ICL’s Dan Bihlmeyer: Perspectives on Agribusiness and Leadership

Dan Bihlmeyer, Vice President of ICL Growing Solutions Ag—North America, shares his insights into the dynamic world of agriculture

March 19, 2024
5 mins
Dan Bihlmeyer
Vice President, ICL Growing Solutions Ag - North America

Dan Bihlmeyer serves as vice president for ICL Growing Solutions Ag – North America. He joined ICL in August 2023 with more than 25 years of experience working in global agribusiness. He shares lessons learned in the field, his personal philosophy, and advice for those who want to work in agriculture.

How did you get involved in agribusiness?

I grew up on a dairy farm in Manchester, Michigan. Initially, I thought I was going to come back and farm, then at Michigan State University, I started studying agribusiness management and it really opened my eyes to opportunities more in line with my personality – I was always more interested in crops than cows. During my time at Michigan State, I was actively involved in Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) fraternity and National Ag Marketing Association (NAMA), and those experiences broadened my exposure to career options in agriculture.

What do you find most interesting about working in agriculture?

Someone who is new to agriculture doesn’t necessarily understand that in the life of a farmer, they usually only have 40 to 50 growing seasons in their lifetime. I like to say that’s like having 40 to 50 Christmases. From an ag input standpoint, you’ve got one shot each year and the window is short. This is why it’s important that we convey to customers how our products are different and how the technologies benefit growers.

What has your career involved?

When I was in college, I had an internship with Ciba Crop Protection and had the opportunity to ride along with sales reps the entire summer, calling on retailers and learning how to tell the story of how a jug of specifically formulated liquid would ultimately turn into value for the grower and great nutrition in the form of food. After that internship, I was offered a full-time position with Novartis as a sales rep. When Novartis became Syngenta in 2000, I moved to the Southern Field Crops office and trained the sales training staff in selling skills and team building. From there I had experiences in customer service, district sales manager and marketing manager. When I finished my global MBA at the University of North Carolina in 2008, I had a strong desire to get into more far-reaching and global opportunities and I joined BASF in a global marketing insecticide role. I was fortunate enough to travel all over the world and see agriculture in Brazil, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey, Germany and more. I also have had the opportunity to work for a start-up – Vive Crop Protection where I built a sales and marketing team and established distribution across North America.

What did you discover through those international experiences?

The world over, whether a farmer has 10,000 acres or three acres, at the end of the day, it’s their livelihood. They want to believe in the products and technology they use, and they want to believe in the company that is providing that technology. When you learn what someone is passionate about, you can build relationships and help growers and retailers see value in your technology and help them be successful. Sometimes there’s a language barrier, but growing up on a farm and understanding the amount of effort and work that goes into a day in the life of a farmer serves as starting ground to make a connection all over the world.

Why did you decide to join ICL?

ICL is a 100-year-old company with a solid foundation and strong business roots. In North America, they’ve been here on a commodity basis, branded under other names; but the product portfolio ICL is known for all around the world is fairly new here. Our portfolio of fertilizer products is second to none, but awareness of ICL in the North American market is relatively low. I see it as a great opportunity to help lead a team of sales reps who have experience and relationships, and bring a firm understanding of how our products deliver true value and help growers be more successful.

What is your personal philosophy?

My personal philosophy is passion with a purpose. Everybody has a passion, whether it’s family, a sport, their farming operation or something else. At any level in an organization, I try to learn what somebody’s passion is and then really help them achieve their purpose. That could be to help them grow higher yielding crops, help them be successful in their career, or help them be successful so they have more time to spend with their family.

How do you approach leadership?

I really enjoy helping people be successful. Yes, I am in a role where I have to make some tough decisions from time to time. But my fundamental belief is that my primary job as a leader is to develop the team and help each of them reach their goals – whether it’s a sales rep for the rest of their career or advancing through the ranks. I see my job as opening doors, helping each member of the team be successful, and bringing ICL to a greater level in North America.

What advice would you give someone starting out in their career?

There are many opportunities in agriculture. At times, it can seem like a bit of a club that you have to have grown up in, but I’d like that bias to go by the wayside. If you’re a hard-working, passionate person, and you’re willing to literally get your hands dirty or get “itchy and scratchy” in cornfields, you can build a network and discover great opportunities in agriculture. I would encourage people in college and studying agriculture to get involved in various clubs and organizations to build relationships. I think internships are by far the best avenue possible to ensure you’re the right fit for a career in the (sometimes literal) field. It also gives the organization you work with a chance to learn more about you and potentially extend a job offer.

What are you looking forward to?

I’m truly excited about the opportunity ICL has in North America as we continue to expand. I’m excited to work closely with retail distribution and customers, and represent market-leading technologies to help growers produce higher yielding crops and do the most they can in the short amount of time that they have.