Knowledge Center for Agriculture Solutions | Koch Agronomic Services
Knowledge Center for Agriculture Solutions | Koch Agronomic Services
Meet the KAS Team: Ahmed Iman
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Experiencing failure can be discouraging for many, but for Ahmed Iman, failing is just one step closer to succeeding and a lesson learned.

Iman, Koch Agronomic Services (KAS) Chemist, is no stranger to adversity and overcoming challenges. As just a teenager, he and two of his siblings made the trek from their home in Ethiopia, to the United States—alone, uncertain and unable to speak English.

“I had to learn English from a special school in Georgia that has a department section for foreign students who don't speak English. They teach you things like, ‘What's your name?’ and ‘Where are you going?’ Once you start understanding the English language, they put you in a normal high school at whatever grade level they think appropriate.”

Iman’s resilience and drive to learn not only helped him overcome these obstacles, but to also attend college and later graduate in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Georgia Southern University. Upon graduation, Iman started as a technician for Georgia-Pacific (GP), which would later lead him to KAS.

How he came to KAS

After working for GP for 5 years, Iman joined Koch Industries (Koch) after Koch acquired GP in November 2005. When asked why he chose to stay with Koch, Iman said the opportunity to contribute and challenge was unique from the culture he was used to.

At Koch you are encouraged to think and challenge if you think something needs to be changed or improved. That was a big difference.”

With this contribution mindset under Koch’s guiding principles, Iman said the collaboration among colleagues plays a key role in the team achieving results.

“I work with some awesome colleagues that are willing to go the extra mile to help out. That helps a lot when you're doing experiments, because you’re always talking to them and asking questions and they might have good suggestions. You can't imagine how big a help that is. Plus, it makes the whole working environment enjoyable.”

In 2013, Iman transitioned to Koch Agronomic Services (KAS) and began researching agricultural solutions that can help growers produce more with less, from long-term products like SUPERU® premium fertilizer to innovative future technology.

“I used to work with the slurries that go into SUPERU, but now, more of my time is dedicated to experimenting with a new product for commercialization.”

Outside of innovating new product ideas, Iman said he also spends a lot of his time supporting other teams within KAS.

“We also support the sales team like, if the customer asks the question, ‘Hey, I have this product and if I mix this product with your product, what should I expect?’ then the sales rep would reach out to us and say, ‘Hey, can you mix this stuff and see if it is compatible?’ Then we do that, and you report back with the results. Every day is a little bit different.”

In any career involving experiments, it’s common knowledge that failure is a part of the job. It takes a driven individual to push past the idea of failure and persevere to try and try again. This is where Iman’s determination and resilience, once again, come into play.

“Many experiments will ‘fail’, but I don't consider it failure as long as you are moving forward. I mean, sometimes you have to be realistic—some things just don't work out and you have to move on. But if something is working out, you have a good experiment and you are going in a right direction? Yeah, I’ll keep pushing forward.”

Passion for Innovation

Although his career didn’t start in agriculture, Iman said his passion for the industry and the innovation he works toward stems from his experience as a child in Ethiopia.

“When I was growing up, we lived in a tiny village and we had a little farm with cows, goats—basically, you produced your own food. We were a small-scale farm just to provide food to support our own family.”

As many growers will attest, farming comes with various stressors and uncertainties that are outside their control, weather being primary. Add in the pressure of needing to feed your family and the stress becomes unimaginable. Throughout his childhood, Iman witnessed this struggle first-hand.

“You produced the food, you lived off that for the year and then you do the same thing for next year, over and over again. Then you get in trouble if the rain doesn't come. That has always stuck in my mind.”

Iman said the difference between farming in Ethiopia and farming in the US is the technology and knowledge available. Now, as a chemist for KAS, Iman said he is proud to be able to contribute to the agricultural industry so that food is accessible to everyone.

“With technology and knowledge put together, one farmer can produce so much more compared to how I grew up. I'm passionate about the work that I do because I know what it does to contribute to food production.

Iman says things are continuously improving—in the US and other countries like Ethiopia—with the advancement of technology and more people going to school. He said this is important because as the population increases, so does the need for food. Innovation and technology will allow farmers to be more efficient with what is available.

“Everybody has to come together to produce more food so that there will be enough for everybody and if I contribute just a little bit, I think that'll be good.”

Outside of Work

Even outside of work, Iman’s drive for learning never stops. Not only is he currently learning Arabic, he’s working toward a master’s degree in agronomy.

“When the pandemic started, we stayed at home for about 3 months, but my job is to come into the lab and do experiments. When that was taken away, I had to come up with something else, so I looked into micronutrients and nutrients in general. I did a lot of research—read a lot of papers, extension papers, whatever I could find and became really interested. So, I looked at schools I could attend online and now I’m currently taking classes from Iowa State for a master’s in agronomy.”

Despite living a life full of learning, Iman said he does take time to jog, relax and enjoy moments with his four children—especially when it involves helping them with homework. 


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