Vice President, Plant Science

Laramie, WY

About Plenty

At Plenty, we’re on a mission to give people in local communities everywhere access to the freshest, most amazing tasting produce possible. And to do so in a way that’s better for the planet.

About the Role

The Vice President, Plant Science will build and lead an applied plant science organization responsible for discovery of new crops, phased development of new crops and products, fundamental research, farm and farm systems planning and design collaboration (in conjunction with other R&D teams (Engineering, Product and Applied R&D) as well as Deployment and Operations).  This role will be heavily focussed on yield, and quality as levers to drive farm economics, and a deep understanding of how system variables can be manipulated, and the cost of that manipulation drives economic outcomes for the farm.  Plenty has developed a farming platform technology that will grow the global capacity to produce food, and free humanity from the constraints of land availability, water, weather and inputs.  It is the most advanced agricultural technology suite ever created. It offers a way to fundamentally change the way humans exist on Planet Earth.  However, in order to achieve this goal, Plenty farm cost and performance need to continue to improve, while simultaneously launching new crops and products .  This will be achieved through innovative, creative exploration and manipulation, application of fundamental science, rigorous trials and trial management.  The Plant Science team will be responsible for joint delivery of R&D outcomes with Engineering such as farm design and evolution, crop selection, product development and improving yield and quality at scale. You will also be collaborating closely with the Commercial team on crop optimization for customer and consumer markets, to ensure a return on investment in R&D is monetized, and that new crop efforts solve for market requirements. 

Specific leadership & oversight responsibilities include:

  • Articulate and implement a clear financial ROI based approach to R&D investment in Plant Science, that is coordinated closely with the wider R&D team, and can be quantified and qualified as a key element of Plenty’s technology strategy.
  • For instance:
    •  Drive yield improvement and flavor/quality improvement for plan of record and new crops and products with research and optimization processes
    • Drive cost down at the farm level with improved production methods and plant-centric design
  • Designing and organizing cross-disciplinary teams and recruiting high-caliber science leadership and individual contributors, across the applied and fundamental sciences 
  • Define values and drive mindset focused on speed, simplicity and high-performance
  • Collaborate and guide farm, equipment and component design by working closely with Engineering and Product - managing effectively across the geographic and remote work challenges of the distinct sites in Plenty- specifically, managing creative processes and tendencies for teams to silo 
  • Build career paths, foster professional development and mentor junior scientists
  • Build strong organizational feedback loops between Plant Science and the rest of the R&D organization, Deployment and Operations to ensure that the products being designed are appropriate and reflect the experience and needs of the users/customers
  • Build strong teams and teams of teams. Be highly collaborative. 
  • Shows an understanding of domain areas adjacent in R&D, for example, engineering and the inherent differences in world-view between scientists and other parts of the business. Be comfortable working at the biological-mechanical interface.
  • Author and implement strategic and tactical approaches for the Plant Science team to create more value, faster, for the organization. 
  • Author Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and KPIs that are effective for driving transparency, accountability, and clarity throughout the organization regarding plant science outcomes, from the strategic to the tactical
  • Drives operating philosophy research focus, approach and using science for value creation for the organization
  • Has an ability to communicate with other non-technical  members of the executive team to demonstrate relevance and impact/risk of plant science decisions; also has the ability to step into discussions at the level of the board of directors.

What We're Looking For

The ideal candidate will have experience building, leading and guiding applied science teams.  They will have helped to define the goals and approaches of these teams from the strategic to the tactical, to the end of achieving very difficult goals.  This candidate will have had experience using science in industry to create measurable and definable financial value.   The candidate will  have a first principles approach, and is unafraid to reject design work for better approaches.  Experience with complex design and science problems, defining and targeting improvements and creative, out of the box applied science is ideal.  The right leader will be creative but realistic and know how to manage the risks of improvement against performance and cost in other parts of the organization.  This role is highly strategic, and will demand that candidates are strategically designing and directing their organization in the larger context of the business and its markets.  Plenty science and engineering must be closely coupled.  This role will require close and enthusiastic cross-disciplinary partnership building between engineers and scientists.

