March 2, 2020

Changing the World by Putting People First at AeroFarms

aerofarms employees and team members

We sat down with MaryAlice Feinstien, who joined AeroFarms’ leadership team as the VP of People at AeroFarms after over a decade with Google, to learn how she is supporting a people-centered approach to technology and what inspired her to join the AeroFarms journey. 

Tell us a little about your background: Coming from a company that innovates everyday, it was important to me that in my next journey I found a place that used data, technology and innovation to make the world a better place. At AeroFarms, I am able to use my 25+ years of experience in HR with a focus on technology to help take AeroFarms into the next phase of scalable growth. Spending 12 years at Google helped me see how data-driven goals and objectives lead to high performing team cohesion and innovation, ultimately driving success. I want to is to ensure data is integrated in all we do. Data must be used to support innovation and to encourage creativity, allowing a company to be forward thinking and more predictive when assessing risk. I am excited to help bring another level of data-driven process and structure to AeroFarms as we enter the next stage of business growth: being an emerging-growth company.How does AeroFarms approach company culture? At AeroFarms, we are ensuring a culture of innovation to not only grow the best plants possible for the betterment of humanity, but also grow the best teams possible. We have developed guiding principles that pay homage to our interconnected approach to people-centered science and technology. The acronym for our principles is: C2A2RE (Collaboration, Communication, Accountability, Agility, Respect and Empowerment). We inspire our employees to embody these principles in all we do. We’re going beyond “getting a job done” – our goal is to instill a culture of the C2A2RE principles in all aspects of our growing company, and reward and recognize our team members for living and breathing these values. 

As a mission-driven organization and a Certified B-Corporation, we continue to take it one step further – we are focused on changing not only agriculture but also how business is done across the industry. From Day One, AeroFarms was formed to have a positive impact in society and feed humanity, keeping in mind all of the stakeholders from the environment to our community to our investors to our customers. We are passionate about helping not only our plants thrive but also our team members, and are committed to hiring locally and revitalizing local economies. One aspect of AeroFarms I am most proud of is our commitment to job creation within the local economy. In Newark, we have created about 120 jobs for Newarkers while our farm in Danville, Virginia (our groundbreaking to begin building the farm is slated for 2020) will create 80+ new jobs. Our farms are by the community for the community, and our goal is to continue to work with the communities we serve to provide the opportunities and skills for entering agtech. Find out more about how we’re transforming agtech through our video with World Economic Forum here.

Why are people at the center of a tech-focused company like AeroFarms? We believe people are the key to success in tech-focused companies like AeroFarms. In contrast to a common fear that automation eliminates jobs, our view is that automation enables each and every one of us to optimize our own work experience and make it more fulfilling and efficient. Our goal is to find the best employees for each role and help them succeed by continuing to innovate, grow and develop new skill sets and interests. We have had team members join who have never worked in agriculture and we have made them farmers. 

Moreover, we are not just a farm – we are a group of full-stack, world-class agriculture experts fundamentally changing the way plants are understood and how food is grown. At AeroFarms, horticulture intersects with engineering, food safety, data science, and nutrition, giving us the unique capability to understand plant biology in a way that has never been understood. We utilize and have developed cutting-edge approaches to machine vision, machine learning and IoT integration, bringing agriculture into the future at a rapid pace. 

What advice do you have for professionals wanting to work for a change-the-world company like AeroFarms? People are searching for career opportunities through which they can make a positive impact in areas they are passionate about. Finding a career path and company that is compatible with this mindset can be daunting; my advice to keep looking for that place and maybe that is AeroFarms for you! We are looking for team members that are excited to embody are C2A2RE Principles and join a growing team of strategic thinkers, game changers and innovators. We want to find you just as much as you want to find us – click here to grow with us. 

What does the future look like for AeroFarms? With recent team wins like being recognized on Fast Company’s World Changing Ideas, TIME’s Best Inventions List, Thrive Top 50 list and receiving the designation of #1 on the FoodTech 500 list, we are excited to continue growing our company with the mission to grow the best plants possible for the betterment of humanity. I come to work everyday truly excited about using my 25 years of experience to implement an organizational structure that is able to adapt to and incorporate constant innovation that moves at light speed. With this core strength and flexibility, we are unstoppable in making our vision a reality in the vertical farming industry and transform the future of food, today. 

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