4 minutes with Bill Levy, CEO, Pacific Ag

April 19, 2015 |

levy-pacificagTell us about your organization and its role in the Advanced Bioeconomy.

Pacific Ag is the leading biomass supply company serving the Advanced Bioeconomy.   We are partnered with more than 600 growers across the country, will harvest more than 450,000 tons of biomass alone in 2015, own the single largest fleet of harvesting equipment, and supply the nation’s leading cellulosic refineries, including Abengoa and DuPont.

For 17 years Pacific Ag supplied residue for domestic and export cattle markets, contracting with growers and operating fleets of equipment to control feedstock quantity, quality and cost.  More than 6 years ago we recognized that feedstock supply for biorefineries was a huge market opportunity, and one that we are uniquely able to serve. No other company in the space has our combination of experience in agriculture, supply chain logistics and technology development. As impressive as the conversion technologies are, it all comes down to feedstock availability and supply – and that’s what we do.

Tell us about your role and what you are focused on in the next 12 months.

I am the 4th generation of a farming/ranching family in Eastern Oregon.  This is a very progressive farming region with diverse farming and processing operations, so I was inspired by my father and other local innovators to venture out and become an ag entrepreneur. We’re seeing a new generation of uses for biomass, from biofuels to chemicals and even consumer products. Not only do these new uses enable greater sustainability, they offer new opportunities for economic development and innovation in rural economies. I am most proud of continuing in a tradition of progressive development in agriculture. All of us at Pacific Ag recognize that this is a special opportunity and feel privileged to be playing such an important role.  Our next 12 months is about executing on the huge supply demands already contracted and planning and preparing for the growth in we see 24-36 months ahead.

What do you feel are the most important milestones the industry must achieve in the next 5 years?

The investor community needs to feel confidence in biomass supply so they can understand and manage the risks to provide the necessary capital for the industry to grow.  Pacific Ag’s experience is part of the solution.

If you could snap your fingers and change one thing about the Advanced Bioeconomy, what would you change?

Two things really: First, lower the capital costs of new biorefineries by either speeding up the experience curve or by the development of conversion technologies that are less costly. Second, I would create greater public policy certainty.  For better or worse, the success of the bioeconomy involves public policy and markets thrive with certainty.

Of all the reasons that influenced you to join the Advanced Bioeconomy industry, what single reason stands out for you as still being compelling and important to you?  My colleagues and I have been working with growers and operating harvest and logistics equipment to build biomass supply for all of our professional lives, only it had a different name.  It was called forage.  To take this hard won experience and use it to grow and transform an industry by building a truly innovative, industry-leading company is a huge opportunity and great challenge.

Where are you from? 

I was born and raised in Eastern Oregon where for generations my family has been engaged in farming and ranching.  In this area we host a nationally famous rodeo called the Pendleton Round-up that has been running since 1910.   I have served on the Board of Directors for a number of years and that one rodeo week in September is better than Christmas.

What was your undergraduate major in college, and where did you attend? Why did you choose that school and that pathway? 

I was getting a BS in agricultural economics at Oregon State University when I started Pacific Ag.  I then went to Washington State to get a masters degree in agribusiness and have never looked back.

Who do you consider your mentors. What have you learned from them?

I am lucky that I have had a lot of great mentors throughout my life. All of them have taught me something interesting and valuable along the way.  Right now I would say my partners are some of my biggest mentors.  We have an incredible team and we are focused on building a great company, which is really exciting.  From them I have learned to not only work hard, but have fun and enjoy the journey.

What’s the biggest lesson you ever learned during a period of adversity?

That you must maintain the vision and faith for where you are going, and be very passionate about getting there.  Everyone experiences adversity, it’s going to happen, but as a leader you can’t get caught up in that moment. Instead, you must be steadfast in where you are headed.  I have also learned that you take care of people along the way.  Usually periods of adversity are not experienced alone, it’s important to take the journey together.  Years or months later, almost without fail, you will look back and see it was a valuable learning experience.

What hobbies do you pursue, away from your work in the industry? 

I enjoy snow skiing, traveling, and riding my horse Marley.

What 3 books would you take to read, if stranded on a desert island?

I suppose it might be different on a desert island, but I don’t do very well sitting down. I’d most likely spend my time exploring the island, building my own food and shelter supply chain

What books or articles are on your reading list right now, or you just completed and really enjoyed?

Article; Effectuation – The Best theory of entrepreneurship you actually follow, whether you know it or not.

Book: Business Adventures; Twelve classic tales from the world of Wall Street by John Brooks.

What’s your favorite city or place to visit, for a holiday?

Sandpoint, Idaho or Santiago, Chile

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


Category: Million Minds

Thank you for visting the Digest.