Image courtesy Benson Hill
Founded in 2012, Benson Hill is a company at the intersection of data science, genomics, plant biology, and food science. They employ a proprietary technology platform called CropOS™ to make food ingredients that are more sustainable, more nutritious, and better tasting. CropOS™ accelerates breeding by enabling greater precision and fewer breeding cycles. It’s like GPS for plant scientists, and breeders.
The company is housed in a new 160,000 sq. ft.-building on the campus of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Missouri, where the company was founded. In 2020, Benson Hill welcomed Jason Bull as Chief Technology Officer.
Flyover Future spoke with Jason Bull to better understand how technology is improving the food system with healthier food options. Bull leads the company’s combined R&D and Data Science capabilities across predictive breeding, genomics, product discovery, big data engineering, and software development.
Benson Hill is located in St. Louis. What are some of the advantages of being there?
Jason Bull: St. Louis is ideal for us for a few different reasons. If you look at the agribusiness contribution to the local St. Louis economy it's about $43 million dollars and about a 160,000 jobs. Also, 50 percent of U.S. crop production is within 500 miles of the St. Louis. We’re right in the heart of agricultural productivity.
Do you draw talent from nearby colleges?
Universities, particularly in the Midwest and in St. Louis itself, are a great source of talent for us. The 39 North ecosystem where we exist has the highest collection of plant science PhDs in the world. We also attract a lot of people outside of St. Louis — especially on the data science side. People working for the big tech companies who want to work on something that has a profound effect.
You know, if you look at machine learning and artificial intelligence, which is part of our big data science push, and you think about where most of the top talent in that area ends up working, it's mostly around driving clicks for ads in the big tech companies. Compare that with improving the food system.