Gowan Company LLC
Jon Jessen founded Gowan Company LLC (Gowan) in 1962 with the goal of providing science-based crop consulting. Just out of the Army, Jon previously earned a degree in entomology at UC Davis. He worked for several years managing cotton crops before starting his own business in Yuma, Ariz., near the Colorado River.
“Here, a series of 100-year-old well-engineered water projects have promoted a great environment for agriculture,” says Juli Jessen, Jon’s daughter and current CEO of Gowan. “We are a family-owned registrant and marketer of crop protection products and champions technology for agriculture and horticulture through innovative product development, public advocacy and quality production. Bringing science, regulatory acumen, innovative investment and focused execution to some difficult problems of agriculture has earned Gowan the reputation of being the go-to company for crop protection.”
Juli has a degree in chemical engineering and also graduated from business school before joining the family business full-time in 1986. She has been in her current position for 10 years. Juli worked at the plant and then got more involved with regulatory issues, which better fit her education and experience. Jon is still active in the company, playing an important role in seeking out new technology to help Gowan’s agricultural clients. Additionally, one of Juli’s brothers leads retail operations in fertilizer and seed, while the other is an engineer in the terminal.
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Gowan’s U.S. commercial office is located in Kansas, although the company’s headquarters is still based in Yuma, Ariz. “We have three groups of businesses,” Juli clarifies. “We register pesticides and market these around the world, including through our entities such as Gowan Mexicana and Gowan Italia. Second, we retail fertilizer, seed and pesticides regionally, focused on the fresh vegetable crops. And we do packaging and formulation on a toll basis, much of this for the export market. Our work is most important in the crevices of agriculture. For example, one of our most important products lines is Avadex. It was developed decades ago by Monsanto, but its continued defense is important for those areas where weeds have become resistant to newer herbicides, which are cheaper and easier to use.”
Gowan is determined to continue providing critical products. “We have partnered with research-based companies and put in lines at Gowan Milling that can do more sophisticated work,” Juli explains. “We made an investment in Isagro, an Italian research-based crop protection company. Gowan sells Isagro’s products in the U.S. and Italy, but our areas of cooperation go much deeper. Our business model depends on heavy development investment. To make this model work, we need a political and regulatory framework that can effectively regulate science and protect investment in intellectual assets.”
Juli explains that, internally, the company tracks its history. “We have tremendous respect in science and agriculture,” she continues. “We are conservative in the way we spend money and we are moving upstream slowly. For example, recent steps are our biology screening lab on the premises of the University of Arizona and our new formulation development center.”
While much of the research, design and marketing of products happens in-house, Gowan relies on a small network of strategic partners to keep the gears turning. “All of our manufacturing for chemicals is outsourced, we do some of the formulation,” she explains. “In seeds, we work with the companies big and small that do breeding, then have a best in class product development group to choose which ones we suggest. Our regulatory studies and toxicology testing are all through third-party partners.”
These strong partnerships have helped keep Gowan ahead, even as the market has changed throughout the years. With a lot of consolidation in the industry, the company is competing with larger companies than before. This makes strong management of operations and finances even more important for Juli and her team.
Providing leading products and practices to clients is the main focus of the business. On the homefront, however, the company has made some major adjustments to run meaner and greener. As part of Gowan’s ongoing construction, the business converted Yuma plant and offices to run on solar power. The company’s continued commitment to environmental protection shows a high level of integrity while reducing future costs to the business that will not have to be passed on to clients.
For more than 50 years, Gowan has sought out new developments to serve customers across the globe. Juli and her team are devoted to helping clients succeed through increasing crop yield and meeting regulations that differ in each country. “There is not a lot of consistency in toxicology and environmental regulations globally,” Juli explains. “That has become a trade barrier for our products, as well as commodities. These policies shape the agricultural industry and we need to meet the needs of our customers so they can continue to perform.”
All in all, Gowan is a customer-focused operation. Juli and her team are perpetually in development to keep clients ahead of changing regulations while trying to reduce costs and improve profit margins. With a strong foundation in science and even stronger core values, Gowan Company LLC continues to develop leading products for agricultural clients all over the world.