Inari grew out of a simple question we asked 3 years ago: “Why isn’t anyone doing in plant sciences what they’re doing in human sciences?”
It was this kind of challenger mindset that led us to form a new venture in the agricultural space. Since then, Inari has brought together more than 80 of the brightest minds in data science and analysis, plant and human biology, agronomy and software engineering, to transform current plant breeding practices and technologies to a more sustainable, economical and effective model.
We continue to question, every day, not only the existing science in Ag Tech today, but also the mindset of the industry itself: how things are done, how companies are managed and how they could be improved. What we’ve attained is a dynamic group of folks from all walks of life, from all over the world, looking for something different. They have created a unique culture that brings us to work every day with smiles on our faces and a shared purpose.
Along with this drive and passion to break the molds, we are creating not only a new horizon in agriculture, but one that is more diverse in both its people and its point of view. Reflecting the dramatic need for diversity in technology, Inari’s team is 50% female, with three women, in particular, in leadership positions, illustrating the depth and range of the Inari vision and mission.
Tale of Three Women
The three professionals — one from North America, one from Asia and the other from Europe — have been brought together by their shared interest to leverage the newest technologies to solve the current, and future, challenges facing agriculture, farmers and the world.
Ponsi Trivisvavet, Catherine Feuillet and Julie Borlaug have each been touched by a deep, personal concern to feed the population while sustaining the environment. Each has traveled extensively so they share a global perspective as well.
Ultimately, all three landed at Inari.
Julie Borlaug, Vice President, Communications and Public Relations
My roots (pun intended) in agriculture run deep and were inspired by my Nobel Peace Prize-winning grandfather, Norman Borlaug, grew up on a farm in Iowa and instilled in me the importance of technology and innovation, bold thinking and the power of the next generation to help improve how we grow our food.
“My grandfather was responsible for the “Green Revolution” in wheat. I want to lead the Green Revolution in Agriculture Communications.”
I was fortunate to have a close relationship with my grandfather and, early on, I adopted his dedication, drive and passion to see innovation and technology used in the fight against hunger. I believe, as he did, that access to healthy food is the “moral right of all who are born into this world,” and that we have an obligation to end hunger and poverty, with technology and innovation playing a key role.
Impacted by my own visits with smallholder farmers in Africa, Asia and Central and South America, I saw first-hand how even the smallest improvement in the growing process can change the life of a farmer and his or her family for the better, even providing the opportunity to educate their children. When it comes to technology, there is no innovation too advanced to make a positive impact for any farmer regardless of size or geography. You can’t be anti-hunger and anti-innovation.
When my grandfather accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, he praised the “army of honorable hunger fighters” in the Green Revolution. Had my grandfather built a company, it would look a lot like Inari, dedicated to science and the best technological breakthroughs for agriculture, and led by the next generation of hunger fighters, who he knew would have the ambition and fortitude to stay positive and fight for innovative solutions.
I am eager to use the Inari platform to change the outreach and communications of the agriculture industry for the past 20 years. My grandfather led the Green Revolution and it is my hope to lead a revolution in agricultural communications. By opening a different dialogue and using new, fresh avenues to communicate with growers and consumers, I hope more people will become involved, understand and support the need for agriculture technologies.
Before joining Inari in 2017, I was honored to serve as Associate Director of External Relations and Strategic Initiatives at the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture at Texas A&M University, continuing my grandfather’s legacy by developing partnerships among public, private and NGO organizations to support agriculture development projects, research and training programs.
Catherine Feuillet, Chief Scientific Officer
A native of Orléans, France, I have been obsessed with everything I could learn about wheat.
My passion for agriculture came when I first started to work on wheat more than 20 years ago and realized how important this crop is to feed the world and yet, how much it has been neglected. Even today, our wheat production is stagnating because technological advances can’t keep up with negative economic and natural factors. I feel a moral obligation to help solve such issues.
I pursued studies in Plant Molecular Biology, Genetics and Genomics and hold Ph.D.’s in both. I had the fantastic opportunity to lead the international effort to sequence the bread wheat genome as founder and co-chair of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (wheatgenome.org) and as project investigator at the INRA (Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique) in France to crack the genetic code of the largest wheat chromosome. Just this chromosome is the size of the entire soybean genome; the bread wheat genome as a whole is 5 times bigger than the human genome and far more complex to decipher.
