This Fall AFAM is launching its “FOOD FOR THOUGHT” interview series.
“FOOD FOR THOUGHT” is a way to unveil and understand what is behind some engineering jobs in the Food/Agriculture Industry in the US. AFAM has no intention of analyzing this big and complex industry but wants to gain some understanding of what it is to be an engineer in the Food sector, what opportunities it might open up and skills it requires.
Above all, “FOOD FOR THOUGHT” is a great way of getting acquainted with our diverse and vibrant gadz community in the US!
Our first interviewee is....Jérémy Berros (Li 206), Battery Tools Director, North America, at PELLENC Group
AFAM: Hello, Jérémy, and thank you for taking the time to share your expertise with our blog readers. Your job title is Battery Powered Tools Director for North America at PELLENC Group. What does it mean exactly and what do you do in a daily basis for your job?
Jérémy: I am the Head of the activities involving a full range of Lithium-ion Batteries for various applications in the Vineyards, Agriculture and Green Space markets at PELLENC America. Energy storage and portability is one of the great challenges of the global economy. PELLENC is one of the leaders in the Winegrape Industry from the Vineyard to the Winery. My main focus is developing the business of the company in North America especially in fields and territories with the most potential like Canada and the USA. My day to day job consists of developing our footprint, brand visibility, sales and services through our California-based offices, our network of distributors, dealers and agents, our E-Commerce platform for online sales. Back office tasks are also involved such as inventory management, interfacing with the HQ in France. For example, in the next couple of months I will be traveling to the East Coast, South-East, Great Lakes Region and British Columbia Area to find new dealers, new agents, meet with customers and attend trade shows.
AFAM: Is working for a Company specialized in Agriculture and Wine your initial choice or a coincidence?
Jérémy: Before coming to the US back in 2016 I worked in France in the oil and gas, energy and chemical industries for almost 8 years and have gained a solid experience in Engineering Management, Project Management and Business Development with Key Accounts like TOTAL, EDF, VEOLIA or TECHNIP.
After graduating from the University of Florida in 2009, I always wanted to come back to live and work in the US. The US was more in line with my mindset in terms of doing business and professional interactions. I loved the entrepreneurial spirit in the US as well as the way American businesses interacted. For several years I have been applying for the green card which was finally granted and that was the beginning of the story.
When I arrived in the US, I had the opportunity to start working in agricultural industry. By that time, I was leaning towards business after my MBA at Sorbonne University, completing my technical background, and I started as a Technical Sales Engineer before my position as Business Development Director at MAF RODA.
MAF RODA is a French family-owned Group with international dimensions. MAF RODA is specialized in grading, packing and handling fresh fruit and vegetables using Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision for External and Internal Defect sorting.
AFAM: What makes the company you work for unique?
Jérémy: PELLENC Group is specialized in the wine business and most of its revenue comes from the Wine Grape unlike some of our competitors for harvester and machinery like John Deere and New Holland which are providing solutions across a lot of industries including main crops (corn, wheat and soybeans...). Today the Group is also exploring other markets such as fruit tree (citrus, stone fruit, cherry, nuts…) business. It is amazing to be able to initiate technology transfer to disrupt or at least transform an industry.
Business-wise, the wine industry is well-known to stay strong and consistent throughout the ups and downs of the economy. Wine is a pretty good market to be in with great people and a stimulating environment.
AFAM: Did the fact of being French help you get where you are now?
Jérémy: To get where I am.. not really - doing business in the US is different from Europe. Being French gives a kind of authenticity from the “old continent” when you are in a Wine Business. But there is the flip side to that coin. The European market is not open to American wines and there is a lot of push back which can generate frustration and defiance from US Producers. When I was working in the Central Valley of California, I felt like an outsider at first. For generations, American Farmers have been in the Agricultural business. It is a very conservative Industry and you have to prove that you bring better value than the “locals”. At the end of the day, American Farmers and Winemakers are very pragmatic. Therefore, when you show that you can provide a real solution to their problem with consistent service and support, you get your customers’ confidence.
But having the ability to work in several areas with different people is truly a great experience. Just talking about California between Central Valley having local farmers, producers, packers with traditions and core values and the Bay Area having innovative startups in Palo Alto and international people from all over the world. It is an amazing environment to learn from both worlds and even bridging the gap between them using, for instance, Artificial Intelligence in Agriculture.
AFAM: What can you say about Wine and Agriculture Industry in general in the US, how is it different from that in France? Any thoughts?
Jérémy: Real Estate is a major difference. When on average producers in France have 10s or of 100s acres of lands, farmers in the US have 100s or 1000s of acres. This scale difference implies different tools, resources and organizations. Besides that, most of the Agricultural Labor is Mexican and Labor Shortage has started to become an issue due to recent conservative immigration policies. On the top of that, the minimum wages increase is giving more traction to Mechanization and Automation which brings opportunities to PELLENC. It will be also more difficult for small and medium companies in the US to survive. A concentration of players is inevitably happening to allow them to stay competitive in such market. This transition is happening right now and it will be supported by such companies as PELLENC Group. This is a very exciting time and an amazing place to do business in this Industry.
AFAM: Thank you, Jérémy, for sharing!
Five facts you did not know about US Wine and Grape Industry:
- Total S. Wine Market Tops $70 Billion. U.S. #1 consumer and #4 producer worldwide.
- The top four wine producers are California (with 3724 wineries), Washington (with 681 wineries), Oregon (with 599) and New York (with 320)
- Grapes are the highest value fruit crop in the US
- Baby boomers, who control 70 percent of US discretionary income and half of the net worth in the US, are moving into retirement and declining in both their numbers and per capita consumption.
- The harvest of 2018 was of high quality in virtually all growing regions in the US, with the exception of Virginia, where hurricanes made for a disastrous season, and, to a lesser extent, New York, which also had heavy rain to contend with.
Sources: svb wine report 2019 and wineamerica.org
Photo: Courtesy of Jérémy Berros
Other interviews in our Food for Thought series:
Interview with Guilhem Bau (Cl 215), Blendid