Mr Addams, Managing Director, co-leads HighQuest Consulting, LLC, advising senior clients across the breadth of agriculture and food value chains. He has been involved in strategy for leading global organizations throughout his career, including a wide range of private sector companies (technology, consumer, extractive resources, investment, services), as well as public-sector and social-sector institutions.
Prior to joining HighQuest Consulting, Mr. Addams was Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer for Valmont Industries (NYSE:VMI), a global player in infrastructure, agricultural equipment, and agricultural technology, where he had responsibilities for growth strategy and for government relations. He has also co-founded Good Earth Irrigation, a startup company harnessing analytics and financial solutions to deploy efficient irrigation systems.
Earlier, Mr. Addams was part of the founding global leadership group of McKinsey & Company’s Sustainability and Resource Productivity Practice, advising private sector companies and public institutions on business strategy across multiple sectors – including agriculture and food, water resources, technology, energy, extractive resources and infrastructure. He is a co-author of Charting our Water Future, a foundational report of the 2030 Water Resources Group which has been a framework for the World Economic Forum’s governmental partnerships on water resources. He has engaged on water resource issues and related agricultural issues with key governments, companies, and non-governmental organization in the Americas, Asia, and Africa.
Mr. Addams currently serves on several Boards of Directors, including International Development Enterprises (iDE), the Middle East and North Africa Network of Water Centers (MENA-NWC), and CropMetrics, an irrigation technology company. He holds a Ph.D. (Earth and Environmental Sciences) from Stanford University, a B.Sc. (Applied Physics) from Brigham Young University, and has been a postdoctoral fellow at the Earth Institute at Columbia University. He is fluent in Spanish as well as English.
Adam is the Managing Partner and co-founder of Anterra Capital, an independent growth capital fund that invests in companies that are transforming the safety, security and sustainability of global food. Anterra was founded in 2013 as a spin-out from Rabobank, a global leader in food & agriculture financing. The fund is backed by Rabobank and Fidelity International. Adam has over 15 years of private equity and venture capital experience. Earlier in his career Adam worked with the buyout firm Ironbridge Capital and as a management consultant with Bain & Co. He grew up in rural South Australia where his interest in food and agriculture innovation was initiated. Adam is passionate about improving our food and agriculture system.
Adam holds an MBA degree from Cambridge University, England and a Bachelors Degree in Law and a Bachelors Degree in Commerce from the University of Adelaide, Australia.
Peter Berweger is an Operating Director at Paine Schwartz Partners LLC and serves on the board of AgBiTech Pty Ltd.
Mr. Berweger is a senior executive with a strong background in the agricultural industry. From 2015 until the successful merger with Rivulis Irrigation Ltd. in March 2017 he served as the Group CEO of Eurodrip S.A., a micro irrigation solutions provider and portfolio company of Paine Schwartz Fund III, which retains an investment in Rivulis. Prior to Eurodrip Mr. Berweger was for 7 years with Syngenta in various senior positions including Global Head of Soybean and Global Head of M&A. He started his career with KPMG where he spent 14 years in various roles including Partner and European Head of the Pharmaceuticals and Chemicals practice. Mr. Berweger is an accountant and economist by background and holds an MBA from Columbia University, New York and London Business School.
Jocelyn Boudreau is the CEO of Hortau irrigation management systems, co-founding the company in 2002. He holds a Bachelor of Engineering and Masters degree in soil physics from Laval University (Québec, Canada).
Hortau is an industry leader in wireless, web-based irrigation management systems for agriculture.
Hortau’s patented irrigation management solutions help growers monitor plant stress and soil moisture in real-time using soil tension, ensuring optimal crop growth while reducing water use, energy consumption and environmental impacts such as fertilizer leaching.
With U.S. operations based in San Luis Obispo, Calif., Hortau has offices, representatives and technicians throughout North America, including a Canada headquarters in Quebec.
Learn more about Hortau precision irrigation management systems at Hortau.com.
Alan Boyce is Co-Founder and an active member of the board of directors of Adecoagro (NYSE:AGRO), a food and renewable energy-producing company that farms in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Adecoagro owns 285,000 hectares of highly productive farmland, leases another 175,000 hectares and has 8,000 employees. Alan is also Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of Materra, LLC, a California and Arizona based agricultural production company. Materra was formed in 2010 and is currently the owner and operator of 25,000 acres of farmland where it grows pistachios, dates, citrus and organic vegetables. Boyce is CEO of the Absalon Project, a joint venture between Soros and the Danish financial system dedicated to the beneficial aspects of the Danish mortgage system. Boyce served as Director of Special Situations at Soros Fund Management from 1999 to 2007 and has continued as a consultant since then. At Soros, he managed a portfolio of assets of the Quantum Funds with a focus on mortgage backed securities and reinsurance. Boyce served as Managing Director at Bankers Trust from 1986 to 1999. He was in charge of Fixed Income Arbitrage, the bank’s mortgage portfolio and compliance with the Community Reinvestment Act. Prior to that, he worked for the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC.
David is a Kirchner Food Fellow Alumnus and a PhD Candidate at Rutgers University focusing on genetic improvement of under-developed crops for emerging markets. As a project manager for a USAID initiative, David oversees demonstration farms in Zambia, Kenya, and Tanzania, where research is conducted and best-practices are shared with farmers. David also serves as a consultant to investors and businesses from incubation-stage through private equity rounds of funding.
