Carl Casale, EMBA ’92, will be honored on April 30 as the 2021 Dean’s Medalist.
A purpose-driven executive and respected leader in the agriculture and food industries, Casale leads the venture capital practice at Ospraie Ag Science.
His three decades of experience leading globally influential companies across the ag and food sectors provide insight into converging forces that will fundamentally transform global agricultural systems.
“The projections are by 2030 about half the world is going to be middle class or wealthy and the other half is still going to be poor,” he said in an interview.
“What we believe is going to happen is a bifurcation in the food supply. There’ll be those that just want more calories. But increasingly in what we’re seeing in this country is it’s not about how many calories can you produce. It’s how can you produce my calories?”
Consumers are interested in sustainability, transparency and local sources, he said.
“It’s not a fad. It is a shift, we believe. And so we said, ‘OK, if we believe that to be true, what do we want to do?’ And we said, ‘Well, let’s invest in technologies that fulfill those needs that can make farmers more productive but satisfy the desires of consumers in a way that they want met.’”
A farmer himself
A fourth-generation farmer, Casale identifies ag tech investment opportunities that support sustainable food production. In 2018, he helped launch Ospraie Ag Science, which is the venture arm of Ospraie Management. In this role, he leads successful venture campaigns for select companies that help farmers do more with less environmental impact.
In another role, in Casale’s seven years as the CEO and president of CHS Inc., the company returned $3 billion to its owners, invested $9 billion in new capital expenditures and nearly doubled the size of its balance sheet from $8.7 billion in 2010 to $17.3 billion at the end of fiscal 2016. CHS Inc. is a global agribusiness owned by farmers, ranchers and cooperatives across the United States.
Casale said he focused on prudent fiscal management and enhancing management systems at the company. During his tenure, CHS was the only major firm in the industry to manage through the recent economic decline without a planned reduction in workforce, instead relying on strategic cost reductions. Casale reduced working capital by $400 million to help fund a $2.8 billion transformational investment in CF Nitrogen—without taking on an undesirable debt level. The result was an 80-year agreement and a significant new profit source for the co-op’s farmer-owners.
His Monsanto days
At Monsanto Co., Casale rose through the ranks from sales representative to running the company’s largest division at age 36. As executive vice president of strategy and operations, he conceptualized the industry’s first eight-gene agricultural biotech product, “SmartStax,” which became the nation’s No. 1 insect protection trait in corn. As CFO, he reduced several hundred million dollars in operating costs by shifting the reliance on revenue to the strategic use of cash to generate earnings.
From Congress to key industry events, Casale is a sought-after commentator on the future of farming and global ag infrastructure. He remains deeply committed to “creating business models that ensure relevance over time” and continues to shape the ag, food and energy industries in both private and public roles.
Casale and his wife, Kim, operate a 150-acre specialty crop farm in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and his family resides in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.