Resilience and efficiency within the global food supply chain have never been more crucial. How will technology shape the future of our industry and our ability to feed the world? Join us for a look at the next era of agriculture through the lens of ag-tech.
Ag-tech continues to be one of the fastest-growing sectors of technology. How will disruptions from emerging startups and consumer trends reshape the industry? Join us as we reveal the key
From feed mills to farmers, processors to retailers, is the global agri-food supply chain prepared for the impact of ag-tech on their businesses? The industry should be primed and ready
Owner, Nuevo Growth
Ciarán Black is an independent strategy and business innovation consultant with a proven track record in developing and delivering major new opportunities that accelerate a company’s next phase of growth. He has firsthand experience in leading new growth programs, creating new value propositions and challenging existing business models in both large corporations and in startups.
His expertise in managing the systematic identification of opportunities, creating strong business concepts and robust business plans, and delivering new businesses into the market has been applied across a diverse range of industries, including agriculture, renewable energy, natural resources, e-commerce, medtech, the internet of things (IoT), telecoms, manufacturing, financial services and recreation.
He holds a business degree from Trinity College Dublin and a first class honors master's degree in strategy from the Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.
Co-Founder and Managing Partner, The Yield Lab, Europe
Nicky Deasy is the managing partner at Yield Lab Europe. She oversees day-to-day operations, including investments, fundraising, portfolio and company operations. This includes raising capital, dealing with the limited partners and investors, maintaining and managing a deal pipeline, running the due diligence process and coordinating investments into portfolio companies. She also works to establish accelerator programming and supports those companies with financial mentoring, commercial mentoring and scaling support and overall fund management.
Deasy served for 7 years as associate director at KPMG Corporate Finance in Dublin, where she ran the food and beverage M&A team before moving to EY Galway to set up a corporate finance practice for EY’s regional offices as director of corporate finance. After 5 years in that role, Deasy left to run her own corporate finance practice in Galway. She was a mentor to the EI HPSU, through which she assisted companies going to market to raise equity. She has worked with many early-stage companies across a variety of sectors to raise seed and Series A equity capital, having advised on rounds totaling hundreds of millions of dollars over her 20-year career. She has extensive links with the venture capital and business communities in both Dublin and Galway, Ireland.
Deasy established a charity called Foundation Nepal in 2006 that supports impoverished lower-caste women in remote areas of Nepal, helping them become economically self-sufficient via micro-business, micro-finance and intensive mentoring programs. The charity supports a total of 10,000 women and their dependents each year.
Deasy graduated at the top of her class from Trinity College Dublin with a bachelor's degree in business in 1995, and she came in fifth place in Ireland in the finals of the chartered accountancy exams in 1999.
Kieran Furlong has been at the leading edge of major startup trends, including ag-tech and cleantech, for the past fifteen years. He is currently an innovation mentor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a venture partner with Finistere Ventures. He established the Finistere Ventures EU office in Dublin and launched the Ireland Ag-Tech Fund (IAF) in partnership with the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) in 2017.
Furlong started his career with the global chemical firm ICI and spent a decade in the catalyst industry with ICI and Johnson Matthey in a range of technical and commercial roles across the globe. During this time, he worked closely with major agri-business customers, such as Cargill, ADM and Bunge.
Following his career in the chemical industry, Furlong entered the world of startups. He first worked at Solzyme, an algae biotechnology company, where he pieced together the company’s initial manufacturing supply chain. He then led the business development activities at Virent, including a successful partnership with the Coca-Cola Company to develop a 100% bio-based PET bottle. Upon joining the Finistere team, Furlong turned his attention to the application of biotechnology in agriculture. His focus broadened to the full scope of technology for agriculture and food, including IoT devices in beehives and other surprising areas.
In addition to the U.S. and Ireland, Furlong has lived and worked in Germany, the U.K. and Argentina. He received a degree in chemical engineering from University College Dublin and a master's degree in business administration from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, where he was an Arjay Miller Scholar.
President and CEO, Alltech
Dr. Mark Lyons grew up in the Alltech business, having traveled with his father and Alltech’s founder, Dr. Pearse Lyons, from a young age to visit customers. With experience working in all regions and nearly all departments — from palletizing bags in production to researching in the lab — he has a deep and uniquely personal knowledge of the company.
He has spearheaded many critical projects, including simultaneously managing a biorefinery project in Kentucky, the establishment of a plant in Serbia and the creation of Alltech’s flagship yeast production facility in São Pedro, Brazil. He also spent nearly four years in Mexico rebuilding the company’s solid state fermentation plant in Serdan, which is one of the largest of its kind in the world.
