Innovation Across the Food System: A Q&A with Ecolab CEO Doug Baker

March 11th, 2020

Ecolab as a partner of Techstars Farm to Fork wasn’t obvious to many people. However, once you dig a bit deeper, you realize the integral role they play across the food system. When you combine this with the organization’s willingness to mentor, engage and work with founders, it becomes an obvious partnership. When I first met Doug Baker, CEO of Ecolab, and described to him my vision for the Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator, it just clicked. I was immediately confident that Techstars + Ecolab would be a mutually beneficial partnership helping everyone accelerate efforts to drive Food Tech innovation.

Over the last two years I have been blown away by the level of commitment Doug and our Ecolab mentors have shown the entrepreneurs that have been a part of our program. They have a tremendous vision and drive to continue to innovate in order to build sustainable food and water systems.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Doug, who has been Ecolab’s CEO since 2004, to talk about corporate innovation, Ecolab’s role in the food system, our Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator in partnership with Cargill and Ecolab, and much more.

It was a great opportunity to hear Doug’s thoughts on how our program’s themes of robotics, employee safety and compliance, and data play into the future of the food system. Towards the end of our talk, I also asked Doug one of my favorite questions — if you were going to found a company, what would your startup do? His answer reflects Ecolab’s recent commitments while echoing how important robotics and data will be to the future of our planet.

The entire video is worth watching (watch it here), but I’ve also put together an outline of my questions so you can easily find specific subjects within the video:

0:22 How does Ecolab play in the food value chain?

1:21 How does Ecolab think about innovation internally and externally — why do a program like Techstars Farm to Fork?

3:53 How does Ecolab think about three of the areas of the Techstars Farm to Fork year 3 thesis: Robotics, Employee Safety, Compliance & Efficiency, and Data?

6:14 Digging deeper into robotics and the role they play in the food value chain

8:51 What are the current barriers preventing robotics from playing an even larger role?

10:40 If Doug was going to start a company today, what type of company would he be interested in launching?

11:52 How does Ecolab engage both with startups that go through Techstars Farm to Fork, and with startups in general?

Again, a big thanks to Doug for the great conversation and shared insights on this video, but also for your support and participation in the Farm to Fork program!

And finally, a quick reminder that applications for year 3 of Techstars Farm to Fork are due on April 5, 2020.

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