SV: Marrone Bio has distinguished itself as a company looking to drive innovation in the agricultural market, with a strong technology presence such as an eLearning course on biopesticides. How did Marrone identify the need for a mobile application and what was the development process like?
PM: It is a given that we are innovators in R&D. But our Board, with some IT VCs, thought the sales and marketing side of ag pesticides was not very innovative. They challenged us to be innovative in sales and marketing too! So we developed and launched the first ever online biopesticide course for our customers (pest control advisors) to get 2 credit hours of continuing education units and gain more knowledge and awareness of biopesticides and our products. We have been talking to customers and noticed they are using smart phones more and more. They like the apps on the
PM: We have more practical ag apps on the drawing board and a second module for our biopesticide university online.
SV: As the CEO and Founder of Marrone Bio, can you give us a background on the company’s origins, what it set out to achieve and how it developed?
PM: I started the company in 2006 to continue what I started at my previous companies - to discover, develop and market effective and environmentally responsible natural products for pest, weed and plant disease management. This time, however, we are putting more products into development in parallel so that we will have a more diverse and larger pipeline to ramp up revenues faster. We now have two products on the market, a product waiting approval at the EPA for controlling invasive zebra and quagga mussels and 4 more in development.
SV: This fall, Marrone Bio was recognized as a New California 100 Innovative Business by Golden Capital Network and Hamilton Lane. What are some of Marrone Bio's best practices for creating a culture of innovation?
PM: We hire people who can think out of the box, ask a lot of questions and know what they don't know because my experience is that innovation is suppressed when scientists are too insecure to admit when they don't know something. Also, it is normal that after a time everyone gets set in their ways so we try to challenge employees to think of different ways to solve problems and overcome obstacles. Mistakes are tolerated if the situation is analyzed, lessons learned and the same mistake is not repeated.
SV: Can you give us an overview on your company’s philosophy and how Marrone Bio is leading the pack on sustainable agriculture?
PM: Global food production with need to double to keep up with increasing population. To do this, food must be produced in the most sustainable manner possible. We think natural pest management products like ours are a major part of the future food system by providing providing better yields and quality while keeping the environment and people safer, reducing pesticide residues, and preventing pests from developing resistance. We have the largest biopesticide pipeline and are the only company discovering extracts of microorganisms and plants that kill insects, weeds, nematodes, and plant diseases. Our focus is on innovation - providing novel, greener solutions to unmet needs.
SV: Having worked with Astia since 2006, and being awarded the Innovator Award for Clean Tech in 2008, what have you found the value of the Astia program and network to be?
PM: Astia helped me hone my pitch to investors, introduced me to a fabulous network of talented women entrepreneurs with the same problems and issues that I have, and provided visibility to a fledging company.