Robb Mohr

    November 13, 2018

    Robb Mohr got a truck at the start of the year, brand new, after working as Indigo’s Mideast and Midwest Agronomy Lead for two months. In January, nothing grows in Illinois, Indiana, or Pennsylvania, the three states where Robb had been working with 30 growers for the upcoming season; or in Ohio, where he now lives. He knew, however, that there’d soon be miles to cover. Planning meetings to facilitate, scouting visits for each stage of vegetative growth to conduct. Comprehensive harvest plans to map, grain-sampling procedures to complete. The odometer in the truck, with its initial pristine line of zeroes, would soon roll up.

    But 50,000 miles, now, in a little under eleven months? “Well, I mean, I’ve covered nearly 100 miles since you called,” Robb says, which is nearly half the length of Indiana. He chuckles. “I’ll put it this way: If I can get where I need to go within two hours, that’s a short commute.”

    Odometer comes from the Greek hodós, signifying a “path” or “gateway.” Meaning the gauge in Robb’s car represents both the road and the driveway, the journey and the arrival. That gauge comprises the trips to, from, and around the 14,000 acres of corn, soybeans, and soft red winter wheat he services, as well as all of the observations and analysis made, remedies and solutions agreed upon. That gauge indicates the aggregated time he’s spent as a trusted advisor to those 30 growers, those “fierce and independent” individuals, Robb says, he only wants to support.

    Typically, Robb leaves home on a Monday to reach the growers furthest from him, returning to Ohio on a Wednesday or Thursday to meet and canvass with those closer to home. Daily travel across states is of little consequence, a small sacrifice for fulfilling work, at a significant scale, for a company he believes in.

    “Indigo is what the agriculture industry needs,” he says. Robb explains that the microbial seed treatments the company engineers mitigate a variety of risks associated with farming, tied especially around heat stress and drought stress.

    While the geographies over the three states Robb’s working in are relatively similar, the myriad compounding factors that influence specific areas soil type, weed and disease pressure, or total precipitation received, for example means every recommendation Robb makes over the year, for each field and farm, must be unique. Similarly, while there is overlap in the analytical processes needed to understand each field, each process has its own nuances, specifications, advantages. Robb sometimes “scouts” with satellite technology first, for example, using precision-based software to “pinpoint places the crop’s performing well, or poorly” before setting out on foot. During those walks among the rows, turning over the leaves to check for dark, concentric circles that spell blight, searching for pests hovering around the crop, or checking the soil up close, Robb’s attempting to gather insights on more than biomass.

    Indigo line break

    Regardless of location, the goal is ubiquitous: Increase grower profitability, while keeping the land healthy. These key pillars of Indigo’s mission is what attracted Robb to the company in the first place, a maxim he has followed over his twenty-three years working as an agronomist. “Putting more money in the farmer’s pocket, that’s what gets me up in the morning,” he says, explaining that previous tenures at ag and seed companies were always lacking because of misalignment with the farmer’s bottom line, environmentally sustainable practices, and consumer preferences.

    Agronomy is more than a profession for Robb. There’s a link to his own life, a youth spent on his family farm near Normal, Illinois. There was corn, soybeans, wheat, and alfalfa to tend to during the growing months, a hundred guernsey dairy cows to milk at dawn. Robb’s father was a proponent of both higher education (Robb went to Illinois State, where he studied agronomy) and helping others. He was encouraging towards Robb when, after a stint a seed company out of school, Robb knew he wanted to continue in his career as an agronomist.

    With those 50,000 miles Robb traveled went the year, the sun setting later and later, then earlier and earlier. Harvest near completion, a bulk of decisions already made for the next growing season, Robb plans to hunker down into analysis and planning for the winter months, maximizing the next rotation with his growers. The completion of another cycle has left him reflective.

    “Think about this: When you’re talking about your average farmer, he or she is in the profession for about 30 years or so,” Robb says. “That’s 30 times in your life to do it right. That’s 30 times to pick the right fertilizer, or tiling practice, or seed treatment. It’s not only their business, it’s their livelihood. When a grower puts trust in me, I want to make sure to make every one of those 30 times right.”


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