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Why Iowa Profile: Paul Schickler

Why Iowa? Q&A with Paul Schickler

Paul Schickler grew up in the Chicago area and came to Iowa to attend Drake University, where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees, then began working at Pioneer (now Corteva Agriscience) and learned firsthand about agriculture from the industry leader. He served in various roles in finance, commercial and administrative leadership and served as president of DuPont Pioneer from 2007 to 2017. In this role, he continued to expand Pioneer’s global business with a focus on innovation that improved local productivity and profitability of farmers in more than 90 countries.

Paul currently serves as the Chairman of the World Food Prize Foundation’s Council of Advisors. Based in Des Moines, the Foundation’s mission is to elevate innovations and inspire action to sustainably increase the quality, quantity and availability of food for all. The Foundation hosts an annual week of events each October in Iowa (moved to virtual format in 2020 and 2021), drawing more than 1,200 participants from more than 60 countries. Events include the World Food Prize award ceremony, Borlaug Dialogues, Global Youth Institute for high school students, and more.

Paul also has a consulting company, III Ag, working with food and ag tech companies who are bringing novel innovation to advance productivity and sustainability of our global food supply.

Paul and his wife, Claudia, live in Des Moines.

1. How has Iowa’s entrepreneur and startup ecosystem evolved over the years?

The ecosystem has evolved in many ways. First, we have a fabulous and growing corps of entrepreneurs coming from business, education and research organizations. These individuals are taking advantage of the greatly expanding science – like biotechnology, computing, analytics, genomics – and using their skills and innovation to help solve the greatest challenges we face, including food availability, improvements in health and nutrition, safeguarding our environment, and addressing climate change. With this combination of people, science and challenges, investors are coming to Iowa as they see this remarkable potential and want to invest in areas that offer the greatest impact.

In addition to talent, research institutions and support networks, Iowa’s location in the most productive agriculture region in the world and the passion that our people have to pursue this work, make it an attractive location to startups and industry leaders alike.

2. The 2021 Borlaug Dialogues held in conjunction with the World Food Prize are focused on transforming the global food system. What role does innovation play in meeting food security needs of people around the world in a sustainable way?

Agricultural innovation has brought hybridization in the 1920s, the improved disease resistant varieties of the Green Revolution, mechanization, biotechnology insect protection and gene editing to improve nutrition. That innovation is remarkable and moves around the world, benefiting farmers of all size and types. Innovation will continue to drive solutions that protect our soil and water resources, utilize inputs more and more efficiently, and even capture carbon and methane, all while continuing to feed an expanding population in a more nutritious manner.

3. Why are programs like the World Food Prize Youth Institute important to meeting food security needs of the future?

To maintain innovation and support future development, we need the talents and energy of youth. The Youth Institute programs engage students and make them aware of the challenges we face. By inspiring youth to think about how to solve those problems, we will be able to continue to improve the overall agricultural and food system. We need skills from agronomy to environmental science to entomology to law, all disciplines are needed and have a place in agriculture … and there is no other industry that has the “greater good” than agriculture. I think that inspires youth – as it inspired me at the start of my career.

4. What advice do you have for people considering a move to Iowa?
Check us out, you’ll love it.

Iowa became my home for the last 30-years, where not only my career developed but we also raised our family, built strong friendships and participated in the community. I’ve stayed in Iowa because I remain committed to agriculture and the exciting innovation coming from the local startup community, and continue to enjoy the quality of life.

5. Please recommend 3 places to go or things to do in Iowa.
Take a drive to the northeast hills and river valleys or the Loess Hills, enjoying the small towns and their cafes, parks, shops, and festivals.

Ride the bike trails, you’ll never get them all done.

Go to the East Village in Des Moines for dinner and a cocktail, and enjoy a concert, ball game or a Broadway musical.