John Jessen, Gowan Co.

John Jessen
Supporting Innovations in Agriculture

John Jessen and the Gowan Co. sponsor the Big Bang! Business Competition’s Food + Agriculture Sector Award, along with AGR Partners. Jessen and the Gowan Co. have been a constant partner and supporter of the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship for several years.

A 1956 UC Davis graduate, John Jessen has invested his time in crop consulting for over 50 years; he founded the Gowan Co. in 1962. The Gowan Co. is a global, family-owned agricultural solutions business headquartered in Yuma, Ariz. The company specializes in developing, marketing and processing agricultural inputs such as crop protection products, seeds and fertilizers. Gowan works to provide solutions to critical pest problems and improve their portfolio with products that serve the niche needs of agriculture.

Food + Agriculture Sector Award

What was the most important advice you received when starting your business or launching your career?

I do not remember getting advice when I started.  Events made my path obvious. 

What major opportunities and challenges do you foresee in your field in the coming years?

Media and political headwinds are hammering synthetic pesticides. New science-based approaches to plant health management are needed to sidestep the politics while rebuilding confidence in the regulatory system.

Another major challenge for Gowan is industry consolidation. It appears to be reducing R&D headcount (new products) while squeezing profit and competition out of the distribution system.

What prompted your company to support the Big Bang!?

We appreciate how the Big Bang! inspires potential entrepreneurs to think deeply about business ideas, prepare business models, and aggressively question their facts and assumptions. I agreed to judge the event as I enjoy seeing young people from diverse backgrounds and disciplines working to learn and present their ideas using these skills. 

What is your top advice for the aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs participating in the Big Bang!?

Get a job in the industry until you understand what part of it you want to be in. Secure a customer base if possible. Have a plan to keep the cash flowing while you get started.

How else do you support innovation in your field or industry?

We support innovative opportunities by investing in them, but the hardest thing to do is to develop a culture that thinks and acts on innovation. We have not figured that out yet.