Nothing could have prepared us for the year 2020. Some say they wish to forget it, but I’m thinking about all that we learned in 2020, the Year of the Unknown.

As a genomics company serving ag and food companies and academia, we adopted the broad strategy of availability to be especially responsive in this year of the unknown. Because our customers are in charge of producing the food we all eat, we were compelled to do our absolute best to help them fulfill their goals. In this time of uncertainty, we became extra flexible to serve the needs of our partners and customers.

Our Covid-19 rule became adapting to every change in workplan and timelines, cooperating with our customers and offering options and alternatives when their plans inevitably changed.
Some examples, with thanks to the team members who made it all possible:
If a customer could not reach the greenhouse to collect leaf samples due to lockdowns, we enabled them to send seeds elsewhere so plants could be grown, and samples collected to generate required genomic data. If a customer could not produce their genome of interest for marker discovery, we used our broad database to create a generic marker panel to select from.

Flexible transitions were easier for us than for many others because our work requires only laptops and a strong internet connection to our cloud-based servers. The fact we could work at full scale, even while remote, enabled our customers to outsource bioinformatic duties to us when they were unable to reach their own office and onsite computers. Unlike many companies that could not avoid shrinking, we expanded our workforce by 30% since the pandemic began; for example, we increased our US- and Canada-based teams significantly to eliminate time zone differences and provide local tech support in these markets.

I look at the coming year with a strong belief that we will not only get back on track, but we will become more innovative, efficient, and capable both as individuals and as a company. As we strive to assist our customers in improving the quality and quantity of agricultural produce, these are some of the more important lessons I’ve observed:

  • Have a plan B—Recognize your project’s bottlenecks and try to build an alternative to the main route.
  •  Never rely on a single service provider. Even if it is the best one, if in the worst-case scenario the provider cannot be reached, you will not have sufficient time to build an alternative.
  •  Never delay duties. There will always be delays beyond our control, so we can’t afford to add any extras!
  •  ABC Priorities—Always Be Considering Priorities. If we can only complete a single task, make sure it’s the most important one.
  •  Be a team-player, because the chances that a team will reach the next milestone are always greater than they are for any individual.
  •  Stay optimistic—If things couldn’t possibly get worse, we can be fairly certain they’re going to get better!

Thank you for this year of tremendous growth and learning. I wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year in 2021!

Gil Ronen, Ph.D.

Founder and CEO of NRGene. Dr. Ronen has an extensive record in plant genomics, previously employed at Compugen and the AgBio discovery company Evogene. His last held positions at Evogene were as Chief Scientist and VP of IP. Dr. Ronen holds a Ph.D. in Plant Genetics, from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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