- Farmers Business Network (FBN) co-founder Amol Deshpande is stepping down as CEO “to pursue other interests,” according to FBN.
- John Vaske of Temasek will assume the new CEO of FBN. Vaske has served on FBN’s board of directors since 2017.
- FBN is one of agtech’s longest-running and most successful startups.
Deshpande, a former partner at Kleiner Perkins, cofounded FBN with Charles Baron in 2014 as a network for farmers to share agronomic data with one another. Today, its member farms in the US, Canada, and Australia cover more than 117 million acres and FBN has expanded its services to include insurance tools, grain marketing services, input purchasing and agrifinance.
Deshpande’s immediate next steps look to be open-ended; he already runs his own investment firm Divergent Investments that focuses on neurodiversity, healthtech, and education technology.
“Time is precious,” he wrote today in a LinkedIn post. “Much like 9 years ago when I left KPCB to start FBN, I will choose between going back to investing at a firm or a new fund of my own, or starting a whole new venture. I will do it from scratch either way. The excitement of working to build something again is overwhelming.”
In his own LinkedIn post, FBN co-founder and CMO Charles Baron called Deshpande “the nuclear reactor inside FBN, building and propelling our teams, incisively challenging conventional wisdoms, utterly unflinching and fearlessly ready to step into the unknown,” among other accolades.
“Taking on a massive, entrenched industry like ag is not for the timid and the job of startup CEO is unimaginably difficult,” he added. “Amol’s kinship with our farmer entrepreneur members, passion for food and the environmental and financial necessities of consumers have been our north stars.”
Vaske will assume the role of CEO on April 15.
He has decades of farming experience under his belt thanks to an upbringing on an Iowa farm. For the last several years, he has served as head of Americas and previously head of agribusiness for Singapore-based investment firm Temasek. He has served on FBN’s board of directors since 2017 as Temasek is a shareholder in FBN.
“John has been on the board of FBN for five years and has a family farming background. This mission alignment makes me excited about his future as CEO of FBN and the prospects for our continued growth,” Deshpande said in a statement.
“FBN has grown from a digital analytics network to a full commercial platform, spanning over 55,000 farmer members, supporting farmers with nearly all aspects of their operations,” Vaske added. “Our growth has been remarkable so far, but FBN is just getting started serving farmers. I’m excited to partner with the team to scale a technology-powered, farmer-centric commercial system for agriculture.”
Temasek Jane Atherton, deputy head of North America will join John Marren, joint head of North America in taking over Vaske’s duties and leadership of the North America team. Chia Song Hwee, deputy CEO, will oversee the investment activities in the wider Americas outside of North America, according to a Temasek press release about the news.
A Temasek spokesperson said the decision to replace Despande with Vaske was made by the independent board of directors of FBN and that the Singapore investment firm was not privy to the decision-making process.
FBN intends to pursue an initial public offering and public market listing, although put 2022 plans on hold due to declining market conditions.
Additional reporting by Louisa Burwood-Taylor