100 Years and Growing: 100 Years and Innovating | 100 Years and Giving | 100 Years and Evolving
Previous: 2000s

2010-Present Day

Golden Gate Bridge.

Meeting Our Responsibilities … Welcoming New Leaders … Investing in Technology … and Defining What Makes Us Wilbur-Ellis

In this chapter of Wilbur-Ellis history, we look at 2010 to the present day.

As this period began, the world was still grappling with the effects of the global financial crisis, dubbed “The Great Recession.” Concern about climate change escalated during this period, Osama bin Laden was killed (though terrorism continued), and Donald Trump was elected the 45th President of the United States, followed by Joe Biden who became the 46th President in 2021.

Natural disasters left their mark, including a devastating earthquake in Haiti, hurricanes in the Northern hemisphere, and wildfires in the Western U.S.  Politically, protests occurred globally, from the Arab Spring in the Middle East in 2010 to more recent calls for political freedom in Asia and social and racial equity in the U.S. and beyond.

But it was on December 31, 2019, when the world first became aware of a challenge that would change all our lives. That’s when the World Health Organization reported a mysterious illness in China, which came to be known as COVID-19. From 2020 to the present day, the pandemic has taken over two million lives globally and affected the way people live and work around the world.


Meeting Our Responsibilities During a Global Pandemic

When COVID-19 began spreading in 2020, difficult decisions had to be made. To stem the spread, businesses of all kinds shut down, creating economic hardship for millions.

Wilbur-Ellis was more fortunate than many. Our operations are deemed essential, since we support the agriculture, animal nutrition, energy and chemicals industries, which provide food and other vital products for society.

As we continued to operate, the company took steps to protect Wilbur-Ellis employees and those who do business with us – instituting strict health protocols at our locations. Employees who were able to work remotely worked from home to protect themselves and workers who continued to do their jobs at Wilbur-Ellis facilities.

As President and Chief Executive Officer John Buckley said in a message to employees, “We will continue to meet our responsibilities to customers, while doing everything possible to protect the health and well-being of our employees.”

Welcoming New Leaders to Wilbur-Ellis

In the 2010s, Wilbur-Ellis welcomed new leaders to the CEO role and as heads of the four business divisions.

John Buckley joined Wilbur-Ellis as President and Chief Executive Officer in January 2018, succeeding John Thacher, the current Executive Chairman of the Wilbur-Ellis Board of Directors. John Buckley brought over 30 years’ experience to the CEO role, including expertise in business management, engineering, manufacturing, sales and marketing. In joining Wilbur-Ellis, he highlighted the company’s “commitment to growth, innovation, service and integrity.”

Mark Ripato became President of the Agribusiness division in 2018, after serving as CEO and President of Tenkoz, a leading agricultural buying group. When he joined Wilbur-Ellis, Mark acknowledged the company’s “deep, multi-generational commitment to agriculture.”

Andrew Loder joined Wilbur-Ellis in 2016 and became President of the Nutrition division in 2017. With over 30 years’ experience, he previously served in food and animal nutrition roles at Cargill. In joining Wilbur-Ellis, Andrew noted the company’s “great tradition of growth and helping customers.”

Dr. Azita Owlia joined Connell in 2011 and became its President and CEO in 2016. Prior to Connell, Azita spent 22 years at Bayer Material Science (now Covestro) in leadership roles in the company’s chemicals operations.

Jeff Barnes joined Wilbur-Ellis in 2019 with the acquisition of Nachurs Alpine Solutions®, a specialty liquid chemical manufacturer. NAS was the largest acquisition in Wilbur-Ellis’ history. In joining Wilbur-Ellis, Jeff said: “At NAS, our business is built on quality, integrity and innovation. We’re proud to join a company that shares those values.”

John Buckley, Mark Ripato, Andrew Loder, Dr. Azita Owlia and Jeff Barnes.

Left to Right: John Buckley, Chief Executive Officer and President;  Mark Ripato, Agribusiness President; Andrew Loder, Nutrition President; Azita Owlia, PH.D., President & CEO, Connell; Jeff Barnes, President and CEO of Nachurs Alpine Solutions.

John P. Thacher.

John Thacher, Executive Chairman of the Board.

Investing in Innovation and Technology

Throughout our history, Wilbur-Ellis has invested in innovation and technology, which have become far more important to the company and our customers in recent decades.

In the 1990s, Wilbur-Ellis developed a Mission statement for its agriculture operations: “To provide the most advanced technology to maximize our customers’ return on investment.”

