Pulse USA, a pulse crop and forage seed company based in Bismarck, N.D., is now fully-owned by some of the employees who work there.
Those owner/employees include: Renae Larson, the manager and president of the board, Nash Anderson, Emily Paul, Kim Kuhlmann, James Kostelecky and Tyler Kress.
To grow the business, increase their customers’ profitability, and evolve with the changing times in agriculture, the employees felt the way to go was to own the company.
“Owning our company has been an amazing experience for all of us, whether we are sales people or work in the warehouse. The pride has increased so much around here,” said Larson, who has been with the company since its beginnings in 2002.
One of the goals for Pulse USA employees owning their own company, now and in the future, was to have less turnover with staff because they would be owners of the company they worked at.
“I have seen a lot of evolution happen at Pulse USA, and some phenomenal changes,” she said.
Pulse USA started with 10 investors, with some being co-investors. Some were farmers, but they all had an exit plan of selling their shares to other investors when they retired or stopped farming.
The board opted to allow employee-owned shares.
“The board loved our company and the employees. It has always been a family-oriented company,” Larson said. “If the staff could own shares, they figured they would have an exit strategy when all the investors left.”
That’s what happened at the end of 2020. Larson knew some investors wanted to sell their shares, but it happened so quickly.
“We asked them to make us an offer and it was a fair offer. They have always been so appreciative of us and said when we were ready, they were ready,” she said.
In many businesses, the investors don’t live in the area. But they do at Pulse USA.
Customers have appreciated knowing Pulse USA is employee-owned.
“We have had customers come in and say, ‘I am going to do more business with you because before, I didn’t always buy from people I knew and cared about. I know who you are – now we know our money is going to stay local,’” Larson said.
With that, Larson said they did not make any changes that the customers would notice. Every employee still works in the same place that they always have.
Emily Paul still has the largest customer base and continues to sell top genetics to her customers.
New technologies in genetics have kept Pulse USA at the forefront of green and yellow peas and lentils. One of their most popular has been the icicle winter pea.
“Icicle winter pea is a winter annual legume that is used for cover crop, winter grain markets and winter annual forages. Growers like the small seed size because it requires less seed per acre,” Paul said.
The white flower of icicle means that the foliage is free of anthocyanins, which makes it more palatable and digestible for livestock.
The company currently sells green and yellow field peas, lentils, flax, cover crop blends, spring wheat, lawn grass, forage blends, and food plot and wildlife mixes.
“We’re still heavily involved with cover crops and forages, but recently we’ve been working more with grasses, such as pasture grasses, conservation grasses and lawn grasses,” Paul said.
Part of that work is with food plot and wildlife mixes.
“We have planting mixes for attracting wildlife for hunters or people who like to shelter wildlife or support beneficial insects, like bees,” she said.
With cover crops, Pulse USA has 10 mixes, three forage mixes, and six wildlife mixes.
One pea that is used for wildlife and as a good cover crop for grazing is Fergie, a forage pea that is a cool season annual legume.
Nutritional value came in high in 2017 field trials, including crude protein of 20 percent, TDN, 64 percent, and RFV, 133.
They feature CRP mixes and cover crops because the USDA is putting more funding toward conservation.
Paul pointed to a field that is 20 by 80 feet that Pulse USA plants cover crop mixes in.
“We invite producers to come and see the mixes for themselves,” she said.
Ranchers are always looking for pasture grasses to hay or graze.
“We have definitely been diving into grasses more,” she added.
With forages at the forefront, Pulse USA has new blends, such as the winter triticale and winter pea blend.
Pulse USA contracts with registered and certified seed growers in North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota and South Carolina.
Different types and varieties of pulse crops can perform differently based on a new geographic location.
“We utilize many growers in different states, because we need to find the right variety that will perform well in that environment,” Paul said.
From evaluating varieties to learning about new diseases and pests, the Pulse USA employees have always been on top of the latest technologies in seed for producers.
Now they can say they are owners of the company, as well.