SPEAKERS

Join leaders at the forefront of their fields for exciting panel discussions and Ted-Talk style presentations. Foster Our Future 2020 will feature speakers representing key sectors in the food and agriculture communities, including policymakers, farmers, researchers, sustainability experts and private sector stakeholders.

Elizabeth Ainsworth

Elizabeth "Lisa" Ainsworth

Research Leader, Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit, USDA ARS
 

Dr. Elizabeth Ainsworth, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service researcher and adjunct professor at the School of Integrative Biology at the University of Illinois, is the 2019 recipient of the NAS Prize in Food and Agriculture Sciences. Ainsworth’s pioneering research focuses on how the world will eat in the face of climate change and other threats. This research has revealed how man-made atmospheric changes will affect the physiology and growth of crops around the world. Ainsworth is the lead investigator for the SoyFACE Global Change Research Facility, which is studying how crops will be affected by increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide and ozone in combination with drought and other environmental stresses, as well as possible solutions.

  
Jeni Arndt

Jeni Arndt

Colorado State Representative, Co-Chair NCSL Agriculture Task Force
 

Jeni Arndt is the State Representative from House District 53. Arndt has been a ESL teacher, Peace Corps volunteer, school board member and university department head. She holds a Ph.D. from Purdue University, master’s degrees from the University of Colorado and Purdue and an undergraduate degree from Colorado College. Jeni serves on Rural Affairs and Agriculture, Business and Labor during the legislative session. She also serves year-round on the Statutory Revision Commission, the Colorado Commission of Higher Education and Water Resource Review Committee. Jeni is passionate about her work with the National Institute of Civil Discourse, Council of State Governments (Chair-elect), and National Council of State Legislatures (Co-Chair of the national agriculture task force).

  
Amanda Ashworth

Amanda Ashworth

Research Soil Scientist, USDA-ARS
FFAR New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research
 

Dr. Amanda Ashworth is a Soil Scientist with USDA-ARS and Adjunct Professor in the Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences Department at the University of Arkansas. Dr. Ashworth’s research focuses on plant-soil-water interactions. Dr. Ashworth has published 55 refereed articles, 20 extension publications, 3 book chapters, and has secured $3.54 mil in funding. She currently serves on the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) Board. Dr. Ashworth was recognized with the USDA-ARS Early Career Scientist of the Year (2019), the USDA-ARS Southeast Area Early Career Research Scientist of the Year (2019), and the ASA, Environmental Quality, Inspiring Young Scientist Award (2019).

  
Aaron Ault

Aaron Ault

Co-Founder OATS Center, Purdue University and Vice President, Ault Farms
 

Aaron received BS and MS degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Purdue University. He has contributed to projects across the computing spectrum over the past 15 years, including security, data science, embedded systems, mobile apps, blockchain, and cloud architectures for supply chains. He is currently the senior engineer with the Open Ag Technology Center at Purdue University, spearheading the development of several open source initiatives including the Open Ag Data Alliance, Trellis, the Open Ag ToolKit, and ISOBlue. Aaron is also Vice President of Ault Farms, Inc., where he works full-time managing daily operations and getting his hands dirty. Ault Farms is an Indiana family farming operation with 3,200 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat and 3,000 head of beef cattle.

  
Thomas Burke

Thomas Burke

Food Traceability and Safety Scientist, Global Food Traceability Center
 Thomas Burke is the Food Traceability and Safety Scientist at IFT’s Global Food Traceability Center (GFTC). Currently, he is the technical lead for interoperability piloting, implementation guidance, and beta testing for the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability, which is facilitating the creation of data and IT architecture standards addressing catch legality, food safety, and labor accountability. He has a Bachelor of Science in microbiology from Kansas State University, studied epidemiology at Emory University, and is pursuing graduate studies in food science at Illinois Institute of Technology.
  
Dorn Cox

Dorn Cox

Research Director, OpenTEAM (Open Tech Ecosystem for Ag Management)/Wolfe's Neck Center for Agriculture & the Environment
 Dr. Dorn Cox serves as research director and OpenTEAM PI at Wolfe's Neck Center for Agriculture & the Environment. Dorn also lives and works on his family's 300-acre certified organic farm in New Hampshire. As a co-founder of the FarmOS software platform, the GOAT (Gathering for Open Ag Tech) and Farm Hack community, he is passionate about sharing open source agriculture to accelerate innovation and quantify environmental services from regenerative agriculture. In 2018 his work as a NACD Soil Health Champion was recognized with the inaugural Hugh Hammond Bennett award for excellence in conservation, and in 2019, Dorn was awarded the Food Shot Global Ground Breaker prize. He has a PhD from the University of New Hampshire in Natural Resources and Earth Systems Science.
  
