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Track Preview: Food Systems

Rishi Malhotra August 13, 2010

food_systemsSOCAP10 is proud to present the Food Systems Track curated by Melanie Cheng.
The agriculture and seafood industries are in a state of crisis. Many of today’s top environmental, social, and economic problems are caused by how we produce and distribute food. Learn from industry veterans and innovators about the most promising opportunities and critical areas to make an impact in the short-term: systemic solutions for healthy ecosystems, regional foods, international trade, biotechnology, IT, and a strategy session for funders.
Click here to see the full SOCAP10 schedule, including the Food Systems Track!

Who’s Curating the Food Systems Track?
Melanie Cheng, an avid environmentalist and fan of good food, Melanie sought a way to combine her appreciation of local cuisine with her deep respect for the earth and support for sustainable agriculture. While working as an editor and technical writer, she established relationships with both the farming and restaurant communities, and laid the groundwork for what became Om Organics.
Since then, her discovery of the ag sector has led to her founding FarmsReach.com (b-to-b marketplace for regional foods) and recently Catalyst Commons (coming soon) to unwind the tangled network of the ag industry. Melanie was recently named one of “Ten Most Inspiring People in Sustainable Food” by Fast Company.

Sessions Preview


The Food Systems Track will consist of 6 sessions. Click here to see the first draft the SOCAP10 full schedule.


Lay of the Land: Systemic Problems, Creative Solutions


The agriculture and seafood industries have complex, intertwined issues that affect all of our personal health, local economies and environment. Hear from collaborative leaders about the trends and critical issues that need our attention. Michael Dimock of Roots of Change will discuss the systemic nature of the industry and need to bridge nonprofit & for-profit, private & public, and urban & rural. Debra Tropp from the USDA will discuss the evolving role of the government and where they are investing federal funds for reform. Cheryl Dahle of Future of Fish/Oceans Plus will discuss the results of their supply chain research and recent Seafood Summit that identified most pressing needs and biggest opportunities for a sustainable fish supply. Finally, Jose Corona of Inner City Advisors will discuss creative funding mechanisms for sustainable food systems, including their transition from funding consumer products to funding food producers themselves. Moderated by Joseph McIntyre, head of Ag Innovations Network, facilitators of high-impact, critical conversations about agriculture.

Bare Essentials: Healthy EcoSystems & EcoSystem Services

Agriculture contributes to the top environmental problems today: shrinking fresh water supply, dead zones in the ocean, depleted soil fertility, fossil fuel pollution, and so on. Farmland itself to produce food is also at risk – disappearing to developers at a rate of ~3 million acres each year. Hear from Jeff Steen, of Ecosa Capital and a successful citrus farmer, about agricultural land conservation and growth, and how to galvanize institutional investors for ag funds and partnerships with agricultural land trusts. Juliet Christian-Smith, Senior Research Associate of Pacific Institute, will then discuss the complexities of our water (and irrigation) supply so driven by policy, and investment opportunities for water monitoring, irrigation scheduling, and better allocation & use of water by municipalities. Lastly, Ricardo Bayon of EKO Asset Management Partners will discuss hot issues and opportunities regarding climate change, carbon and agriculture: emerging environmental markets and preserving ecosystems. Moderated by Dave Rochlin, founder of ClimatePath, helping individuals and businesses measure and reduce their climate impact and use carbon finance as a tool for change.

Logistics is Sexy: Regional Food Systems & Infrastructure

A regional food system is the only long-term, secure food system, and a known Achilles heel is logistics. Over the past 50+ years, we’ve lost a lot of the basic infrastructure to facilitate a regional food supply. How do we get our local smaller and medium-sized producers into the mainstream, larger channels? Hear from industry leaders how they are rebuilding and recreating regional food systems: Eric Hahn will discuss Locavore Foods, his conscientious broker/distributor LLC; Haile Johnston will discuss Common Market, a hybrid operation leveraging nonprofits and food bank for aggregation; Bion Bartning of Basis Foods will discuss food processing and the need to create branded, value-added goods for producers; and finally, Jeff Randol of Cornerstone Ventures will discuss innovative funding strategies for capital-intensive regional distribution hubs. Moderated by John Fisk, Director of the Wallace Center and their National Good Food Network, focused on sharing best practices for regional food ‘value chains’.


