people. Through projects, research and product development, BioTalent Canada connects employers with job seekers, delivers human resource information and skills development tools so the industry can focus on strengthening Canada’s biotech business.  For employers, there is The PetriDish job board for posting opportunities and a few different wage subsidy programs to support hiring new graduates or employees with disabilities.

AgCareers.com

The AgCareers.com mission is to provide global talent solutions in agriculture and food by offering employers talent attraction solutions, a high-calibre human resources conference, compensation benchmarking, talent pipeline development, and much more.

If you would like more information or to make contact with any of the organizations listed above, and/or some assistance developing your staffing strategy please contact Jessica Bowes, Manager of Bioenterprise’s Analyst Team at jessica.bowes@bioenterprise.ca.

 

Sources:

Wightman, J. (2016). The search is over [Kincannon & Reed Powerpoint slides]. Available upon request.

Koloc, N. (date). 7 Keys to Hiring Your Start-up’s First Employee. [Web log post]. Retrieved May 1, 2017, from https://www.themuse.com/advice/7-keys-to-hiring-your-startups-first-employee

https://stock.adobe.com/ca

 

Jessica Bowes
Manager, Business & Technology Analyst Group






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Management vs. Leadership: A middle manager’s perspective

Posted on September 21 2016 | Author: Jessica Bowes

The organizational structure of a company largely depends on the nature and size of the business. With innovation at the core, entrepreneurial businesses need to promote regular interaction and communication among its internal teams, regardless of how it’s structured, in order to follow through on the founder’s vision for success. For start-ups and early stage businesses that are too small to departmentalize, management resources must be maximized.

Companies need leaders
There’s a fine line between management and leadership, but there is a difference. Managers plan, organize and coordinate whereas leaders should inspire and motivate.  A successful entrepreneur needs to be both a strong leader and manager.

Strong leaders put others ahead of themselves, and the team ahead of everyone.  They make their expectations clear, even when it’s uncomfortable. They push people outside of their comfort zones. And, they hold people accountable while empowering them to learn and grow.

True leadership is like an inverted pyramid, where an entire organization relies on a single leader to support their efforts by providing vision and strategic guidance. This becomes particularly important once your business grows and you hire new staff to carry out your vision for the company.

Leadership and management must go hand-in-hand

“Management is about persuading people to do things they do not want to do, while leadership is about inspiring people to do things they never thought they could.”

-- Steve Jobs

As a manager, your duty is to implement company strategy in the most efficient way. You’re also responsible for creating an effective working environment, administrating the work process in compliance with organization’s requirements, leading people, and reporting to the highest level of management.

Functions of the role can typically be divided into 3 main categories, all of which can be profoundly impacted by the person’s leadership skills: Technical, Human Resources and Strategic.

Technical:
In the agri-technology sector, there is almost always an element of technical understanding required to manufacture, market or sell a product or service. Education and/or training of staff in this capacity may then play a significant part of the managerial role.  Relationships with staff that are built through patience, creativity, and supportive collaboration are indicative of good technical leadership.

Human resources:
Managers are also responsible for administering day-to-day routines, monitoring performance and making sure everything is done in compliance with company’s needs. One of the most important functions, directly associated with operational leadership, is motivating and inspiring staff to perform well. This also includes building a cohesive team and supporting team members when necessary.

Strategic:
Strategic functions of a manager may involve analyzing a group in terms of productivity and financial effectiveness, creating a strategy to improve the current situation and reporting to executive management.  Strong strategic leadership is grounded in understanding the relationship between the company and its environment, then thinking, acting and influencing the team to promote success. Strategic leadership is not limited as a task for a few top executives, but is needed throughout the company.

Every employee has the opportunity to lead
Fostering an environment where people feel empowered, appreciated, and genuinely happy to be part of the team will not only allow employees to shape and create their own futures, it will create career progression opportunities for employees to adapt, innovate and ultimately lead your company to success.

