By Russell J., Mechanical Project Engineer Intern
Growing up in Iowa, surrounded by cornfields, I never imagined that I would be working in agriculture in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, at 6,000 feet above sea level! However, that is exactly what I found myself doing as I packed up my car and headed across the country to Soda Springs, Idaho.
The importance of agriculture for today’s society is unmistakable. As the population grows, we find ourselves in need of producing more crops using the same amount of land. A commitment to sustainability and an effort to increase access to safe and healthy food for everyone across the globe are necessary for modern agriculture to make a lasting impact on the world’s food security challenges.
One of the key components for me is to ensure that my work aligns with my values. I find innovation exciting and I want the work that I do to have a tangible impact on the lives of others. Agriculture is a pathway for me to do just that. Innovation offers many benefits for farmers and growers as well as individuals who simply rely on agriculture for their food supply.
This is not my first time working in the ag industry outside my native Midwest. Last summer, I enjoyed the experience of working as a mechanical maintenance engineer at Monsanto’s plant in Luling, Louisiana. In that role, I focused on improving the reliability of the CT2/3 production unit, where we produced glyphosate salt. This summer, I am tasked with the responsibilities of a project engineer. Monsanto operates a mine and a chemical plant in Soda Springs to produce phosphorus, a raw ingredient for glyphosate, the main active ingredient in Roundup® branded agricultural herbicides. As a project engineer, I deliver new solutions and introduce ideas that will improve the working environment for Monsanto’s employees, and increase the safety and efficiency of the entire plant. During the 64 years that the Soda Springs plant has been in service, engineers and operators have implemented changes to increase safety. Yet, as technology continues to develop and evolve, Monsanto continues to make innovative changes to the plant’s equipment. My projects range from delivering computer numerical control equipment to the machine shop, to installing noise reducing materials, and repairing and rebalancing ventilation systems.
During my three-month internship, Monsanto entrusted me with these projects from beginning to end. I feel like a full-time engineer as I manage each phase from planning and design to completion. When I first began, it seemed daunting to be trusted with so much responsibility; but I have adjusted to the work and feel thankful for the opportunity that Monsanto has provided me to grow as an engineer.
Another very important part of any job for me is the people that I work with. I have built strong relationships with my co-workers and felt supported and encouraged every day on the job. And I was very impressed by the sense of community and safety in Soda Springs. The plant’s motto, “If it can’t be done safely, it is not worth doing” has led me to focus on making all decisions with safety in mind. Even when I’m not at work, the company’s “safety first” philosophy stays with me.
The Northwest has proven to be a beautiful place. As someone who finds fields and silos beautiful, living in the Rocky Mountains has been an amazing experience. Together, with other summer interns at Monsanto, I have travelled and explored much of what the Northwest has to offer. The Soda Springs plant is within driving distance of three national parks: Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier. We’ve even gone whitewater rafting and hiking in Canada. Monsanto employees in Soda Springs love the outdoors and enjoy giving us ideas of places to go.
Overall, I am grateful to have worked at Monsanto to grow my skills as an engineer and build strong connections within the company across the country. I strongly believe that my career will build upon the experiences that I had this summer and last year at Monsanto. I am looking forward to packing my car and heading towards my next adventure in agriculture!