Going Global: Building Fair Trade Markets


Many consumers have heard of “Certified Fair Trade”, but how do we help scale both supply and demand? We need to increase the capacity of sustainable producers, while educating more consumers of the benefits of purchasing fairly & sustainably produced foods. Deborah Hirsh of The Hoop Fund will start by discussing the need to increase capital for fair trade producers as well as new platforms that allow consumers to invest in producers and simultaneously increase demand. Mathieu Senard of AlterEco will then discuss the benefits of bringing processing closer to origin and product marketing to build awareness and sales. Next, because 80% of seafood consumed by Americans comes from abroad, Jerry Knecht of Bali Seafood International will discuss their collaboration with local government, local fisherman, and a local operator to create a network of regulated, fairly traded, sustainable fisheries in the most prolific, bio-diverse fishing regions. And finally, Barton Seaver of the Ocean Institute & National Geographic Society will discuss the importance of effective storytelling of sustainably produced and fairly traded product to increase consumer demand. Moderated by Erin Hughes of Winrock International, whose work in developing countries lays the groundwork for food security and fair international trade.

Ag Tech: Bio-Solutions, Precision Agriculture, Traceability & Marketplaces

Historically, agriculture and seafood haven’t been the most cutting-edge, high-tech industries. Today, that is changing as the need for efficiencies and better treatment of ecosystems demand innovation. Pam Marrone of Marrone Innovations will discuss the critical need for bio-pesticides and fertilizers to prevent chemical residues and toxic runoff into groundwater and oceans. Art Lange, Senior Engineer from Trimble will discuss the most promising advances in precision agriculture, which have enormous economic and environmental benefits for both large scale and smaller regional producers re: pesticide/fertilizer application, irrigation, disease control, planting, and harvesting. Andy Furner will discuss Trace Register, an online application for accurate traceability across vertical and horizontal lines, soon required by law for produce and an essential component for sustainable fisheries. Finally, Kate Seely of FarmsReach will discuss evolving online tools for regional food marketplaces, transaction management, and distribution. Moderated by Melanie Cheng of Om Organics and FarmsReach, who will briefly discuss other emerging tools for b-to-b and b-to-c food systems.

Creative Financing – Lessons Learned & Strategy Session

Food Systems issues are complex, and successful funding strategies can sometimes require a fair amount of creativity, ingenuity and patience. Come join other funders – both foundations and private investors – who requested a strategy session to discuss the Food Systems track content, share lessons learned in previous investments or grants, foster new partnerships and collaborations, and ultimately come up with strategic next steps. Joseph McIntyre of Ag Innovations Network will facilitate.


Andy Furner, Trace Register
Art Lange, Trimble
Barton Seaver, Blue Ocean Institute & National Geographic Society
Bion Bartning, Basis Foods
Cheryl Dahle, Future of Fish/Oceans Plus
Dave Rochlin, ClimatePath
Deborah Hirsh, The Hoop Fund
Debra Tropp, USDA
Eric Hahn, Locavore Foods
Erin Hughes, Winrock International
Haile Johnston, Common Market
Jeff Randol, Cornerstone Ventures
Jeff Steen, Ecosa Capital & citrus farmer
Jerry Knecht, Bali Seafood International
John Fisk, Wallace Center & National Good Food Network
Jose Corona, Inner City Advisors
Joseph McIntyre, Ag Innovations Network
Juliet Christian-Smith, Pacific Institute
Kate Seely, FarmsReach
Mathieu Senard, AlterEco
Melanie Cheng, Om Organics
Michael Dimock, Roots of Change
Pam Marrone, Marrone Bio Innovations
Ricardo Bayon, EKO Asset Management Partners


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