Pat Christie founded Conservis to unify the fabric of everything that touches the farm. He has 20 years of personal executive technical experience and a deeply experienced management team. Based in Minneapolis, MN and surrounded by some of the most productive farmland in the US, Conservis aims to be the single window into the world’s farm operations.
Kate Collins is a Kirchner Food Fellow and a dual MBA-MPA student at MIT Sloan and Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Kate’s interest in agriculture developed while working as a development consultant in Malawi, where she developed public private partnerships between multinational commodities companies and smallholder farmers. During graduate school, Kate completed a project for the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa based in Nairobi, mapping the systemic challenges hindering grain markets in East Africa and developing foundation-backed solutions. With the support of MIT’s International Development Innovation Network and MIT’s Africa Initiative, Kate and a classmate are conducting research on smallholder agricultural supply chains in Uganda. Kate spent three years at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC, working in U.S. foreign policy research before taking on management positions. She has also worked as a summer associate at Bain & Company, based in Chicago. Kate graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hopkins University with degrees in International Relations and History. She is a Dean’s Fellowship recipient at MIT Sloan and a JFK scholar at Harvard Kennedy.
Steve has over 20 years of venture capital and fund management experience working in underserved capital markets. Today, he is focused on making venture and growth stage investments with an emphasis on agriculture and energy. Through the Kirchner Impact Foundation’s Food Fellowship (www.fundthefood.com) initiative and using elements of the traditional merchant banking approach, Steve is also experimenting with new, millennial-powered, low-cost, high-impact potential investment models that can cost-effectively push modest amounts of equity investment capital and business resources out to historically unservable regions. He is also a frequent speaker at events related to entrepreneurial solutions to global food security.
Earlier in his career, Steve worked with Citibank, the Harbinger Group, as a Special Agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and as an Anglican Lay Minister in Newfoundland. Steve graduated from Harvard with BA in economics and religion, and from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with an MBA. He is a Director of the Hunger Solutions Institute, the Kirchner Impact Foundation, Enviva Biomass and Gridsmart.
Philippe de Lapérouse has more than 30 years of senior level experience working with leading global companies in the agro-industrial and value-added food chain, including Ralston Purina and Bunge, as well as working as an investment banker at the beginning of his career. As Managing Director of HighQuest Partners, he has led over 50 engagements advising executive teams of major strategic and financial investors operating and investing globally across the food, biotech and bioenergy value chains to on making informed decisions regarding resource allocation, new business opportunities and developing investment strategies to address the challenges facing global agriculture. Prior to joining HighQuest, Mr. de Lapérouse was Director of Business Development for Bunge North America, Inc., where he was responsible for the company’s efforts to expand its oilseed processing operations into Mexico and the Caribbean Basin, as well as developing export markets for oilseed products and feed grains into the Caribbean, North Africa and eastern Mediterranean. Previously, Mr. de Lapérouse held senior line management positions with Ralston Purina International where he managed operations and was responsible for functions including marketing, sales and developing dealer distribution networks targeting the industrial livestock and poultry sectors in Western, Central and Eastern Europe. Mr. de Lapérouse served as director of Sodrugestvo Management Company, Ltd., the leading importer, crusher and distributor of soybeans and feed ingredients in Russia from 2009 to 2012 and was instrumental in making the introduction which resulted in Mitsui acquiring a 10% shareholding in the company. He serves on the Advisory Committee of the Ag Innovation Showcase at the Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, MO, and is the author of the report, Private Financial Sector Investment in Farmland and Agricultural Infrastructure (2010) which was commissioned by OECD in 2010 to provide insights on this emerging asset class and the impact that private sector investment is having on the regions in which they are investing. He received his B.A. degree from Trinity College and an M.B.A. degree from The Darden School of Business at The University of Virginia.
Mr. Duerksen is Chairman & CEO of Kincannon & Reed, the world’s leading retained executive search firm in the agriculture and food value chain, and a top 25 firm globally amongst all industries. The firm counts among its clients many of the world’s most important companies and non-profit institutions, and has placed senior executives in all functions in all corners of the globe. Kincannon & Reed’s motto is, “We recruit leaders for organizations that feed the world and keep it healthy.”
Before entering executive search, Mr. Duerksen was a senior international executive. As CEO, he led the successful turnarounds of a Pepsi-Cola® bottling company in Mexico and of Latin America’s largest fertilizer producer and exporter. Prior to these posts, he was Vice President, Marketing & Development for a Fortune 500 crop input company. As chairman of the Food Safety Committee of the Chemical Producers & Distributors Association, he twice testified in Congress on food safety issues. In his early career he was a consultant for McKinsey & Company and as an Associates Fellow wrote case studies for Harvard Business School’s acclaimed Agribusiness program. He received a B.A. from Augustana College and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He is a native of South Dakota, where he grew up on a mixed grain and livestock farm and experienced early career failure as a classical musician.
Eitan Elkin is an experienced product professional, with more than 25 years of management roles in product management, marketing, sales support with a unique diversity of experience and methodologies.
Currently the Director of marketing at Start-Up Nation Central, a nonprofit and nonrevenue organization connecting Israeli innovation to business, government, and NGO leaders from around the world.
Eitan Elkin has held different position in startups and corporations in various areas. Working for Telecommunications software leader Amdocs doing product management and marketing for its flagship products. Eitan took part in creation of several start-ups, one of which was sold to Amdocs.
Eitan Elkin has authored standards in Telecommunications industry bodies such as IETF, 3GPP and IPDR. Eitan holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and computer science and a master’s in Computer Science from Bar-Ilan University, Israel.
