- We Grow Online Markets for Agribusiness, Name New Chief Executive Officer & New Chief Technical Officer

Chapel Hill, N.C., March 15, 2000 – – We Grow Online Markets for Agribusiness, of Chapel Hill, N.C., whose web site is the premier agricultural online exchange announced today the appointment of Robert D. Sparks, formerly vice chairman of Sparks Companies, Inc., as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and Jay Gibbs, a FedEx veteran, as Chief Technology Officer (CTO). Gibbs most recently served as vice president and chief technology officer for Sparks Companies’ e-commerce business.

The new leadership will provide skills and experience to help the company expand its dominance in agricultural e-commerce. The firm recently received major international financial backing and merged with a leading agricultural e-commerce rival.

Ben Zaitz, founder, said, “We couldn’t have two better qualified people join our team. Robert Sparks and Jay Gibbs bring us an excellent combination of experience to strengthen our leadership position. Sparks is one of the leading agribusiness entrepreneurs in the country, and Gibbs brings a wealth of business-to-business e-commerce experience from Federal Express.”

Joe Dales, founder,, who recently announced the merger of the firm with, said, “We’re excited to be part of such a bold agricultural e-commerce force with such dynamic leaders.”

Sparks was most recently vice chairman of Sparks Companies, Inc., a leading international agribusiness research and consulting firm. He is also the former president and CEO of Cattlco, Inc., a cattle feeding company comprised of five feed yards located in Colorado, Texas and Kansas with a capacity of 242,500 head. Sparks trades and manages the risk on over 450,000 head of cattle per year.

He is also the former vice president of Sparks Farming, Inc, a cow-calf/row crop operation located in Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and Texas totaling more than 40,000 acres, 5,000 cows and more than 90,000 head of background cattle per year. Over the last decade, Sparks has been involved in risk management trading activities for feedlots, financial analysis, acquisitions and a variety of agriculture related management positions.

In addition, he has personally been involved in several investments in real estate developments and a start-up bank. In the early 1980s, Sparks held a position with the First National Bank of Oklahoma City and was involved in the startup, as director of development, for Storage-USA, Inc., a real estate investment trust traded on the NYSE. Sparks graduated from Mississippi State University with a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Economics.

Gibbs most recently served as vice president and chief technology officer for eSparks, the e-commerce initiative of Sparks Companies, Inc. Gibbs came to eSparks from FedEx where he was the managing director of e-commerce development. Gibbs has more than 15 years experience in developing software and 5 of those years focused on the e-commerce market. Gibbs led the development teams at FedEx responsible for building business-to-business e-commerce applications for FedEx's customers. Gibbs also headed up the Internet development team that built the award winning and world-renowned Gibbs graduated from The University of Memphis in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in Computer Science.

These announcements come on the heels of other important developments for the company. Just last week, received a novel international private placement of 42.5 percent of its equity with, the food and agribusiness Internet initiative sponsored by Rabobank Group The resulting firm, – We Grow Online Markets for Agriculture, has more than 70 employees in North America and online markets in feed commodities, cash grain, eggs & poultry products, ag chemicals, alfalfa hay, animal health products, breeding cattle and genetics, feeder cattle, feeder pigs, and real estate., launched in January 1995, soon after it was first possible to view images on the Internet, is an agricultural e-commerce pioneer. The firm uses patent-pending bid-ask software to deliver best prices by creating online instantaneous markets, unlike the static billboards used by competitors. The format allows buyers and sellers to pick their price in a real-time market, where bids and offers to sell are made and accepted at any time. For more information on – We Grow Online Markets for Agribusiness visit or call toll-free, 1-888-929-5444.

Brianna Black