Q&A With Wilbur-Ellis’ New Agribusiness President

Starting November 1, Mark Ripato will take over as agribusiness division president at Wilbur-Ellis. Ripato ( Wilbur-Ellis )

Starting November 1, Mark Ripato will take over as agribusiness division president at Wilbur-Ellis. Ripato most recently was with Tenkoz for 15 years, which allowed him to work closely with Wilbur-Ellis as Wilbur-Ellis is the largest retailer member of the agricultural buying group.

“Wilbur-Ellis is a great company with a strong commitment to agriculture in its 100-year legacy,” Ripato says. “And their commitment to the future remains strong.”

Ripato explains he’s recently learned how energized and engaged the team at Wilbur-Ellis is, and he’s looking forward to working with them to build a strategy for the future.

“Agriculture is undergoing a massive transformation—including consolidation, challenging economics, a global supply chain reset, and new technologies effecting every part of our business,” he says. “But my position is I always prefer to endeavor to create the future, both personally and professionally, rather than allow it to create me and/or my organization.”

Mark RipatoHe continues to say that the changes in the next decade will be even more impactful on agriculture and ag retail than the previous 10 years naming 5G, artificial intelligence, and blockchain as examples of transformative technologies.

At the center of all this change, Ripato says one thing is constant, the ag retail business has to be focused to help the farmer sort through the complexity and the mass of information to help the farmer maximize their profitability.

“The legacy of Wilbur-Ellis’ relationship with their farmer customers is one of our greatest assets. We’re known to provide high-service and high-engagement with the farmer,” Ripato says. “And this wasn’t built overnight, but we also have to be responsive to what the farmer will need from us in the future. It is naïve view to think that an omni-channel strategy, combining ecommerce and bricks and mortar, will not be table stakes to adequately meet the expectations.”

Dan Vradenburg, Wilbur-Ellis’ current Agribusiness president, will soon transition to the role of board chair for Cavallo Ventures, the venture capital arm of Wilbur-Ellis.