CEO Dialogue, Curt Vossen – January 2022

Richardson International is Canada’s largest agribusiness and is a global leader in agriculture and food processing. Based in Winnipeg, the company exports to 60 countries with annual turnover in the range of $9-10 billion and 3,200 employees across Canada, the U.S. and the UK.

Founded as a grain and seed supplier by James Richardson in 1857 in Kingston, Ontario, the company has since expanded to hold several diverse subsidiaries and remains a privately-owned by the fifth generation of successors.

Curt Vossen, President and CEO of Richardson International, recently joined OG100 members for a candid dialogue, sharing his experience in supply chain risk-management, running a global family-owned business, and how he sees the energy transition unfolding in the agriculture industry.


As family-owned businesses grow, the challenges of growth and family dynamics increase. The Richardson family continues to grow globally as it moves into its sixth generation of successors. Vossen believes the key to maintaining this success and entrepreneurial culture is that each generation has more effectively and comprehensively leveraged external resources and professionals. The family is deeply connected to the business through governance and overall strategy, but they take their “hands off the steering wheel”. You can’t base business growth solely on genetics. By leveraging outside talent, you can properly position the company to grow while staying involved on a material basis.


Richardson’s expertise in managing large volumes of diverse product from ownership at point of delivery to managing export over long distances requires in-depth expertise in logistics, serious country risk, and food quality. In new markets, especially emerging economies, rule of law and contractual obligation can be theoretical, and as regulatory and geopolitical concerns increase, you need safeguards in place to help manage and navigate disruptions. Over the past two years, we’ve witnessed and experienced the consequences of fragile supply chain infrastructure. While there are often simple solutions, much of the political rhetoric hasn’t resulted in action. For Richardson, diversification has been key. In 1999, Richardson moved into oil seed crushing and refining. The company now has five avenues of revenue generation that include milling, a food and ingredients business, as well as bio-lubricants for industrial markets. This strategy was critical in 2019 when China canceled Richardson’s registration to import canola seed. At the time, this represented $2.5bn worth of trade and could have been devastating to the company. However, they were able to lean into other product lines and pivot to other buyers.


How do you feed 10 billion people in 2059? The demand continues for increased affordability, more variety, new health-related products, and better shelf life. With 21% of carbon emissions created by agriculture globally, the industry’s production practices have come under deep scrutiny. There is a strong lobby against new technology, however the issues are deep and complex, and we can’t blunt the move to new, effective technologies. Food security solutions will require the application of technology over time with fact-based purpose. Policy makers will need to understand the many ways we are able to achieve this and how important it is to the Canadian economy.