Dave Gebhardt holds the position of Global Director, Strategic Partnerships for GEOSYS. Dave grew up on a family farm in southeastern Minnesota where his three brothers are still currently farming. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Agronomy from Iowa State University and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics from the University of Minnesota. Dave has spent more than 25 years in the agriculture industry in various plant genetics, agronomy, and technology roles with companies such as Coors Brewing Company, DuPont Pioneer, GreenLeaf Genetics, WinField and FarmLink. Dave is responsible for growing the GEOSYS business by establishing new technical and commercial strategic partnerships and collaborations. He also provides market intelligence on product design for the product teams. Dave is a member of the GEOSYS Strategy Team, and also is a key contributor to the company’s public relations and communications efforts.
Aki is a co-founder and Managing Partner of Avrio Capital. Prior to co-founding Avrio Capital, Aki was a Managing Director of FCC Ventures where he led the majority of the fund’s investments with a focus on various segments of industrial life science, food and agricultural technology sectors. With over 15 years of experience and as a member of the Board of over thirty portfolio companies, he has played an active role in all facets of strategic planning, corporate development, and overall shareholder value optimization.
Before he became a private equity investor, Aki was a Vice-President at Deloitte Corporate Finance where he advised private and public companies on financing strategies, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, and strategies for maximization of shareholder value. At Deloitte, Aki led numerous domestic and international assignments in the agriculture, food, biotechnology, oil and gas service, and health care sectors.
Previous investments include: Brookside Foods Ltd. (Acquired by Hershey), Agribiotics (Acquired by Merck), MCN Bio-products (Acquired by Bunge Limited), Allylix Inc. (Acquired by Evolva), Ascenta Health (Acquired by Natures Way), Walker Inc. (IPO), Hortau Inc., Farmers Edge Inc. (acquired by Fairfax Financial), SunSelect Produce Inc., Poss Design Ltd., Houwelings Nurseries, and Ensyn Technologies.
Aki is a Chartered Professional Accountant with the Corporate Finance designation, a CFA charterholder and holds a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Saskatchewan.
After a childhood spent learning the ropes on a dairy and cash crop farm in Eastern Ontario, Alain developed an expertise in building successful startups. He previously co-founded Altaeros Energies, which developed several airborne wind turbine prototypes and raised a Series A in excess of $7M. Alain also conducted global agriculture strategy projects with McKinsey & Company’s Agriculture Practice. His extensive project management and operational experience as a field engineer has led to projects throughout Europe and Asia. Alain is fluent in French, English and Spanish. Alain holds a Bachelor of Engineering from McGill University and a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School.
Kirk Haney is the CEO and Managing Partner of Radicle Growth, an Ag and Food Tech accelerator fund focused on transforming the speed of innovation in agriculture. Under Kirk’s leadership, Radicle secured top tier financial and corporate investors including Finistere Ventures, $150M agtech fund, OurCrowd, $300M funding platform, Bayer Crop Science and DuPont Pioneer. Radicle is partnering with great entrepreneurs to bring disruptive innovation to market while leveraging the platform’s global network to accelerate the development of the new technologies.
Previously, Kirk served as President and CEO of SGB, an agricultural biotechnology company, from 2007 to 2014. Under Kirk’s leadership, SGB became a leader in the development of new crops for food, energy and industrial markets and raised $40M from institutional and corporate investors. Prior to SGB, Kirk was the Chairman and President of Green Millennium. Kirk raised more than $120M in venture and private equity to develop, plant, and manage sustainable reforestation programs in Central America. A majority share of the company was sold to a $3 billion private equity firm in 2007.
Prior to his work in sustainable agriculture, he held senior management positions for 3Com Corporation, ArrowPoint Communications (acquired by Cisco Systems for $5.9B) and Cisco Systems.
Kirk earned an MBA from Pepperdine University and is fluent in Spanish and German. He is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO), is Co-Chair of the YPO Global Agriculture Group and he also serves on the board of advisors for the Ag Innovation Showcase. Kirk is a proud father and he is passionate about food, health and sustainability.
Dr. Michael Helmstetter is Co-Founder, President, and Chief Executive Officer of Technology Acceleration Partners (TechAccel LLC, www.TechAccel.net).
TechAccel is a venture and technology development company in the agriculture and animal health sectors that invests in or acquires new technology and funds science advancement programs with research university partners to assist in commercialization.
Before founding TechAccel, Michael served as the fifth President and Chief Executive Officer of MRIGlobal – one of the nation’s most prominent research institutions. In his 14 years with MRIGlobal (formerly Midwest Research Institute), he led its growth from 2 to 17 national and international locations.
Michael has more than 30 years of experience working with the private sector and government agencies, including laboratory management positions at Applied Marine Research Laboratory in Norfolk, Va., and program management for the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution in Fort Pierce, Fla. He was President and Chairman of startup Brevard Teaching and Research Laboratories, a post he held until the company was acquired by MRIGlobal.
Michael received a Ph.D. in Chemical Toxicology/Oceanography from Old Dominion University and a B.S. in Biology from Allegheny College. He has been a panelist, keynote speaker, lecturer, reviewer to several journals, and is the author of numerous publications, articles, book chapters, and technical reports.
He has served on several boards, including Labconco Corp. Board of Directors and University of Missouri-Kansas City Board of Trustees, as well as numerous civic organizations.
Michael lives in suburban Kansas City.