 

Jessica Bowes
Manager, Business & Technology Analyst Group

 

Sources 
Management vs Leadership: Five Ways They Are Different
The End of Middle Managers (And Why They’ll Never Be Missed)
The Three Strengths of a True Strategic Leader

 






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Food Trends 2014

Posted on January 28 2014 | Author: Jessica Bowes

There was more to 2013 than quinoa and Greek yogurt. Consumers around the world voiced their opinions on GMO labeling; the US Food and Drug Administration banned use of trans fats from the American food supply, and; Europe dealt with a horsemeat scandal that left consumers lacking trust in the food industry.  As a result, 2014 will bring more attention to controversial labeling and regulatory debates; new superfoods will breakthrough to mainstream manufacturing and retail, and; a stronger effort will be made to reduce waste across the supply chain. In no particular order, here are a few other trends to watch for this year.

Origin labeling and traceability
Scares like the horsemeat scandal have consumers demanding to know where their food is coming from, so companies will have to work to gain/re-gain consumer trust through origin labeling and traceability programs. According to Innova, this is a major trend to watch for as manufactures actively market this to consumers and as there are more global products launched featuring the word ‘origin’ for claim purposes.

Look out for the small guy
Being connected isn’t just for the consumer. The rapid rise in popularity of social media platforms continues to offer small-scale innovators the chance to realize new business opportunities in both domestic and export markets. This trend speaks to the big-trend potential small manufacturers have through the development of high quality and distinct products for niche markets. 

Nothing beats breakfast
Breakfast remains the most important meal of the day. In 2014, consumers will continue to look for more protein in their diets, especially at breakfast. The convenient, protein-rich breakfast food category, which includes products such as breakfast biscuits and ready-to-drink shakes, will continue to grow. Examples of products that are already making a big marketing push include Belvita and Milk2Go Sport.

Bugs, anyone?
As protein remains a strong trend, alternative sources are a targeted need for food manufacturers. Though the US, Canada and Europe have long been adverse to the idea of consuming bugs as a source of nutrition, the rest of the world has been eating insects as a source of unconventional protein. Bugs have a much less of an environmental impact than other animals, they require little to no land, and many species consume waste products therefore eliminating the reliance on feed.  Consuming insects is gaining some interest in the West in forward-thinking countries such as Denmark, but the biggest opportunity involves food security for the impoverished and malnourished communities of the world. Late last year, a team of MBA students from McGill University won the $1M Hult Prize for a project that aims to improve the availability of nutritious food to underprivileged communities around the world by providing them with insect protein infused flour. For more information on this project, click here.

Other trends to watch for:

  • Naturally functional whole food – despite the regulatory minefield that is “natural”, the success of this product category will continue to increase. Maple water has been predicted as the next coconut water in this category by a number of online sources, and experts believe that marketing will be a key component to the success of these products.
  • Weight wellness – Rather than addressing weight management with a specific category of food products, companies will be more successful with a holistic approach to products that touch on trends such as gluten free, high protein, less sugar, and using natural ingredients.
  • Slow energy – Although we tend to think of glycemic index in reference to diabetes, slow or ‘sustained’ energy appeals to the mass market. Product developers are turning to complex carbohydrates such as oats, barley and millet as ingredients, as well as dairy protein’s ability to slow down digestibility, delivering slow energy.
  • Better-for-you snacking – finding the right balance of health and taste will be key for food manufacturers addressing this trend.
  • Interactive packaging – allowing manufacturers to provide more information to the consumer. This could include touch-sensitive elements or more technology.

Jessica Bowes
Senior Business Analyst, Food Nutrition & Health

Food Trend Links:
FoodBev.com
FoodNavigator.com
Huffingtonpost.ca
Macleans
Phil Lempert, Supermarket Guru
Canadian Food Insights






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What does “all-natural” mean?

Posted on August 09 2013 | Author: Jessica Bowes

Marketing experts and manufacturers alike understand that consumers are increasingly looking for foods that are “natural”, but few can really articulate what that means.

