Partners for Advancing Agriculture ®

The Context Network Celebrates 25-Year Anniversary

Fall 2017

This year marks the 25th anniversary of The Context Network®. Founded in 1992, Context has steadfastly focused on advancing food and agribusiness industries across an ever-changing global value chain. The firm, which now brings together a team of hundreds of full time and contract experts, has expanded from a single office in Iowa to a global operation that is considered the premier agribusiness consulting firm. Context draws upon proven processes and its extensive network to create customized solutions that deliver remarkable results.

During a recent gathering, Context leaders shared their observations on the firm’s rich history, which mirrors the dynamic, technology-fueled changes in agriculture and food industries themselves.

“In the beginning, we talked about technology in a much different sense,” said Context Founding Principal, Tray Thomas. “We were seeing changes in farming that were the result of a flattening global landscape, where scale and innovation were being redefined in nearly every sector.”

That transformative evolution in technology continues to ramp. With the global imperative to produce more food using fewer inputs, the industry is teeming with new practices, products, and technologies. Today, Context collaborates with our clients on initiatives spurred by data-driven scientific and engineering advancements such as precision farming, plant genome discoveries, and advanced supply chain analytics as well as continuous improvements and accountability throughout responsible food chains.

“Our first calls came from business managers with regional or U.S. input companies seeking a path to compete in an increasingly global marketplace,” said Thomas. “Today, those clients are global leaders in seeds, chemicals, fertilizers and meat, milk and eggs. They took risks, innovated never-before-imagined technologies, and implemented strategies that revolutionized the business of farming.”

Beyond the monumental advances in seed and crop protection sectors, Context’s more recent history has paralleled the broader marketplace in which a wide array of environmental and socioeconomic issues – such as food security, global sustainability, climate resilience, crop diversity, soil health, demand for responsibly grown foods, and agroecology – have garnered industry and consumer attention. Accordingly, Context now serves nine distinct market sectors (see graphic) to meet clients’ evolving needs.


Context’s evolution as a firm has uniquely intersected with rising interest in global agricultural development in emerging countries, as leading firms and organizations began recognizing opportunities to improve lives and solve local scarcities across the globe. Context principal Mark Nelson said, “We began engaging in dialogue about parts of the world where modern agriculture infrastructure didn’t exist even 15 years ago. We were able to partner with leading non-governmental organizations to help solve critical global issues at a local level, not just from a business perspective, but from a societal one.” In 2016, Context formed a non-profit organization, Context Global Development® (CGD), to support program implementation needs of agricultural and social impact development donors worldwide

Despite the seismic changes in the agribusiness industry over the last 25 years, a few things haven’t changed at Context one bit, according to Matt Sutton-Vermeulen, a Context principal who joined the firm in late 2016. “Passion, persistence and professionalism.” He added: “These fundamentals resonate across the network in an amazing way and allow us to deliver exceptional work for our clients. It’s what motivates our business, and it’s why I wanted to be part of this organization and its future.”

Leveraging the diverse talents of the more than 200 professionals across all teams and throughout the network will enable us to expand the value we deliver to clients in meat, milk and eggs as well as downstream brands focused on continuous improvements in their responsible food chains.

To learn more about The Context Network, please contact Mark Nelson at