Sound Agriculture was still a relatively young company when the COVID-19 struck in early 2020. Like so many other businesses, we were forced to drastically change our operating procedures, cut out travel, institute work from home policies and learn to adapt to virtual meetings. But now, after more than a year and a half, the Sound team finally had the opportunity to connect in person. While adhering to local safety guidelines, the team convened in Central California this August to strategize, team-build and celebrate the company’s successes.
The Sound Off(site) was the first time many members of the team had the chance to meet in person. In 2019 Sound launched its first product, the microbiome activator SOURCE™ for Corn, and since then the company has grown significantly. However, with COVID-19 restrictions and physical distancing requirements during the last year and a half, many relationships have been built online. The three-day event was a welcome opportunity for team members to meet in person and reinforce the company’s culture and values.
No matter what team you are on, you are part of this — the work you are doing today is laying the groundwork for the food system of the future; a more resilient, more sustainable food system.
“It can be hard to break into company culture and now, with COVID, it’s even harder. Who is behind the curtain on various teams?” said Lisa LaManna, a research scientist who joined Sound in July. “It’s been awesome to get outside the lab and make those connections again. Getting to see what’s going on across the company revs up the passion I feel for my own role as a scientist.”
CEO Adam Litle spoke to the team not just about the state and future of the company, but about Sound’s key values. As a science-based agricultural start up, we have four key values:
“Our values are both observed and aspirational — we found the prevalent themes in our team’s work and drew them to the forefront,” said CEO Adam Litle. “They come naturally to us, but are also worth constantly reinforcing. They inform everything from the day-to-day culture to our core mission. We include them in our semi-annual reviews, monthly employee recognition, daily call outs on Slack, and now in our in-person offsite. I’m proud of our values and culture being more than just lip service, and our commitment to them is what keeps a company on track.”
The offsite included several breakout strategy sessions where cross-functional teams worked together to provide input on products, strategy and planning. By giving individuals a chance to share their perspectives and bring different viewpoints to the table, Sound aims to boost creativity and build an inclusive environment.
“I spend a lot of my time on the road, meeting with farmers, dealers, going to farm shows,” said Scott Dowden, a regional sales manager based in Missouri. “Sometimes spending time with other team members takes a back seat. People on research, marketing, product development teams — we talk on Zoom, but a one-inch square is no way to get to know someone. But building a cardboard boat in 30 minutes and tossing a team member in it in hopes that it’ll float, you quickly learn a thing or two about the people you’re working with.”
In addition to team building and strategy, the offsite was also an opportunity to look towards the company’s future. With two breakthrough biotech platforms addressing some of the most critical issues being faced by our planet, the company is poised to advance sustainability efforts in both food and agriculture. The company’s recent financing is testament to the exciting opportunities that lie ahead. Drawing on inspiration from guest speakers from the food innovation space like Dana Worth, Senior Vice President of Commercial at Plenty and former Vice President of Sales at Impossible Foods, the team was able to imagine the full scope of Sound’s innovations.
“From a scientific and potential impact perspective, I can honestly say we are working on the two most exciting and innovative areas of plant science,” said co-founder and CTO Travis Bayer, PhD. “In terms of our employees, no matter what team you are on, no matter where you work or how you work, you are part of this, you are changing what is possible in agriculture, and the work you are doing today is laying the groundwork for the food system of the future; a more resilient, more sustainable food system.”