Meredith Ellis

Meredith Ellis

G Bar C Ranch
 Meredith Ellis is a 2nd Generation rancher on her family ranch in Rosston, TX. She passionately believes in ranching’s ability to provide nutritious food to a growing population while leaving habitat and natural ecosystems intact. Meredith received her Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture with a focus on sustainability from the University of New Mexico. Meredith also sits on the board of Noble’s Integrity Beef Alliance. The ranch is a member of the United States Roundtable for Sustainable Beef and American Angus Association. Meredith believes that ranchland plays an important part of the climate solution and is a timeless refuge for native and migratory species in an increasingly developed world.
  
Al Gore

Al Gore

Former Vice President
 Former Vice President Al Gore is the cofounder and chairman of Generation Investment Management, and the founder and chairman of The Climate Reality Project, a nonprofit devoted to solving the climate crisis. He is also a senior partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and a member of Apple Inc.’s board of directors. Gore was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, 1978, 1980, and 1982 and to the U.S. Senate in 1984 and 1990. He was inaugurated as the 45th vice president of the United States on January 20, 1993, and served eight years. He is the subject of the documentary movie “An Inconvenient Truth.” In 2007, Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for “informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change.”
  
Bill Hilliard

Bill Hilliard

CEO, Atalo Holdings, Inc.
 Bill Hilliard is the Chief Executive Officer of Atalo Holdings, Inc., one of the largest participants in Kentucky’s Industrial Hemp Program. The company manages a selective Growers’ Group of 100+ farmers growing close to 2,000 acres in Kentucky for the 2019 season and has growers in five other states. Bill represents Atalo as a voting member of the U.S. Hemp Roundtable and a founding director of the US Hemp Farming Alliance. Prior to joining Atalo, Bill was executive vice-president, general counsel and chief development officer for Thomas and King, Inc. Bill was admitted to the Kentucky Bar in 1978 and practiced as a partner with the firm of Gess Mattingly & Atchison, P.S.C. for 18 years before joining Thomas and King. Bill remains of counsel with the law firm and spends most of his free time on his farm in Lexington, Kentucky.
  
Bryan Hitchcock

Bryan Hitchcock

Senior Director for Food Chain, Institute of Food Technologists and Executive Director, Global Food Traceability Center
 

Bryan Hitchcock is IFT’s Sr. Director Food Chain & Exec. Director of the Global Food Traceability Center. He is responsible for managing the GFTC including strategy & governance, sales & marketing, and government/public relations. He also serves as IFT’s principal scientific and technology leader on matters related to existing food chains and their digital transformation. Bryan has extensive R&D expertise in the food industry across emerging and mature brands, as well as broad & deep experience in new product and technology innovation, ingredients, processing, quality/food safety, and supply chain. He spent much of his career at PepsiCo most recently as Sr. Director, North America Nutrition R&D. Prior to PepsiCo, Bryan worked at P&G and 3M.

  
Scott Hutchins

Scott Hutchins

Deputy Under Secretary, United States Department of Agriculture Research, Education, and Economics Mission
 

Scott Hutchins is the Deputy Under Secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Research, Education, and Economics mission area which is comprised of the Agricultural Research Service, Economic Research Service, National Agricultural Statistics Service, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Together these agencies cut across every USDA department and have unique federal leadership responsibility to advance agriculture research, extension, and education. He was sworn-in by Secretary Perdue on January 29, 2019. Hutchins recently retired from CortevaTM AgriScience after almost 32 years, where he held many roles in Program Management, Human Resources, Six Sigma, R&D Portfolio Management and Global Administration. In addition, he is a Board-Certified Entomologist, Adjunct Professor of entomology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Past President of the Entomological Society of America (ESA), and Fellow of the ESA. Hutchins received a B.S. in entomology from Auburn University, a M.S. in entomology from Mississippi State University, and a Ph.D. in entomology from Iowa State University. He and his wife Janet have three children and seven grandchildren.

  
Tu Anh Huynh

Tu Anh Huynh

Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin – Madison
FFAR New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research
 

Tu Anh Huynh is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. She received a PhD at the University of California – Davis and postdoctoral training at the University of Washington. Her lab in Madison studies the adaptation and virulence of Listeria monocytogenes, an invasive human and animal pathogen that is frequently shed by asymptomatic dairy cattle. Towards this phenomenon, they also investigate the genetic determinants that allow Listeria to colonize the bovine gastrointestinal tract, and the effects of asymptomatic Listeria carriage on the GI tract microbiota of dairy cows.

