23 Sep Alexander Fotsch
Locus Agricultural Solutions provides soil amendments to improve its physical or chemical properties. As the Vice President of Agricultural Operations at Locus Ag, Alexander “Alex” Fotsch manages the product development team. He also can be found traveling, networking, working with universities and extension agents, as well as managing the company’s financial forecast and business model.
For someone in his late 20’s, Alex may seem a little “young” for this large of a role, but the challenges that he’s accepted in his young career has been just as pivotal as the amendments that they sell in saturating his life with the opportunity for growth.
From Undergrad to International International Soils
A graduate of Cornell University in crop science and business, Alex found his way through a variety of agricultural internships and opportunities, as well as a variety of other related activities. One such internship was at the University of San Diego, California, for a biofuels program for Professor Bob Schmidt who had joined with the company SGB. They were looking to expand their testing and trials for cultivars in their Guatemala center.
“They hired me to move down there, which was a radical decision at the time but one of the greatest decisions I have ever made, to manage the testing and trial program,” says Alex. At the time, SGB had several trial farms around the country, including large commercial demonstration projects in India, Brazil, Hawaii and a variety of other locations.
As Alex’s first full time experience working in agriculture, he was heavily saturated in the sustainable fuel production industry. Working there for 18 months, he was then allocated to the San Diego branch where he still currently resides.
The Path to Locus Ag
Alex’s path to Locus Ag started prior to his college degree and international experience, although both were large facets to his current career. Growing up in agriculture, on the family owned and operated vineyard in Napa Valley, Alex laughs that while wine is typically considered “romantic” it is a lot of work. Whether working on a tractor, applying fertilizer, or scouting grapes – Alex developed his love for agriculture young.
When working for SGB in South America, he met Locus Ag CEO Paul Zorner who was advising for an adventure capitalist firm. Paul had always been a mentor for Alex so when Paul started his own company he recruited Alex.
Working as Locus Ag’s Vice President of Operations
Day to Day Basis
Alex’s role is a healthy mix of working in the field and in the office but varies depending on the season or the current products being tested. Locus Ag is responsible for over 125 trials across a number of states. As a result, he travels frequently to different research operations to provide connections with University extension and to deploy third-party testing groups. The purpose of these third-party groups is to add a value of ethics to the project. They demonstrate that the same results can be found outside of the company’s own test plots.
He enjoys being able to chat with growers and universities about the specific pain points in growing a crop and how their amendments can provide solutions. He also spends time in the field working with the team to develop protocols, provide data analysis, oversee and draft reports, and engage universities and growers to collect more data.
A Microbial Solution
Locus Ag’s Rhizolizer® is a soil applied inoculant that makes nutrients more available by encouraging the growth of other microbes. It is a microbial mix of bacteria and fungus. Specifically, it targets crops with poor root utilization and was initially used in Florida as a solution to the Citrus Draining Disease. By revitalizing the root system, they were able to encourage the health of those plants by promoting the movement of sugars, water and nutrients.
As a part of his job, Alex then looks at different territories to pinpoint poor root growth locations and/or crops to test the Rhizolizer® amendment on.
What makes Locus Ag Unique?
“Microbes are a very hot space right now with a number of companies that are just now (understanding) the extent of what these microbes can do,” says Alex.
“The world that we live in, especially the ag systems that we work in, are really run by microbes.”
Many microbes’ full potential is not being realized, lost in the shuffle from production to the farmers field. Locus Ag is looking to make those microbes arrive to the field “fresh” and cool, allowing for a better density and in their most viable form.
Alex explains that what makes Locus Ag unique is that they don’t spend a lot of time searching for one “perfect” microbe that supplies the solution to one specific activity. They instead look for microbes that are either licensable or off patent that are well known and understood in small scale experiments.
Fermentation Engineers & Molecular Biologists
Locus Ag’s fermentation engineers & molecular biologists have been producing in-house proprietary fermentators that can reach densities from ten to one hundred times higher than their competition. These “microbrewery” like concepts for increasing density and viability have allowed growers to need a smaller quantity of product. The smaller amounts of product are easier to store and keep cool, therefore saving cost and extending the life of the microbe as well as increasing the overall operation’s efficiency.
Despite the first startup that Alex worked for out of college going under, he finds the challenges that Locus Ag tackles on a daily basis as huge motivation to continue to work hard and lead.
“I know from talking with growers that a lot of challenges that they are facing are very significant and we are tackling those on a number of fronts,” explains Alex.
Locus Ag is improving soil health, making significant impacts on carbon emissions, helping growers make money, and helping the environment as a whole.
You can catch up with Alex on his LinkedIn profile or by emailing him at Info@LocusAg.com.
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