Naturally ambiguous

Unfortunately, regulators and manufacturers around the world are in the same confused state. There are no universal standards in place to guide the use of the term “natural”. Many jurisdictions don’t even have a definition to go by. Here are a few examples of how different the criteria, or lack thereof, can be.

In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes that no food could ever be natural and has yet to define the term. However, the FDA does not object to a claim appearing if a food does not contain added colour, artificial flavours, or synthetic substances.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) states that most foods labeled as “natural” are not subject to government controls beyond the regulations and health codes that apply to all foods, but has a very limited definition that applies only to meat and poultry stating that “those products carrying the “natural” claim must not contain artificial flavouring, colour ingredients, chemical preservatives, or artificial/synthetic ingredients, and are only minimally processed.”

In the European Union, “natural” is only clearly defined in EU regulations related to flavourings. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) states that where a food naturally meets the conditions laid down by the Nutrition Claims Annex for use of a nutritional claim (e.g. low energy, low fat, high fibre), the term “naturally/natural” may only be used as a prefix to the claim.

The United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency has published criteria for several terms in food labeling, but the guidance restricts the use of “natural” to foods that have “ingredients produced in nature”. Separate laws define natural flavourings. To make it even more confusing, there are different standards for various types of food, such as dairy products, and different types of food processing techniques, such as fermentation and pasteurization.

Canadian criteria

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has some of the best standards in the world, including a definition of “natural” for labeling purposes. CFIA’s Guide to Food Labeling and Advertising states that ads should not convey the impression that Nature has created foods that are nutritionally superior to others or has engineered some foods specifically to take care of human needs. Foods or ingredients of foods that have been processed to alter their original physical, chemical or biological state should not be described as “natural,” including changes such as the removal of a constituent, and/or addition of micronutrients, flavourings or additives.

Since some food additives, vitamins and mineral nutrients are derived from natural sources, and they can be regarded as natural ingredients. In this case, the acceptable claim would be that the food “contains natural ingredients”. The food isn’t “natural” though, because it contains added components.

Carol Culhane, President of International Food Focus Ltd, has found that the CFIA criteria to assess the naturalness of a food ingredient is the best in the world and that “manufacturers who operate in many countries around the world have applied it to their products with the rationale that it is, at least, an objective, science-based criteria.”

Clear as mud

“All-natural” and “natural” are widely used terms in food labeling and marketing with a variety of definitions, which are mostly vague. The term implies that foods are minimally processed and do not contain manufactured ingredients, but the lack of standards in many jurisdictions suggests it is actually a loaded term with little meaning globally. In most countries, it is the manufacturer’s responsibility to not mislead the consumer, so as long as standard regulations and Good Manufacturing Processes (GMPs) are followed, and the company is claiming something that is true, they can make the claim if desired.

The term “organic” has similar implications to “natural”, yet has an established legal definition in many countries and is internationally standardized. A good example of this difference refers to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Codex Alimentarius, which does not recognize the term natural, yet has organic food standards.

Until there is a universal definition of “all-natural” there will be confusion in the marketplace for both manufacturers and consumers. In the meantime, if you are a food manufacturer looking for clarification on marketing a product in such a way, it is best to consult with a professional regulatory consultant, an officer from CFIA, a food lawyer or one of the business analysts here at Bioenterprise.

Jessica Bowes
Senior Business Analyst, Food Nutrition & Health

Image credit: Three Dog Bakery

References

US Food & Drug Administration – Food Labeling Guide

US Department of Health & Human Services - Consumer Updates – Food Label Helps Consumers Make Healthier Choices

European Commission - EUROPA – Food Safety – Labelling & Nutrition – Health & Nutrition Claims

Canadian Food Inspection Agency – Chapter 4 – Composition, Quality, Quantity and Origin Claims

The Food Journal - Natural?

Food Navigator – Elaine Watson – Are all-natural claims losing their luster?
 






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Food Trends 2013: What’s in, what’s out, what’s next?

