Eric Spell on sustainability in agriculture and putting values first

by Joe Opaleski, Charles Aris Executive Search, InterSearch member in the USA

Eric Spell wants his company to help agriculture go green.

Spell joined the firm as a practice leader in 2021 with decades of agricultural recruiting experience, but he says the increased focus on sustainability in all levels of his field, from technology to culture, has changed the type of skills he’s seeking to fill executive roles.

“[The value of sustainability] is only going to intensify,” Spell explained. “Even candidates are drawn to that and want to be part of something bigger; [they] want to give back.”

People often misunderstand food and agriculture, he went on to say, but investments in areas like vertical farming and carbon neutrality are driving the industry forward, and organizations are set on investing in the right people to lead them into the future.

Spell says his clients are adamant on finding executive talent who share their vision of a green future and who understand how important agricultural advances are for the world at large. Ensuring that candidates hold sustainability as a personal value, not exclusively a professional focus, is something these organizations are insistent on.

“One of the things that people in agriculture share is we want to feel like we’re making a difference in the world,” Spell said.

This has changed how the practice leader qualifies his candidates. For example, Spell will often ask people where they get their information, how they educate themselves and how these sources impact their values. With much of the agricultural industry in transition to renewables and emerging technology, clients want informed, well-rounded candidates stepping in.

Biostimulants, or fertilizer additives derived from substances or microorganisms that naturally promote healthy crop growth, are one example of a green innovation that requires knowledgeable executives to lead their implementation. In addition to finding candidates interested in expanding on this type of technology, clients are increasingly in need of people with public relations skills to spread the word about how they work and why they are important.

With private equity investment also growing in this sphere, experience in nuanced corporate strategy is another quality growing in demand. “We need people that have fresh ideas and views,” Spell said. “It may come from a different industry sector or [from someone who] grew up in a city … and wants to contribute to feeding the world.”

At the intersection of multiple searches where green thinking is top priority, Spell says he is poised to make sustainability a key aspect of his practice. “I think it’s a really exciting time in agriculture with the amount of investments that are [being] made and the opportunities that are going to be associated with it,” Spell reflected.

To learn more about Eric Spell’s executive search capabilities, call or text him at (336) 217-9116 or email at

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Eric Spell on sustainability in agriculture and putting values first

2 min

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