In 2012, Dr. Lyons relocated to China, the world’s largest feed market, as part of Alltech’s focus on the Asia-Pacific region. Living in Beijing and traveling throughout the country, he led the Alltech China office and focused on building bridges between China and the wider industry through research, education and strategic initiatives.
Under his leadership as director of North America from 2009 to 2011, Alltech expanded its presence with the opening of new offices and a growing involvement in all agricultural sectors. Today, Dr. Lyons is based at Alltech’s headquarters in Kentucky.
He has served as a board member of the American Feed Industry Association and is active in many industry groups, such as the International Poultry Council, the National Turkey Federation, the National Chicken Council and the National Pork Producers Council. He is also vice president of the Soil and Fertilizer Alliance of China and is a committee member of the China Toxicology Association. He is proud to be the only foreign member welcomed to China’s Feed Industry Golf Group, which represents more feed tonnage than all of Brazil.
Dr. Lyons has published papers and patents in areas ranging from enzyme production to global economics and is interested in the assurance of food safety and quality throughout the entire food chain. Recently, he was named as one of "The top 50 Irish business men and women in the BRIC countries" and “40 Under 40” leaders in agriculture by Vance Publishing Corporation. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science and environmental science in 1999 from the University of Chicago.
He received his master’s degree in brewing and distilling in 2001, followed by a Ph.D. in the area of solid state fermentation, at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. Dr. Lyons is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, French and German, and he has a working knowledge of Mandarin.
Director, Temasek International
Ryan Rakestraw is a director at Temasek, where he focuses on making venture capital investments in early-stage food and agriculture companies. Given the importance of innovation when it comes to feeding a growing global population, supporting better nutrition and increasing the sustainability of global agricultural production, Rakestraw seeks to back promising entrepreneurs and teams that can profitably address these needs with new technologies and business models.
Previously, Rakestraw was an early-stage investor with Monsanto Growth Ventures (MGV), Cultivation Capital, and the Yield Lab, the last of which he helped to found. Earlier in his career, Rakestraw was a systems engineer with Northrop Grumman, where he helped design and implement military platforms ranging from undersea to space applications.
Rakestraw received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Johns Hopkins, and a master's degree in business administration from Washington University in St. Louis.
Research Scientist, Alltech
Dr. Shelby Roberts is currently a beef research scientist at Alltech in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Roberts' passion for the beef industry started at an early age while she was growing up on a commercial cow-calf operation in West Texas. Roberts received a bachelor's degree in animal science from West Texas A&M University, a master's degree in ruminant nutrition from Oklahoma State University and a Ph.D. in agriculture with an emphasis on ruminant health and immunology from West Texas A&M. With experience in ruminant nutrition and ruminant health, Roberts' interests include the development of applied beef management practices that aim to improve animal health through nutrition.
Director of Agriculture Strategic Partnerships, Microsoft
Claudia Roessler is director of agriculture strategic partnerships for Microsoft Azure Global Engineering group. She is responsible for developing strategic partnerships around digital innovation and ag-tech solutions within the agriculture ecosystem. She drives ag-tech innovation that helps increase productivity in a sustainable manner, leveraging technology such as artificial intelligence, the internet of things and blockchain. Roessler joined Microsoft in 1992 in Germany. She has held several international roles with a focus on business development, sales and marketing, partners and industry.
Founder, Shelman Group
Mary Shelman is an internationally recognized thought-leader, author and speaker on global agribusiness, ag-tech and food system trends. A former director of Harvard Business School’s Agribusiness Program, she now works with companies, governments and investors around the world through her consulting and advisory firm, Shelman Group, based in Boston, Massachusetts. Through Shelman Group, she provides unique insights into technology and consumer trends and champions collaboration, industry alignment and strategic planning to achieve system-wide improvements and create pathways for sustainable growth.
Shelman has worked with organizations of all sizes, from startups to Fortune 500 companies, as a consultant, strategic advisor and active board member. In Ireland, she co-created a new unified vision for the Irish agri-food industry, which resulted in the introduction of Origin Green, the world’s first country-level sustainability program. She has also led several projects focused on short- and long-term corporate strategies for privately held agri-food companies and industry associations. Recently, Shelman Group was engaged to create a food and ag-tech ecosystem strategy for the Lexington/Bluegrass region of Kentucky.