  
Chavonda Jacobs-Young

Chavonda Jacobs-Young

Administrator of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Acting Chief Scientist USDA
 

Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young is the Administrator of the ARS, USDA’s chief scientific in-house research agency, and currently also the Acting Chief Scientist of USDA. Prior to joining ARS, Dr. Jacobs-Young held several scientific leadership roles to help transform USDA’s scientific coordination. Dr. Jacobs-Young has also served as Director of the USDA Office of the Chief Scientist, Acting Director for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Senior Policy Analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. She holds M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Wood and Paper Science and a B.S. degree in Pulp and Paper Science and Technology from North Carolina State University. Dr. Jacobs-Young is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a 2016 recipient of the Presidential Rank Award.

  
Daniel Johnson

Daniel Johnson

Chair of the Department of Packaging Science in the College of Engineering Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology
 

Professor Daniel Johnson is Chair of the Department of Packaging Science in the College of Engineering Technology at Rochester Institute of Technology. He leads a team of experts in food packaging, brand/channel marketing, distribution packaging, sustainable packaging and design for supply chain. The Department of Packaging Science has an industry driven research focus which includes the American Packaging Center for Packaging Innovation, the Center for Sustainable Packaging and an ISTA certified student operated packaging dynamics lab which provides packaging evaluations for more than 200 company-clients each year. Dan’s research interests include sustainable packaging, new product/package development, e-commerce, automation and design for supply chain.

  
Isaya Kisekka

Isaya Kisekka

Associate Professor, University of California Davis
FFAR New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research
 

Dr. Kisekka is an associate professor in the Departments of Land, Air and Water Resources and Biological and Agricultural Engineering at University of California Davis. His research focus includes 1) irrigation, 2) water resources management, and 3) hydrology. Current projects include data-driven irrigation optimization in tree, vegetable and forage crops, monitoring and modeling of nitrate leaching to groundwater, salinity, proximal and remote sensing, recycled water reuse, and crop modeling.

  
Kranthi Mandadi

Kranthi Mandadi

Assistant Professor, Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center
FFAR New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research
 

Kranthi Mandadi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at Texas A&M University. His research spans both fundamental and translational studies of fastidious plant diseases that threaten global food production and security. Kranthi is also committed to mentoring students and early-career scientists, as well as serve the agricultural stakeholder community. He is an active member of the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), American Phytopathological Society (APS) and Texas Plant Protection Association (TPPA).

  
Pam Marrone

Pam Marrone

Founder, Marrone Bio Innovations Inc.
 

Pamela G. Marrone is the Founder of Marrone Bio Innovations Inc. and Board of Director at the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research. Dr. Marrone founded AgraQuest in 1995 and served as its CEO, Chairman and President. She was founding president and business unit head for Entotech, Inc. She is an alumni-elected Trustee of Cornell University, Treasurer of the Association for Women in Science, on the Board of the Association of Applied IPM Ecologists Foundation and Founding Chair of the Biopesticide Industry Alliance. Dr. Marrone was a founding Board member of UC Davis CONNECT and DATA (Davis Area Technology Association). She was elected as a Fellow of AAAS (American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science).

  
Shefali V Mehta

Shefali V. Mehta

Founder, Open Rivers Consulting Associates
 

Dr. Shefali Mehta, an environmental and agricultural economist and statistician, focuses on developing strategy and implementation plans for organizations. She founded and leads Open Rivers Consulting Associates to tailor solutions and create holistic strategies for a range of clients. Prior to founding Open Rivers, Dr. Mehta worked in roles across private, public and non-profit sectors including McKinsey, Syngenta, the Soil Health Partnership, amongst others. She serves or has served as a Board member for various groups including Bountifield, Pheasants Forever, Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pest Center (MITPPC), the School of Statistics at University of Minnesota, The Gates Scholar Advisory Council, amongst others.

  
Shane New

Shane New

Partner, Understanding Ag, LLC
 

Shane New is a stockman, entrepreneur and partner with Understanding Ag, LLC. A graduate of Kansas State University, he spent 20 years as a civil contractor and sod producer before completely focusing on regenerative agriculture. Shane and his wife Kelli alongside their three children, own and operate New Family Farms, a beef cattle and free-range chicken operation located in Holton, Kansas. The farm incorporates many of the regenerative practices including no-tilling, cover crops, rotational and adaptive grazing. Shane’s passion is production agriculture and believes that the future for agriculture and human health has to come from regenerative agricultural practices. He completed Dr. Elaine Ingham’s Life in the Soils courses and in 2017, New Family Farms received the Soil Health Award from Jackson County Conservation District for outstanding accomplishments in the management of soil health.

