Looking back, AgroFresh CFO Graham Miao says that the decision to change careers early in his professional life was triggered more or less by resource allocation.
Originally, Miao had trained as a biologist, and after having earned a doctoral degree in biology from Columbia University, he quickly found gainful employment as a scientist at a research facility run by pharmaceutical giant Roche.Read More
It was here amidst the daily pursuit of biological insights that Miao began to observe how finance and accounting professionals held sway over many of the resources needed to complete different projects.
“It made you wonder, ‘What is it that accountants know about science that scientists don’t?,’” explains Miao, who after 5 years with Roche returned to Columbia to study business full-time.
“At the time, my boss and colleagues thought that I was being crazy and that it was too risky,” remarks Miao, who notes that the pursuit of yet another degree required that he take out a student loan.
Next, Miao joined JPMorgan, where he worked in equity research and served investment banking clients that were looking to better communicate the “equity story” to investors.
“The pace of the job was completely different from what I was used to as a scientist,” comments Miao, who adds that the discussions he found himself having as an investment banker further revealed to him the breadth of finance’s influence and boosted his confidence in having made the right decision. –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about Agrofresh—What does it do and what are its offerings today?
Miao: Our mission is to be the guardian of fresh produce, so here’s a little bit of history about AgroFresh Solutions. It’s a story of innovation. The company was started within the former Rohm and Haas, which was later acquired by Dow. It was founded on the discovery by a couple of professors at North Carolina State University of a new use for a molecule called 1-MCP with a profound impact on the fruit ripening process. So 1-MCP, later AgroFresh, was able to utilize this technology and develop a very successful product called SmartFresh, which for the past 20 years has transformed the apple industry.Read More
The product is a gas. Scientifically, it works to block any ethylene receptors on an apple; as a result, it slows down the ripening process of the apple during storage. Just think about the impact of this technology over the past two decades. Without this technology, we would rely on seasonal fruit like apples by importing from the Southern Hemisphere because in the United States, Northern Hemisphere apples are harvested in the fall. Without this technology, we would run out of fresh apples in a few months, and then we would need to import from a Southern Hemisphere source.
Because of this technology, our customers—growers and packers—are able to keep apples fresh throughout the season. Our customers increase their yield, better manage their fruit, and gain visibility into the supply chain with regard to food quality and a number of other key decision-making factors.
Pull Quote: “When AgroFresh was spun out of Dow, the organization was less than prepared to be an independently run public company. … We’ve done a lot of work over the past few years, when we refinanced $400 million debt. And we were able to attract a strategic investor that invested $150 million into the business.” jb
AgroFresh | www.AgroFresh.com | Philadelphia, PA