Mr. Antoine Hubert is Chairman, CEO and co-founder of YNSECT and also President & co-founder of the International Platform of Insects for Food & Food (IPIFF). Antoine Hubert was previously senior scientist at TOTAL and ALTRAN where he managed R&D programs on Sustainable Development applied on bioresources, soil remediation, waste-to-energy and recycled resources. He also launched in 2007 and led the non-profit organization WORGAMIC, dealing with food sustainability, promoting urban agriculture and organic waste recycling within cities, and in 2011 the company ORGANEO operating on biowaste management. He is also Board Member of AgroCampus Rennes school in France. He is also Guest Lecturer in AgroParisTech. He has a background in agronomy and life sciences from AgroCampus Rennes and AgroParisTech Engineering schools.
Faridah is a Kirchner Food Fellow and an MPA in Development Practice candidate at Columbia University’s School of International & Public Affairs [SIPA]. At SIPA her study is focused on innovative methods of using agriculture to reduce poverty in Africa. She attended the American University of Nigeria, receiving a BA in Economics & Comparative Politics and serving as President of Student Government. Prior to SIPA, she was at an African agricultural impact investment firm, where she worked to improve the productivity and incomes of thousands of rural smallholder farmers. Faridah is an alumna of the inaugural class of fellows at the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, and is a fluent Hausa speaker.
Bill Jorgenson is the Managing Director of Vanguard Renewables which owns and operates three farm digesters taking food organics to make electricity and fertilizer in an environmentally friendly way. VR has more digesters in constructions, with options for 15 others in five States. VR is funded by institutional investors who have an interest in climate change as a vehicle for a more productive world. He formed in 2008 Agreen Energy to make renewable electricity and fertilizer from dairy manure and food organics. These assets and business model have been merged into Vanguard where they are also stakeholders.
Jorgenson has spent his life in the food industry marketing and management including as Founder of SJH Consulting for agri-customers and Vice President of Latin America for Quaker Oats.
A graduate of Colgate University, Jorgenson also attended the University of Oslo, Norway. He is an author, industry speaker, Advisory Board member with two international Clean Tech funds and member several dairy Industry working groups.
Nitza has 20 years of experience working in senior management positions at life science companies. Previously, she served as VP Business Development at TechnionSeed, the technological incubator founded by the Technion R&D Foundation 2, Ltd., where she was responsible for the life sciences and cleantech fields.
Previously, Nitza managed business development at Rafael Development Cooperation; served as CEO of Clal Life Sciences, a R&D center for emerging life science companies; and was CEO of UroGyn, a start-up that developed minimally invasive surgical tools.
Nitza earned her Ph.D. (life sciences) and M.Sc. from Tel Aviv University (both with distinction) and studied law at Tel Aviv University. She was a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Plant Genetics at the Weizmann Institute of Science.
A San Francisco Bay Area native, Katz is a venture capitalist passionate about entrepreneurship, food (namely peanut butter), and the Giants (as in the San Francisco ones). Currently, he is head of U.S. investments for Naspers Ventures where he is responsible for identifying innovative companies in the U.S. that are positioned well for global expansion, closing deals via investment or M&A.
Prior to Naspers Ventures, Katz was a Partner, U.S. Investments for the Alibaba Group, and Vice President at Battery Ventures. Katz holds a Master’s in Business from Columbia University and a Bachelor’s from Georgetown University.
Blair has over 15 years of experience in merchant banking, specifically in marketing, back office operations and finance. Blair is also a Managing Director with Jotralair Holdings and a Partner in the Food Security Group, the agricultural impact arm of Kirchner Group. Blair is also a Director with the Kirchner Food Fellowship. In addition to his extensive background with the Kirchner Group he has performed research and analysis for financial services firms.
Prior to managing the front-line CRM activities at an IT multi-national Blair was the highest earning sales associate during his tenor of direct sales. Blair began his career at the age of 12 as a summer apprentice with Kirchner Group Founder and CEO Bud Kirchner. Blair co-ordinates IT, research, analysis and also conducts specialty research engagements in business development and advisory services for Kirchner Group.
Blair is on the Board of Directors for the Christopher Douglas Hidden Angel Foundation a charitable organization devoted to enriching the lives of individuals with cognitive, emotional, and/or physical impairments through programs centered on the use of multi-sensory environments.
Geoff Kneen is the R&D Licensing and New Ventures Manager, NA for Crop Science, a division of Bayer. Geoff was born in the United Kingdom and holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry. He was a researcher in the pharmaceutical industry before he moved in 1986 into crop protection with the UK subsidiary of Schering AG. He relocated to Frankfurt, Germany, in 1997 to run the global fungicides business of AgrEvo and then moved to Lyon, France, in 2000 to head the global fungicides and seed treatment business of Aventis CropScience. Following the formation of Bayer CropScience in 2003, he moved to Monheim, Germany, to lead the company’s Global Seed Treatment Business Unit. Geoff transferred to the United States in 2005 to direct the marketing group for Bayer CropScience’s U.S. subsidiary and in 2008 joined the Seeds organization as Head of Strategic Initiatives and RTP Operations. Geoff recently joined the Board of Directors of the N.C. College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Research Foundation, which works to increase resources, awareness and advocacy for research in agriculture and life sciences. Geoff joined R&D Alliance Management as the Licensing and New Ventures Manager, NA in September 2014.
Jonah Kolb is Vice President and Managing Member of Moore & Warner Ag Group, LLC in Clinton, Illinois and manages its brokerage subsidiary Moore & Warner Farm Real Estate, LLC. Jonah leads business development and consulting initiatives, working with private and institutional investors to build direct farmland portfolios. He also advises start-ups, private equity and venture capital funds pursuing opportunities in production agriculture and agribusiness.