  
Yiping Qi

Yiping Qi

Assistant Professor, University of Maryland
FFAR New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research
 

Dr. Yiping Qi is an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at University of Maryland, College Park. In the past decade, Qi has been working on engineering sequence-specific nucleases such as ZFN, TALEN and CRISPR-Cas9. In recent years, Dr. Qi has pioneered novel CRISPR systems, such as CRISPR-Cas12a and CRISPR-Cas12b, for plant genome editing. With these tools, Qi and collaborators have edited the genomes of many crops, including tomato, carrot, rice, maize, strawberry, apple and poplar. Funded by FFAR New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research Award, Qi lab is currently developing and improving CRISPR-Cas12a genome editing tools for achieving highly efficient multiplexed genome editing in crops.

  
Thomas L. Rabaey

Tom Rabaey

Sr. R&D Manager, General Mills, Inc.
 

Tom Rabaey is a Sr. R&D Manager leading the Agronomy Sciences group focused on oat breeding and variety development, agronomy research, organic and regenerative agriculture practices, and is liaison for global agronomy. He holds a B.S in Agronomy Sciences from South Dakota State University and M.S and PhD in Agronomy Sciences and Entomology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Tom joined General Mills in 1995 and has worked on many brands for the company including Green Giant, Nature Valley, Cheerios, and the organic brands of Muir Glen, Cascadian Farm and Annie’s. He grew up on a diversified family farm near Minneota, Minnesota where he still has an active role in management of the operation.

  
Dr. Sally Rockey

Sally Rockey

Executive Director, Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research
 

Dr. Sally Rockey became the inaugural Executive Director of the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), in September 2015. Prior to this role, Dr. Rockey was a leader in Federal research, overseeing the operations of the extramural programs in both agriculture and biomedicine. She spent 19 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture before taking on the extramural research program at the National Institutes of Health. As Deputy Director for Extramural Research, Dr. Rockey led groundbreaking initiatives and activities that have and will have a lasting positive impact on the research community. Dr. Rockey received her Ph.D. in Entomology from The Ohio State University and was recently named a fellow of the Entomological Society of America.

  
Shauna Sadowski

Shauna Sadowski

Head of Sustainability for the Natural & Organic Operating Unit, General Mills, Inc.
 

Shauna Sadowski is the Head of Sustainability for the Natural & Organic Operating Unit at General Mills, lead efforts across four brands: Annie’s, Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen and Epic Provisions. Shauna develops the sustainability strategy by integrating it into product design with an emphasis on farm-level impacts, leading external engagement through partnerships, and working cross-functionally to ensure that sustainability is implemented across the brands. In prior years, Shauna has been a management consultant and a farm girl; is a graduate of the Friedman School at Tufts University and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She lives in Berkeley with her husband and two children.

  
Fred Strathmeyer Jr.

Fred Strathmeyer Jr.

Deputy Secretary for Plant Industry and Consumer Protection, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
 

Deputy Secretary for Plant Industry and Consumer Protection, Fred R. Strathmeyer Jr. was a co-owner of Strathmeyer Forests Inc. of York for over 35 years. He was appointed by former agricultural secretaries to serve on multiple committees and task forces. As the deputy secretary for plant industry and consumer protection, Deputy Strathmeyer oversees the department’s bureaus of Plant Industry, Ride and Measurement Standards, Dog Law Enforcement, the State Horse Racing Commission, and the Hardwoods Development Council. He serves as the designated chair for the Governor’s Invasive Species Council, the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Committee and the Amusement Ride Safety Board, highlighting the department’s commitment to a sustainable and safe food supply, along with good stewardship of the land and natural resources.

  
Cortney Van Oeffelen

Cortney Van Oeffelen

Van Oeffelen Farm Service
 

Cortney Van Oeffelen of Van Oeffelen Farm Service represents a diverse family-employee run dairy and crop operation located in Conklin, Michigan. The dairy strives to be stewards of their people, cows, and the environment by offering their team the ability to create a positive culture of accountability and ownership.

  
Jason Wallace

Jason Wallace

Assistant Professor, University of Georgia
FFAR New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research
 

Jason Wallace is an assistant professor at the University of Georgia. Combining the expertise of a PhD in molecular microbiology and a postdoc in agricultural genomics, his lab investigates how genetics affects how crop plants interact with microbes in the environment. His goal is to understand these interactions to harness them for sustainable food production and global food security.