Expertise and experience across a combination of the following disciplines will be important:

  • Plant and crop physiology
  • Optimization processes, structured research
  • Statistical designs and methods, data management
  • Exploratory, definitive research focussed on discovering and defining opportunities for the business
  • Plant breeding
  • Greenhouse growing and/or horticulture
  • The biological-mechanical interface 
  • Recruiting and organization building
  • Strategic planning
  • Strong budget and program management capabilities to meet scope, schedule and budget parameters
  • Large team management, building and leadership experience
  • Cross-functional leadership of teams working with all science disciplines as well as non-science disciplines.   

This executive will have a proven track record building and scaling a high-performance team, as well as developing and continuously improving robust processes and systems in particular in a complex technical setting. Successful performance completing large scale, complex projects on-time, on-spec and on-budget is essential.

This position will require high EQ and an ability to drive more collaborative, relational thinking through the Plant Science and R&D organization.

In terms of the performance and personal competencies required for the position, we highlight the following:

Setting Strategy

  • The ability to create and articulate an inspiring vision for the organization, not only for the areas s/he is directly responsible for, but to participate within the senior leadership team’s strategy for the enterprise as a whole.
  • The inclination to seek and analyze data from a variety of sources to support decisions and to align others with the organization's overall strategy.
  • An entrepreneurial and creative approach to developing new, innovative ideas that will stretch the organization and push the boundaries within the CEA industry.
  • The ability to effectively balance the desire / need for broad change with an understanding of how much change the organization is capable of handling, to create realistic goals and implementation plans that are achievable and successful.
  • The ability to communicate up to Board level on strategy around Deployment and integration into company OKRs.

Executing for Results

  •  The ability to set clear and challenging goals while committing the organization to improved performance; tenacious and accountable in driving results.
  •  Comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty; the ability to adapt nimbly and lead others through complex situations.
  • A risk-taker who seeks data and input from others to foresee possible threats or unintended circumstances from decisions; someone who takes smart risks.
  •  A leader who is viewed by others as having a high degree of integrity and forethought in his/her approach to making decisions; the ability to act in a transparent and consistent manner while always taking into account what is best for the organization.

Leading Teams

  • The ability to attract and recruit top talent, motivate the team, delegate effectively, celebrate diversity within the team, and manage performance; widely viewed as a strong developer of others.
  • The ability to persevere in the face of challenges, and exhibit a steadfast resolve and relentless commitment to higher standards, which commands respect from followers.
  • A leader who is self-reflective and aware of her/his own limitations; leads by example and drives the organization's performance with an attitude of continuous improvement by being open to feedback and self-improvement.
  • A leader who values an inclusive culture that promotes best ideas and best people.

Relationships and Influence

  • Naturally connects and builds strong relationships with others, demonstrating strong emotional intelligence and an ability to communicate clearly and persuasively.
  • An ability to inspire trust and followership in others through compelling influence, powerful charisma, passion in his/her beliefs, and active drive.
  • Encourages others to share the spotlight and visibly celebrates and supports the success of the team.
  • Creates a sense of purpose / meaning for the team that generates followership beyond his/her own personality and engages others to the greater purpose for the organization as a whole.

Food Safety Requirement

  • Comply with all Plant, State and Federal OSHA, EPA, FDA, HACCP, and SQF regulations.
  • Participate and lead in the annual Management review of the Food Safety and quality system.
  • Ensure appropriate allocation of resources for food safety and quality and responsible for Food Safety at Plenty.

About Plenty

Plenty is here to change the way people eat, making extraordinary flavor and nutrition more available in a way that's better for people and the planet. We build farms that can put craveable flavor first while delivering exceptional yields. And our produce is always pesticide-free and grown using less than 1% of the land and 5% of the water of outdoor farming.