“I only do what farmers have been doing for ten thousand years. Except that they did it without knowing it, by cross-breeding. Now, we have the capacity to know what we are doing and be better, faster and cheaper than ever.”
Back in 2005, when a few colleagues and I launched the wheat genome sequencing project, nobody believed we could make it. That is exactly the type of challenge that excites me — pushing frontiers, achieving with a group of passionate people what others think is impossible, for an outcome that will impact people’s life. That is my purpose.
Applying that to the wheat genome led to the publishing of the first reference sequence of chromosome 3B in the journal Science three years later followed by many other publications to finally achieve the complete reference sequence…this year!
I couldn’t be prouder that this sequence is being used to serve wheat breeders and farmers around the world. And, the vision of completely transforming plant breeding by pushing the borders, rethinking the way breeding has been done so far by uniquely combining biology and data science, is what brought me to Inari. It was something I have searched throughout my career, but this is so game-changing, and looking impossible, that probably only a startup can achieve it.
And something else attracted me to Inari. Everybody speaks about the importance of diversity and multidisciplinary approaches for “disruptive innovation.” This the first time I see it really happening. Moreover, with 50% of our staff being female scientists, this is quite a change from the industry standard, and a great foundation to develop future leaders. It’s radically different from what I see in this space today.
Before Inari, I spent 10 years at the University of Zurich and nine years in France leading wheat genomics projects. I was also at the origin of the wheat initiative, an international public/private program supported by the G20 countries to improve global wheat production through coordination of research programs. After 20 years of successfully pushing frontiers in wheat genomics in academia to develop resources and knowledge for improving wheat breeding, I joined Bayer Crop Science as the head of Trait Research , allowing me to dive into agriculture and combine my scientific background with new insights and experience with application into new products. As CSO of Inari, I’m finally able to unite these two worlds to once again push frontiers in crop improvement.
Ponsi Trivisvavet, Chief Executive Officer
If a new company is going to behave in a different way, and approach problems from a new perspective, that mission has to start with its leadership. As more and more companies in the AgTech field are calling on women in leadership positions, it was only natural that a newcomer like Inari would begin that way.
Born in Asia and raised in California, I earned an MBA from Cornell University. I’ve lived in more places than most will ever visit, including Switzerland, South Africa and Southeast Asia.
I want to leave the world in a better place than I found it. I thrive on knowing that the technologies Inari is developing and using around the world are helping fight starvation and have dedicated my career to improving agriculture through technology and science. This desire to unlock the science of seeds will help ensure we can sustain and feed the global population of tomorrow.
I see my role as CEO to lead the way for Inari to improve and expand plant breeding technologies to be more available to farmers around the world. The threat of hunger is more than real. We need to address that, while at the same time, not starving the planet.
“When one can create real impact and make a difference for individual growers and their families…that has always been my goal. My dreams will be fulfilled, and that’s how I will measure my success.”
Inari is reimagining the way to do plant breeding. Seed is the core part and carries the intrinsic value for crops. But not a one-size-fits-all seed. The science of the company is not relying on one single technology, but rather deep-diving into several areas that, combined, will significantly change the way we breed plants.
And, it’s not only about what we are doing at Inari, but also about why we do it and how. We boast the richest range of knowledge from those with deep experience in agriculture, as well as a group of scientists who come from human life sciences. We challenge every single step of how current breeding is done, from seed product design to gene discovery to plant delivery by applying an intersection of four scientific disciplines: biology, agronomy, data science and software engineering.
Like many of the Inari team coming from more than 20 nationalities, and with more than 45 Ph.D.’s, I bring my experience from agricultural organizations both big and small. I held the post of President of Syngenta Seeds North America, where I led overall business operations and brought in new corn ethanol solutions to the industry. Most recently, I was COO at another Flagship company, Indigo, where I led the R&D and international business operations.
You’ll be seeing and hearing more about what Julie, Catherine, myself and everyone at Inari are doing to take agriculture to new places. As a new company in this space, it’s our mission to bring to Inari all that we’ve learned from where we’ve been, then run with the ball, rather than follow in others’ footsteps: to create our own path forward, execute and implement our own ideas, and create more affordable, resilient and flexible crops that expedite all agriculture processes responsibly and respectfully .
And, to change the way agriculture sees the world, and how all of us see agriculture.