“I was involved with the development of that Mission statement,” said Executive Chairman John Thacher. “But I can assure you that none of us envisioned the speed at which technology has advanced. Think about how quickly we have moved from:

  • Farm management software, satellite imagery, sensors and probes, to
  • Plant biology and new ways of integrating technology and information, to
  • Automation through robotics, artificial intelligence, and gene editing.

It’s unbelievable how fast this has happened. We are now spending a lot of time thinking about the consolidation of both suppliers and customers, and how technology will intersect with this. We know that this trend will continue.”

Advancing Technology to Provide Solutions for Customers

In each of our businesses, Wilbur-Ellis has worked to build technical capabilities that meet customers’ changing demands.

A great example is AgVerdict®, launched in 2010 and significantly enhanced in 2014. This leading-edge field technology software enables growers to monitor and track agricultural inputs and performance within their operations. With AgVerdict, growers store their information on a cloud-based system that can be easily accessed from any field location with their mobile device.

The user-friendly software is completely customizable based on the operation, with GPS tracking that includes mapping, input usage on a per-field basis, performance monitoring, record keeping, and the ability to store years of data in one place.

In other parts of our business, customers also have changing needs. To serve our specialty chemicals customers in Asia, Connell opened a new technical and training center in Guangzhou, China, in 2013. The facility focuses on commercial and technical requirements in the coatings, ink, food, and personal care sectors in the South China market.

Mike Wilbur, CEO and President of Cavallo Ventures.

One of the most important advances came in 2017, with the launch of Cavallo Ventures, Wilbur-Ellis’ venture capital arm.

“Cavallo Ventures invests in early-stage companies or technologies that align with our business divisions,” said Mike Wilbur, President and CEO of Cavallo Ventures and a member of the Wilbur-Ellis Board of Directors.

“Since 2017, $30 million USD has been invested in 19 startups,” Mike said. “The investments enable these innovators to launch new products and services, run trials, expand, and recruit talent. For Wilbur-Ellis, the investments put us at the forefront of new technology development and give us a major role in shaping the future.”

Defining What Makes Us Wilbur-Ellis

From 2010 to the present day, the company has taken some important steps in defining what makes us, uniquely, Wilbur-Ellis.


Communicating Our Purpose: In 2019, Wilbur-Ellis introduced a Purpose statement that captures where we are today, and where the company is going. Simply put, at Wilbur-Ellis: “Our purpose is to provide the essentials for the world to thrive.”

To support the Purpose statement, the company website and family of logos were updated to reflect the dynamic, global nature of our business.

100 Years. Wilbur-Ellis since 1921.

Celebrating A Milestone: On June 29, 2020, the company launched a year-long celebration – counting down to its 100th anniversary on June 29, 2021.

With a new 100th anniversary website, Wilbur-Ellis is telling its story, decade-by-decade. We also launched a Giving Program that benefits the Red Cross. By engaging employees, their children, and friends of Wilbur-Ellis in the celebration and Giving Program, the company is celebrating its past, helping people in need today, and planning for the future.

Supporting Our People:  Since 2010, the company has launched a number of programs aimed at supporting employees.

One of the most important efforts is Guiding People to Safety (GPS), which strengthens our safety culture, mitigates risk, and helps us meet or surpass regulatory compliance requirements.

To promote our values (Integrity, Diversity, Effort, Accountability and Service), an IDEAS blog was created to highlight the role our values play in our business. The “EveryONE Matters” program recognizes ways – large and small – that employees make a positive difference for the company and each other. And a new communications tool, Yammer, made it easier for employees to collaborate and share information.

Women of Wilbur-Ellis.

To support employee development, Career Pathways encourages employees and managers to partner together to help employees reach their career goals.

We also expanded the number of Business Resource Groups (BRGs), which bring employees with common interests together, helping them expand their capabilities and promoting an inclusive workplace.

Women of Wilbur-Ellis (WoW) was our first BRG. Established in 2012, WoW now has more than 600 members. In 2020, the company introduced three new BRGs – for early-career employees, veterans, and Latino / Latina employees.


As We End Our Historical Journey

This chapter (2010 to the present day) concludes our decade-by-decade journey through Wilbur-Ellis history.

With every challenge we’ve faced and every opportunity we’ve captured, we’ve become a stronger, more resilient organization. And it is the people of Wilbur-Ellis who have made it all possible.

We hope you have enjoyed meeting some of the people who contributed to our history and have made Wilbur-Ellis what it is today – a truly unique company that has stood the test of time and is ready for the future.