Posted on January 22 2013 | Author: Jessica Bowes

Food industry experts have weighed in on what foods are growing in popularity, what items have been moved to the back burner, and what the next big thing is for 2013.

Here is a brief forecast based on online reports/articles from food processing, food service, and culinary sectors.

What’s in?

Who, what, where: The local food movement is still going strong, as consumers continue to look to farmers markets and street vendors for seasonal goodies. Consumers are also still looking for transparency with the foods they eat.

Golden grain of the Incas: The United Nations officially announced 2013 the International Year of the Quinoa, a designation that’s meant to “focus world attention on the role that quinoa’s biodiversity and nutritional value plays in providing food security and nutrition,” - as noted on the UN’s website.

Dairy alternatives: According to The Test Kitchen Inc., we will see a greater variety of cheese, yogurt and cream products made from dairy other than cow’s milk. Companies like Woolwich Dairy are already producing products like goat milk-based gelato and goat cheese-based salad dressings.

Fruit hybrids: Growers continue to look for new fruit genetic crosses that provide specific flavour and texture characteristics of our favourite nutritious snacks. Recently developed examples include, the Papple (an apple-pear cross), the Pleurry (a plum-cherry cross), and the Nectoplum (a nectarine-plum cross).

What’s out?

Food wasting: According to Sylvain Charlebois, economics professor at the University of Guelph, Canadian households waste 38% of their food purchased in stores and restaurants. Consumers need to adopt better shopping practices and use leftovers in creative ways. Nutritionsolutions.ca suggests that this is an excellent opportunity for companies to help consumers better manage their food purchases and cooking habits.

What’s next?

Meatless proteins: As food prices for protein commodities increase and our population shifts to a more diverse ethnic mix, we can expect to see meatless proteins gain popularity. Thanks to increased awareness and consumption of vegetarian and vegan meals, eggs, nut butters, tofu, beans, and legumes will all be of interest.

Greek yogurt beyond the fridge: Building on last year’s popularity of Greek yogurt, consumers can expect to see new products using it as a base for dressings, dips, sauces, and smoothies.

Sea veggies: Popular in Japanese diets, highly nutritious sea vegetables are making waves as new food ingredients, particularly in snacks and side dishes. Kelp, kombu, hijiki and nori are all examples.

Tech savvy shoppers: According to The Food Marketing Institute, 52% of consumers are using technology while grocery shopping and 32% are using mobile technology to make shopping lists, find recipes or research and review products. Consumers will continue to use social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest to categorize and share their food-related experiences with the world. Apps are being developed that utilize sensors, which attach to the mobile device, to test whether foods are actually organic, have specific allergens or ingredients, and can be used as glucose monitors for diabetics. Phil Lempert, the US’s “Supermarket Guru”, predicts that this next generation of apps will expand to include apps that can determine if fruits and vegetables are ripe, if refrigerated and frozen foods have been kept at the correct temperature throughout the supply chain, and even test for foodborne bacteria.

The trends listed here are merely a sampling of items from the ongoing discussion.

Jessica Bowes
Senior Business Analyst, Food Nutrition & Health

Image credit: Thinkstock

Related articles:

Food Navigator Trend Spotting Gallery: What’s Hot and What’s Not as we Head Into 2013.
Phil Lempert The Top 10 Food Trend Predictions for 2013
Innova Market Insights Top Trends for 2013
NPR On Your Plate in 2013: Expect Kimchi and Good-for-you Greens
Chicago Tribune 2013 Food Trends: What’s the Buzz in Food
The Test Kitchen Inc. Topline Trends
 






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Posted on 2013.02.25 | Author: Jessica

Macleans.ca posted an interesting article on food wasting back in January. The statistics suggest there is a market for a product/technology/service to significantly reduce the amount of food wasted each year or use it as a feedstock for something else; ultimately reducing the environmental consequences of letting food go to waste. You can read the article at the link below. http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/01/21/the-food-waste-debate-could-use-a-pinch-of-common-sense/


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