Jonah’s professional experience includes evaluating agricultural big data technology and trends, business development at Cargill, risk management for CF Industries, and consulting and private equity in agriculture and renewable energy. Jonah started his career at the global investment firm D. E. Shaw & Co. in New York City.
Jonah holds an MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University where he was an Austin Scholar, and graduated summa cum laude from Dartmouth College. Jonah is a Trustee of the Vespasian Warner Public Library.
Sanjeev is Managing Director of S2G Ventures, and he has been with the firm since its inception. Sanjeev has over 15 years of experience in sourcing, executing, managing and governing venture and private equity investments, including a focus in agriculture and food companies. As Managing Director, Sanjeev is active in developing investments and managing portfolio companies.
Sanjeev serves on the boards of several S2G portfolio companies including Shenandoah Growers, MycoTechnology, Midwestern BioAg, Terramera, Shenandoah Valley Organic, Mercaris, and Arable. He also serves on the investment committee of Bamboo Finance and a variety of advisory boards related to impact investing and the agriculture and water sectors.
Grandson of a farmer and son of a nursery owner, John Lebeaux was sworn in as Commissioner of the Department by Governor Charlie Baker on February 6, 2015. After working at Shrewsbury Nurseries, his family’s nursery/garden center/landscaping business, while a student, John then worked for four years as an Urban Horticulturist in New York City. Upon rejoining the family business he served as its General Manager for twenty-six years. John was very active serving in a variety of green industry affairs positions, including two terms as President of the Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association. He has been a Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist since 1983.
A member of a family very active in volunteer government service, John was elected to his hometown Representative Town Meeting as soon as he turned eighteen. He is a seven term Selectman in the Town of Shrewsbury and is a Charter Member of the Shrewsbury Farmers Market Steering Committee. John served nine years as a member of the Massachusetts Board of Food and Agriculture representing the interests of agriculture to the Department, and providing input on policy development and budgetary decisions. He also served for nine years as a public member of the Massachusetts Water Resources Commission.
Prior to appointment as Commissioner, John served for over five and a half years as Town Administrator of the town of Princeton, a beautiful rural north central Massachusetts municipality with an active agricultural sector.
Proud parents of three adult children and grandparents to one grandchild, John and his wife Debbie live in Shrewsbury on a former portion of his grandfather’s Buttonwood Farm.
Damien Lepoutre is the president and founder of GEOSYS – an international leader in remote sensing and weather based decision support across the agriculture industry for 30 years. As an agronomist, he always had a passion for agriculture, but in the early 1980’s he quickly foraged his own path in the industry when he started in remote sensing at NFAP (a JV of NASA and USDA/FS). Lepoutre expanded his technology background through his work in the IT department of the French Ministry of Agriculture where he developed software to advise growers on best application practices for chemicals. Soon after, he started the remote sensing and GIS lab of the French Ministry of Agriculture in what is now IRSTEA. By 1987, he founded GEOSYS to better serve the needs of agribusiness and growers.
Lepoutre earned his executive MBA from Toulouse Business School, and consults with numerous organizations based on his unique background and experience in successfully developing an international business in digital ag technologies.
Dr. Louis D. Lieto is a partner in the intellectual property and patent practice at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. Lou focuses on patent prosecution, strategic patent counseling, and IP due diligence in a variety of fields, including biofuels, immunotherapeutics, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, stem cells, and transgenic animals.
Lou received his Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky, where he focused on characterizing the molecular and genetic basis of hereditary disease. Subsequently, Lou completed his postdoctoral fellowship in immunology at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). At NIAID, Lou conducted research in the fields of immunology and molecular biology to examine the regulation of gene expression of human immuno-regulatory receptors.
Prior to joining Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, Lou was a patent examiner at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, where he examined applications for inventions encompassing several fields, including proteins, DNA vectors, nucleic acid vaccines, immune cell therapy, stem cell therapy, transgenic animals, and gene therapy.
Robin Lougee is the IBM Research Lead for Consumer Products & Agriculture. She chairs the 2017 Syngenta Crop Challenge Award in Analytics prize committee. Robin is an industrial research scientist with a strong track record of delivering innovation to IBM and its customers. She pioneered the creation of COIN-OR, an open-source foundry for computational operations research, and led its growth to an independent non-profit that has served the scientific and business community for over 15 years. Robin was elected to the Board of INFORMS, the largest society in the world for professionals in the field of operations research, management science and analytics, Chair of the INFORMS Computing Society, and President of the Fora of Women in ORMS. She was awarded the 2016 INFORMS George E. Kimball Medal. Robin earned a Ph.D. in Mathematical Sciences from Clemson University in 1993.
