Paine & Partners adds Monsanto agtech vet

Dr. Stephen Padgette, co-inventor of gene that confers the most widely-used biotechnology trait in agriculture, will work with the firm’s existing portfolio companies and help find new opportunities as an operating director.

In a sign of what is expected to be a growing wave of personnel moves flowing from recent mergers in the agricultural inputs sector, Paine & Partners has hired the co-inventor of the most widely-used biotechnology trait in agriculture.

Dr. Stephen Padgette

The New York-based firm announced Thursday that it has hired Dr. Stephen Padgette, Monsanto’s former vice president of R&D investment strategy, as an operating director. He will work to identify investment opportunities and assist existing portfolio companies, according to the statement.

Padgette will be based in Paine & Partners’ San Mateo office, according to a source familiar with the matter.

“We seek to increase productivity in the global food and agricultural value chain through investment in sustainable technologies, products and services. These goals align perfectly with Steve’s broad expertise in biotechnology, R&D investment strategy, and business development, which are bolstered by his significant experience as a research scientist,” Paine & Partners president Kevin Schwartz said in the statement.

Padgette joined Monsanto in 1984, initially focusing on the development of enzymes and genes conferring herbicide resistance in crops. He went on to co-invent the gene that confers the Roundup Ready trait, the most widely-used biotechnology trait in agriculture, on soybean, cotton and canola, according to Monsanto’s website.

In his most recent role as vice president for research and development strategy and lead of Monsanto’s venture capital programme, Padgette lead business and strategy for the company’s BioDirect unit and the its microbial-based venture with Novozymes, a Danish biotechnology company.

Proposed mergers between Bayer and Monsanto, Dow and Dupont and Syngenta and ChemChina have raised expectations that more experienced personnel will be made available for hire as merged entities look for internal efficiency.

Ronald Meeusen, managing director of agtech-focused venture capital firm Cultivan Sandbox Ventures, told Agri Investor that Padgette’s addition to Paine & Partners signaled an acceleration of the flow of talent from industry giants into smaller firms and that his experience, network and reputation make the hire a significant one.

Meeusen added that Padgette’s focus on pre-revenue venture stage development reflected the increasing importance of technology to both upstream and downstream investments in the agricultural sector and could be part of a strategy to address the mismatch between the traditional private equity model and the needs of companies that often look to venture capital for funding.

“Paine & Partners may be bringing on someone like Padgette to help them decide how much earlier it makes sense for them to play and if so, how and where do they play,” he said. “If they want to see what’s coming earlier, or begin investing a little earlier, that would make all kinds of sense because Steve Padgette would enable them to do that.”