Shenandoah Growers
Image credit: Shenandoah Growers

Indoor farm Shenandoah Growers picks former Starbucks marketing chief as new CEO

June 30, 2021

Shenandoah Growers, an indoor farming company based in Virginia, US, has hired Matthew Ryan, the former chief marketing officer of Starbucks, as its new CEO.

Prior to his departure from Starbucks in November last year, Ryan racked up decades of experience in strategy and marketing, including as chief strategy officer at the Seattle-based coffee chain, and as head of brand and franchise management for The Walt Disney Company.

Ryan takes over from Timothy Heydon who will continue to work directly with Shenandoah’s board of directors.

The high-tech greenhouse and vertical farming group has also hired a new chief financial officer in Mike Buckley, who was most recently senior vice president of business for food delivery firm Postmates.

These mark the latest high-profile hires in indoor agriculture, which has seen an influx of senior executives in recent months – often from other segments in the agrifood industry. Indoor ag firm AppHarvest, for example, hired Impossible Foods‘ chief financial officer David Lee to be its president ahead of its SPAC listing earlier this year; while greenhouse and vertical farm operator Local Bounti, which agreed to a Cargill-backed SPAC deal last week, appointed former Beyond Meat chief financial officer Mark Nelson to its board of directors.

Shenandoah Growers has itself been bolstering its leadership ranks recently, also hiring Cameron Geiger — a former Walmart executive — as chief operating officer, and Plenty‘s former lighting optimization director Tessa Pocock as chief science officer.

Shenandoah says it offers the largest indoor growing system in the US that has been certified organic by the Department of Agriculture. It also claims to be the country’s leading supplier of fresh herbs, supplying more than 18,000 retail outlets and commanding a 35% share of the market.

“When I looked at the booming business of indoor agriculture, Shenandoah Growers stood out as the company with the strongest track record, and the best technical and biological knowhow to transform its existing market-leading position into a long-term strategic advantage,” Ryan said in a statement.

“My career has been shaped and defined by innovative, market-leading companies. Here, the opportunity for growth could be even greater, as Shenandoah Growers is uniquely positioned to deliver against the converging demand for affordable, high-quality and organic produce, and the need to grow it sustainably and reliably.”

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