Mark Luecke, Managing Director and CEO, has 20 years of experience in starting, leading, advising, and successfully exiting technology and other growth-oriented companies. He was raised on a small farm in South Dakota, graduated with honors from the University of South Dakota’s School of Business, and earned his Certificate of Public Accounting while advising his clients at a global accounting and consulting firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mark was recruited by one of his largest clients where he co-managed the acquisition of 25 businesses and $1 billion in annual revenue. Following the consolidation of these businesses, Mark started a new business unit that generated over $100 million of new revenue with its partners, completed the turn-around of another business unit, and was named Vice President, Services. The company exited to a Fortune 500 manufacturer, where Mark served as Global Services Vice President. Successfully transitioning back to his entrepreneurial roots, Mark served as President and Chief Operating Officer of a private equity firm and Managing Director of an investment banking firm in Denver, Colorado where he started, provided leadership, advised, and exited a diversified portfolio of companies. Mark was recruited back to South Dakota to start Innovation Partners, an early stage venture capital firm, where he serves as Managing Director and CEO. Innovation Partners provides executive leadership to portfolio companies, such as Prairie AquaTech, supporting $50+ million in debt, equity, and grant financing activities, a large patent estate, new jobs and strategic partnerships. Mark serves on the board of a number of organizations, competes in triathlons and other outdoor activities, and was recently named to Prairie Business Magazine’s Top 40 Under 40.
Ignacio Martinez joined Flagship Ventures in 2013 and focuses on sustainability and life sciences investments with a special interest in the agricultural sector. Ignacio holds a BS in Economics and Business Administration from Deusto University in Spain, and an International MBA from Instituto de Empresa in Spain and WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management in Germany. Prior to joining Flagship, Ignacio was the Managing Director of Syngenta Ventures, where he was directly involved in investments in the agribusiness, biotechnology and cleantech industries in Europe, North America and Latin America. Syngenta Ventures is the venture capital arm of Syngenta International AG, the world’s largest agrochemical business with more than $13 billion in revenue. Ignacio has international board experience having served as Director in companies from seven different countries. He was also involved in corporate venture capital activities managing the relationship as limited partner with Life Science Partners BioVentures, a $100 million Agribusiness fund and the Gilde European Food and Agribusiness, a €90 million fund. Prior to Syngenta, Ignacio was the Chief Financial Officer of Progenika Group, where he was responsible for financial systems controls, transactions and processes (GAAP/IFRS) reporting to the investors. He also oversaw spinoffs and M&A activity, participated in raising more than $50 million in funding and actively participated in the expansion of the company to the US and Latin American markets. Before Progenika, Ignacio spent several years working for Najeti Ventures Fund investing in IT and biotech companies in Europe.
Jess is an angel investor and member of Launchpad Venture Group. Her family has been investing in and mentoring start up companies for 20 years in both Canada and the US. Her portfolio companies fall into many sectors including manufacturing, biotech, IT, medical devices and consumer goods. She sits on the board for various non-profits as well as portfolio companies such as KnipBio, 99Degrees Custom and CPL. She is a mentor/advisor for local organizations such as MassChallenge and TCN.
Brian Mixer is an investment director at Middleland Capital. Brian works with technology companies in the food, agriculture and sustainability sectors. He led Middleland’s investments in and holds the board or observer seats in Aerofarms, Arable Labs, Agrivida, Aquaspy, Conservis, Groundwork BioAg, Rootility and Shenandoah Growers.
Prior to joining Middleland in 2010, Brian worked in investment banking and held senior positions in multiple US political campaigns. Brian holds a BA in economics from Bucknell University, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
Bob Morris is President of AndMore Associates, LLC, a global advisory firm providing strategic counsel on technology innovation, commercialization and new business opportunities to global stakeholders in the food, agriculture, and cleantech sectors. An advocate for entrepreneurship, innovation, higher education improvements, and science and technology initiatives, Bob is passionate about developing sustainable solutions in an evolving, dynamic global marketplace.
As past president of The Sulphur Institute, Bob led the successful promotion of sulphur as a viable investment and commercial product in agricultural and industrial markets worldwide amongFortune 500 corporations, associations, non-government organizations, and international government agencies. He initiated and conducted programs that positioned sulphur as an essential crop nutrient with Indian government and industry, a two million ton fertilizer market. The programs and partnerships he established with Chinese industry and government helped stimulate growth of Chinese sulphur imports from zero to more than ten million tons, a US$1 billion market.
A published and recognized industry expert, Bob serves on various advisory boards and councils including the Ag Innovation Showcase, the International Intellectual Property Institute, TechCast Global, IFA Agriculture and Communications committees and the Rutgers University MBS program. Bob is an agronomist with a B.S. from Rutgers University and an M.S. from Pennsylvania State University.
Dr. Ara Nefian is CTO and co-founder at Intelinair. Intelinair is developing advanced analytics methods from remote sensing data and provides farmers with in season early warnings to monitor and increase yield performance.
Ara’s experience includes large scale image, terrain and albedo mapping of Apollo data and development of novel navigation techniques for Moon and Mars rovers (Curiosity rover). In the past he was with Intel Research Labs and led several machine learning projects using Bayesian networks for human computer interfaces and bioinformatics. In 2005 Dr. Nefian was part of the computer vision group within the Stanford racing team (Stanley) that won the DARPA Autonomous Navigation Grand Challenge. He co-authored more than 100 research papers and holds ten US and international patents. Ara Nefian holds a BS from Politehnica University Bucharest (1993) and a MSEE and PhD from Georgia Institute of Technology (1999).
Aric Olson, the president of Jain Irrigation, Inc. (Fresno, CA) is a thought leader, frequent speaker, and panelist for domestic agriculture and water issues. He has a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and a Masters of Business Administration to go along with twenty years of manufacturing company experience in which he held responsibilities for manufacturing, distribution, engineering, sales & marketing, and human resources.
He has been a member of Jain Irrigation’s management team responsible for successfully integrating eight major acquisitions into the leading global irrigation technology company in the world, in the last ten years.
He is a past-president and the current treasurer of the Irrigation Association and a founding committee member and chairperson of Blue Tech Valley.
