James Woolard spent the last 14 years at Reebok, heading up everything from regional Sports Marketing and Brand to Global Marketing for the brand’s Running and Style units. However, James felt that he needed a change: a new challenge, a new industry, a new way to make an impact. His search brought him to the world of AgTech and Freight Farms, where he saw the huge potential of both the company and the industry and knew it was just what he had been looking for. In this article, James shares the four big reasons why he was so drawn to the AgTech industry, and how he believes his previous experience will help propel Freight Farms forward.
"In the past, I have always resisted “building a social presence” as a result of a (very British) suspicion of people’s real motives and my own laziness in maintaining it. In truth, the former reason is an easy cover story for the latter. However, in this case, my aversion to online social platforms has been overruled by a greater feeling that I want to share: Gratitude.
I am grateful for the experiences I have had, the people I have been fortunate enough to meet, and excited by all the opportunities in the future. However, most recently I am grateful for the opportunity to become the Chief Marketing Officer of Freight Farms. There were several small reasons to make the switch–but they all scaffold up to four somewhat big reasons:
Creating a simple solution for a complex problem
A pioneer of indoor agriculture and a leader in hydroponic container farming, Freight Farms has a suite of products and technology that can revolutionize access to hyper-local fresh grown produce. Our products reflect a level of complex design and engineering on which far cleverer people than me tirelessly work; yet the solution we are
creating is incredibly simple — A 2.5-acre smart farm in a 40ft freight container that can go anywhere in the world to provide food security. With already over 300 of our farms around the world, we are building a tech-connected network of farmers who are simultaneously solving food access issues in their own communities and building a new global food system–all powered by Freight Farms technology.
1 in 6 people in the world relies on food imports to feed them daily. This number is set to reach 3 in 6 by 2050. 9 counties, mostly in California, are responsible for most of the food supply within the U.S. Any disruption (fires, drought, etc) can be catastrophic to the whole
system. In the U.S., 19 million people currently live in food deserts with limited access to healthy and nutritious fresh foods.
Leveraging cross-category experience
In addition, I am incredibly grateful to my former colleagues at Reebok and Adidas. I was lucky enough to have a robust education in the UK Sports industry and be part of and learn from an amazing Adidas leadership team. I was fortunate enough to come to the US, understand firsthand the dynamics of a global business, and meet a diverse range of interesting people. And I got to set up my family in Boston.
Now it is time to apply this experience to Freight Farms. Why the move from sports to Agtech you might ask? Yes, I needed the change and new challenge. And yes I would be lying if I said I targeted Agtech but sometimes you find what you need without realizing it. I am still a sports fan at heart — and when I first walked into the offices I walked into a locker room full of energy and talent. I was intrigued and hooked early on. I met Jon–a guy who had thought, “Screw corporate life, why can’t I put a farm in a freight container and build a business helping people grow local food?”; I met a team of people (young, purposeful, talented ones) like Caroline, our Director of Marketing and Community Relations, with huge potential and authenticity who wanted to learn and grow; I met a new CEO in Rick and CTO in Jake with pedigree and passion; I saw a set of investors backing this all with capital.
Driving profits for company & customers
At Freight Farms, I saw the impact I personally could have on the business. We have a thriving community of customers who have been essential in building Freight Farms’ success. The stories are inspiring, and I am eager to apply my experience to help Freight Farmers achieve their own individual success with the best possible support from our company. At the end of the day, we can’t be shy about saying “everyone is here to make money”, because that’s the only way our mission to build a global infrastructure of local farms can succeed. I am here to embrace this and say ‘how can we create a return on
investment for every stakeholder’? This is how we will grow.
Saying ‘no’ to greenwashing and ‘yes’ to tech for good
I am conscious of the perceived need to be on trend with “sustainability”, of the danger of falling into buzzwords and jargon that are of the moment. There is a business model and story myriad people are chasing. This is all happening parallel to a degradation of
our trust in technology; as a society, we recognize it’s time to direct it towards something good. With three girls under 12 (all over using screens in Covid times), with the power of the big brands, with algorithms driving division, I believe people want to see positive expressions of technology beyond driving up their 401k. Combined, these two factors unlock our greatest brand strength in 2021: we already do leverage technology and data to create a truly sustainable product. There’s no need to spin, exaggerate, or greenwash. We can carry on doing exactly what we are doing with confidence that we’re creating the kind of positive impact the world needs.
That’s what is most exciting about entering the ‘Agtech’ industry: the moniker actually means something — the former (Agriculture) consistently driving change throughout history, and the latter (tech) acting as the most rapid accelerator of that change in my lifetime. It’s exhilarating, and I can’t wait to see how far we can take it.