International Women’s Day has been celebrated for over a century, and this year the theme is ‘gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’. The world will be celebrating women’s achievements, raising awareness against bias, and taking action for equality. #BreakTheBias
As a female entrepreneur in the agriculture industry, we can be exposed to stereotypes and discrimination. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, I was extremely driven to achieve success and had entrepreneurial initiatives I wanted to fulfil. It is well known that generally more middle-aged men than young women embark on developing solutions in the agricultural industry. Even as a professional in the industry with years of experience, you still encounter additional challenges to your male counterparts. We need to focus more on celebrating those women forging innovation and empower them to make a difference.
As well as being inspired by my family, I have also been inspired by fantastic female leaders who taught me to recognise my own strengths and promote them. It’s by following this advice and putting an action plan in place to smash through the glass ceilings that have blocked many women from being successful in agriculture, I find myself as CEO and co-founder of FA Bio (previously FungiAlert).
During my Ph.D. studies at Imperial College London, I was given the opportunity to attend industry events alongside key agricultural stakeholders. It was at this time I was provided with some valuable insight into the challenges in agriculture, with the main one being the emergence of pathogens resistant to fungicides. This is what shaped our original idea that led me and Kerry to found FungiAlert back in 2015 and build it into the business proposition it is today as FA Bio.
It’s easy, as women, to put up our own glass ceilings that block our rise to success, however, there are many fantastic female role models that are working together to forge women’s equality and help build a world that’s more diverse, fair and inclusive. I’ve personally had the honour to work with and be mentored by some truly inspiring female leaders who have become a huge part of my own journey as a female entrepreneur, and I’d like to celebrate them here, today.
Pam Marrone, Ph.D. Executive Chairperson and Partner of Primary BioAg Innovations and Global BioAg Linkages. Dr. Marrone advises six startups, of which five have been founded and are led by women. In 2020, Dr. Marrone was awarded “The Most Admired CEO, Distinguished Career Award” by the Sacramento Business Journal. Prior to this, Dr. Marrone founded Marrone Bio Innovations (MBI) in 2006, a rapidly growing bio-based products company focused on pest management and plant health in global fruit, nut, vegetable and row crop markets.
Dr. Laura Barter, Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London in the Chemistry Department, with a particular focus on Plant Chemical Biology. Since 2005 Dr. Barter has raised over £19 million to support her research programme. Dr. Barter is also Director of AGRI-net, an agri-science chemical biology network with more than 900 members from academia, industry & policy, and Director of the Agri-Futures Lab, a multidisciplinary ICL Network facilitating the transition from concept to prototype, providing access to proof of concept and scale-up facilities.
Hannah Senior NSch, a champion of AgriTech entrepreneurship, she runs PBS International Ltd, a CHAP member working with plant breeders and seed producers to design and manufacture solutions for pollination control. Hannah believes entrepreneurship and technology can make agriculture more profitable, productive, and sustainable.
Professor Alison Stewart has developed microbial technologies that reduce plant disease and stimulate plant growth and discovered new genetic pathways in Trichoderma biocontrol agents. She was the first woman to be appointed professor at Lincoln University in 1998 and became director of the Bio-Protection Research Centre in 2003.
On my day to day, I also have the privilege to work in a team with amazing and inspirational women, each of them being passionate about helping provide solutions for sustainable agriculture. FA-Bio’s co-founder and COO, Dr Kerry O’Donnelly Weaver, R&D Lead, Dr Vijayalakshmi Gunasekaran, Microbial Library Manager, Dr Young Nam Lee, R&D Scientist, Pilar Diez de La Fuente, Office Manager, Leigh Taylor, Molecular Biology Manager, Dr Natalia Taketani, Microbiologist, Sarah Atkins and HR and Office Admin Alison Quinn. They are an example of commitment; excellence and I am proud to be part of their team.
There are many inspirational women who are valued and celebrated in the agriculture industry, too many to name here. Sector driven initiatives like the Women in AgTech Directory are making us visible and fostering networking. The opportunities for females in agriculture are great but there is still some work to do to create an environment where they can thrive. At FA Bio we are focused on collectively making a positive difference and achieving gender parity.
Angela de Manzanos, CEO and Co-founder, FA Bio