He is a certified Six-Sigma Black Belt and Manager of Quality/Operational Excellence from the American Society of Quality. He is a Certified Supply Chain Professional and Certified in Production and Inventory Management by APICS, the Association for Operations Management. Additionally, he is a Certified Agricultural Irrigation Specialist and Certified Irrigation Designer by the Irrigation Association. He also supports the local community with service on the Fresno County Workforce Investment Board as past Director and vice-chairperson.
Aric lives in Fresno, CA, the USA headquarters for Jain Irrigation, Inc., with his wife and two young sons.
Ron brings a diverse 10-year background in software-as-a-service design, development and innovation. In addition to agriculture and logistics hardware and telematics innovation, Ron has also previously helped design and build risk management software for financial institutions, including lenders, insurance companies and more. As part of the Senior Management Team at Farmers Edge, Ron continues to develop new and innovative hardware and software for farmers and partners around the world.
Jessica Paolini joined the Office of Economic Development in 2016. She is a key member of the development team for Innovation Park@Rutgers, with a focus on international partnerships and business attraction. Previously, she was the Economic Development Manager for Choose New Jersey. In this role, Jessica supported domestic and international businesses in establishing or expanding operations in New Jersey. She specialized in global markets, having organized and participated in business missions for state government officials, university and industry executives, to locations including Israel, the UK, Switzerland, Canada and Mexico.
Jessica is the former Chair of the Young Professionals Advisory Committee for the International Economic Development Council. She holds BA degrees in Environmental Studies and Political Science from East Stroudsburg University and an MA in Political Science from Villanova University.
David is the co-founder and CEO of TellusLabs, a Boston-based startup that combines decades of satellite imagery with a machine learning platform to answer critical, time-sensitive economic and environmental questions. David co-founded Boston Consulting Group’s global data science practice. At TellusLabs, David is combining his love of satellite remote sensing with nearly a decade of practical experience addressing the geospatial and data-driven questions of the Fortune 500. Prior to BCG, David served as a Surface Warfare Officer in the US Navy. He received an AB from Harvard College, an MA in satellite remote sensing from Boston University, and a PhD in geo-demography from Princeton.
Mitchell Presser is the head of Freshfields’ US M&A practice and focuses on global business transactions, including M&A and leveraged buyouts, for international corporations and financial institutions. Mitchell gained his skills and knowledge of the food and agriculture industry through wide experience on both sides of transactions, adviser and principal. From 2006 to 2013, Mitchell was a founding partner of Paine and Partners LLC, a private equity firm managing a $1.2bn fund focused on investing in food and agribusiness. Previously, Mitchell was a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, where he concentrated on mergers & acquisitions, private equity, leveraged buyouts, corporate governance and securities law matters. Mitchell received his JD from Yale Law School and a BS in accounting from New York University.
Ryan Rakestraw is a principal at Monsanto Growth Ventures (MGV). With offices in San Francisco and St. Louis, MGV invests in a broad range of companies that can have a major impact on the future of agriculture. MGV is growth-stage agnostic, investing in companies from seed stage through IPO. Previously, Ryan was with Cultivation Capital, an early stage venture capital firm based in St. Louis. During this time Ryan founded the Yield Lab, an accelerator program focused on Agriculture. Earlier in his career, Ryan was a systems engineer with Northrop Grumman where he helped to design and implement military platforms ranging from undersea to space applications. Ryan has a bachelor’s of science in electrical engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a master’s of science in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins, and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis.
In the past 17 years, Mr. Rath has gained extensive experience in all aspects of finance and capital market activities related to technology and digital media companies — specifically, equity research and technology corporate/commercial banking. Most recently, Jeﬀ spent 14 years as a senior member of Canaccord’s global research team, and as a managing director within its technology equity research practice, covering location technologies and digital media.
Dan is currently semi-retired and the part-time controller for Piepel Premium Fruit, a Washington based grower-packer-shipper of tree fruits. Previously, for more than 20 years Dan was the VP Finance for Stemilt Growers, Inc., one of the largest vertically integrated fruit companies in the US. He holds a degree in accounting from CWU, and an MBA from Golden Gate. Dan and his wife live in Cashmere, WA.
Gideon Soesman is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of GreenSoil Investments, an investment company with offices in Raanana (Israel) and Toronto (Canada).
GreenSoil funds companies with transformative technologies that change how we use the world’s resources and has ~$100M under management in two investment funds: GreenSoil Agro & Food Tech (GAFT) and GreenSoil Building Innovation Fund (GBIF). GAFT is the largest dedicated Israeli fund in ag & food tech and is invested in 6 promising start-ups.
Before co-founding GreenSoil, Gideon founded and managed GMS Capital, a boutique investment bank. Prior to GMS Capital, Gideon was responsible for all global merger and acquisition activities for a major division of Royal Philips Electronics and also served as Director of Corporate Strategy & Venturing. Prior to joining Philips, Gideon held senior positions at Shaldor and Ergo, both leading strategic management-consulting firms in Israel.
Gideon holds a B.A. in Economics from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and an M.A. in Business Administration from the Boston University / Ben Gurion University of the Negev. He immigrated to Israel from the Netherlands in 1990, is married and has 3 kids.
Jeff is an experienced farmer and executive with over 20 years experience in the agriculture, food and finance industries. Focused on permanent crops, he is both an organic and conventional grower of citrus and hazelnuts. He has grown olives and table grapes as well. Jeff is also a partner at Kachina, LLC where he manages farmland investments for family offices, endowments and ultra high net worth individuals. He also advises venture capital and private equity funds on the intersection of agriculture and technology. He has worked with ag tech, land and specialty food clients such as Belcampo Meat Co. and Sunkist Growers. Prior to farming, Jeff was co-founder and Managing Director of Ecosa Capital Management, advising companies in the clean energy, green building and sustainable food industries on financial and management strategy. He is also an elected member of the California Citrus Research Board, an industry-funded science and technology investment and grant-maker. Among other roles, he is currently Chairman of the New Varieties Research Committee, and Vice Chairman of the Research Development and Implementation Committee charged with commercializing or otherwise implementing promising innovation. He taught environmental entrepreneurship at Stanford University and social entrepreneurship at UC Berkeley in the Haas School of Business. Jeff earned an MBA with honors from Georgetown and a BA from the University of Miami, also with honors.
Scott Strand is an Associate Partner with Dalberg, an advisory firm dedicated to emerging market growth and innovation. He is a co-lead of Dalberg’s global ICT and Data practice and San Francisco office director. He focuses on building strategies for AgTech funders, agribusinesses, and innovators interested in expanding in emerging markets. He works with clients across North America, Sub Saharan Africa (particularly Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya), India, and Indonesia. Some of Scott’s recent work includes:
Outside of these specific projects, Scott works with clients to identify, fund, and scale digital solutions that support agricultural productivity. He develops strategy and organizational plans for leading funders, advises on building investment pipelines, facilitates partnerships between private organizations and governments, and publishes reports calling for increased inclusion of underrepresented talent in the global tech sector. Publications that have cited Scott’s work include Wired, Fast Company, and the Washington Post.
Prior to Dalberg, Scott worked for the Monitor Group and Bain & Company, where he advised Fortune 100 companies and various US Government agencies on their strategies, pipelines, and communications. Scott holds an MA in International Development from the Fletcher School at Tufts University and BAs in History and Psychology from Brown University.
Karen Studer-Rabeler joined Michigan State University in May 2015 to serve as the Michigan Translational Research and Commercialization (MTRAC) Program Director. The Program facilitates commercialization of AgBio technologies and expanded to become the statewide MTRAC Innovation Hub for AgBio in September 2016, enabling researchers from across Michigan to participate in the Program. Karen has a broad base of experience encompassing product development, project management, technology commercialization, as well as marketing and field sales in both large and small companies. As Vice President of Business Development at Coy Laboratory Products, she expanded their life science tool offering with successful launches of both internally developed products and distribution of complimentary international partner products. While at the University of Michigan’s Office of Technology Transfer for 8 years, she managed the New Business Development Group and personally assisted in the creation of new businesses based on university technology, developing the program to be recognized as a nationwide leader in start-up business formation from academia.
Jason Tatge serves as CEO. Jason has been a driving entrepreneurial force behind leading internet & Ag-Tech companies for over 15 years. His previous company, Farms Technology, created an electronic marketplace to automate grain transaction and risk management processes, offering automated hedging algorithms accessible via smartphones and tablets. Farms Technology was purchased by DuPont/Pioneer in December 2012.
Following the successful exit of Farms Technology, Jason became intensely focused on using IoT devices to passively collect data from farm equipment as farmers operate on their land. Half of U.S. farmers leave this valuable data locked in their machines. Farmobile was created to provide Farmers with real time access and ownership to their farming information.
Jason earned a degree in Financial Economics from Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter MN and an MBA from The Fogelmen School at The University of Memphis. Jason served as the Pipeline Entrepreneurs Member President, is currently on the Pipeline Entrepreneurs Board of Directors, and is actively involved with the Entrepreneurial community in the Midwest. Jason and his wife live in Bucyrus, KS and have two children.
Mohan manages IFC’s technology strategy across external relationships, new ventures and IFC’s internal data sciences program. Mohan has evaluated a large number of technology companies to validate the relevance of their products to the IFC land platform, and serves on the boards of several tech companies.
Prior to IFC, Mohan led a technology company through rapid growth that featured it in the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing US private companies for three consecutive years. He was also nominated an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Southern California. Mohan has served in various management and consulting roles at KPMG, General Electric, MetLife, Arthur Andersen, Morgan Stanley and AIG.
Mohan graduated with an MBA (Dean’s List) from Columbia University in New York and holds Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Computer Science (with Distinction) from the University of Poona, India.
Carl is CEO of Soft Robotics Inc. Prior to Soft Robotics, Carl held a variety of senior positions in technology and medical device companies, most recently as Vice President of Marketing at OmniGuide Surgical. Carl served as the Global Franchise Leader for the Joint Repair business at Smith & Nephew, with $500 million in annual revenues and also as Vice President of Global Marketing and Director of Strategy and Business Development for the Endoscopy Global Business Unit. Carl served as Manager of Strategic Planning at 3M and as Division Operations Process Manager at Nestle Waters North America. He began his career a Naval Flight Officer in the United States Navy, retiring from the Naval Reserve in 2013.
Michael began his career in commodities trading at Dominion Resources where he focused on valuation of structured deals and trading analysis. More recently, Michael was an investment professional at RJI Capital, a boutique private equity and strategic advisory firm, where he covered both direct investments and corporate finance advisory mandates.
Michael joined Sundrop Farms in 2014 to lead business and project development efforts as the Company expands in markets outside of Australia and into new product categories.
Michael received a BSE in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan and an MSc with Distinction in Shipping, Trade, and Finance from Cass Business School.
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