Shelman currently serves on the strategic advisory boards of Crop Enhancement, Inc., and Village Capital and is a venture partner at Radicle Growth, an ag-tech fund based in California.
Shelman’s commitment to industry leadership through improving human capital brought her to Harvard Business School, where she shepherded the renowned HBS Agribusiness Seminar. Her ongoing research spans multiple sectors, geographies and company scopes. She is the author of more than 70 case studies on the world’s top agri-food businesses and has taught and given keynote presentations in over 20 countries.
A native of Kentucky, where she still owns a 475-acre grain farm, Shelman received a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering with high distinction from the University of Kentucky and a master's degree in business administration with distinction from Harvard Business School.
Vice President, Alltech
Matthew Smith served as Alltech’s vice president of Asia-Pacific from 2011 to 2019. Working in the feed industry for more than 27 years — 22 of which have been with Alltech — Smith has traveled extensively in Asia, Europe and North America.
Smith relocated from the U.K. to become the general manager of Alltech New Zealand in 2009 before being promoted to his regional role. In 2018, Smith returned to live in the U.K., taking responsibility for Alltech E-CO2, the global rumen function platform and Alltech U.K. He also continues to oversee parts of Alltech’s Asia-Pacific network.
Smith began his working career on a dairy farm in the U.K. before receiving a business law degree from Coventry University and a solicitor’s final qualification from the College of Law, Chester.
Chief Product Officer, Alltech
Becky Timmons is chief product officer at Alltech, focusing on product development, formulation and quality assurance. She ensures that all Alltech products meet the high standards demanded by the company through its Alltech® Quality System (AQS). AQS was established by Timmons to meet or exceed all global and regional standards of quality, and it requires all Alltech offices and production facilities around the world to meet very stringent traceability requirements.
In the area of product development, Timmons works with Alltech divisions, departments and customers to generate ideas and concepts. She oversees several pilot plants and manages a department that includes food scientists, registered dietitians, chemists, microbiologists, fermentation specialists and engineers who work on development and scale up projects.
Timmons originally joined Alltech in 1985 and has held a number of positions both in the areas of quality and new product development, including serving as director of fermentation and director of flavor development. She sits on Alltech's Reputation Overview Committee (ROC) and is also a member of Alltech's Growth Council.
She received bachelor's degrees in chemistry and biology from the University of Kentucky, received a master’s degree in brewing and distilling from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland and has completed an advanced business studies program.
European Growth Officer at Alltech and CEO of KEENAN
As the European growth officer, Robert Walker serves as the CEO of KEENAN and head of key European markets for Alltech. He drives business growth via his work with ag-tech startups as manager of the Pearse Lyons Cultivator and via his responsibility for senior leadership talent development in the Alltech Mini-MBA program.
Walker joined Alltech in 2002 as a sales manager in Ireland. He later opened a regional sales office in Northern Ireland. In 2005, he transferred to Italy, where he served as country manager for Alltech before transitioning to the role of regional director of the eastern Mediterranean region. In 2011, Walker was appointed European director of Alltech Crop Science, based in Italy, and in 2013, he transferred to the U.S. to assume the position of global general manager for Alltech Crop Science. In 2016, Walker transferred to Ireland to assume his current position as CEO of KEENAN.
Walker received a bachelor’s degree in agriculture from the University of Natal in South Africa in 1994. After graduating, he founded his own indoor farming enterprise in South Africa, through which he grew and packed flowers and tomatoes. Walker has also completed business courses at the University College Dublin Smurfit Graduate Business School and the Bocconi School of Management in Milan.
Founder and Managing Director, Dogpatch Labs
Patrick Walsh is the founder and managing director of Dogpatch Labs, Ireland's leading startup hub, which houses a mix of startups, international tech companies, social enterprises and corporate off-site innovation hubs. The startup hub has been home to many of Ireland’s fastest-growing tech companies, including Intercom, which has gone on to raise more than $100 million in venture financing. The hub is part of an exclusive global network of 40 international startup hubs backed by Google and also has partnerships with other corporations, including Unilever.
Walsh is a member of Ireland's National Competitiveness Council, a round-table of government bodies and business leaders from across the country. He previously served in various roles at a high-growth Irish tech company (Ding.com), an early-stage startup (PayMins.com) and an international tech company setting up in Ireland (Hassle.com). He is a qualified chartered accountant, having trained with KPMG for three years.
Founder and Director, Entocycle
Keiran Whitaker received a bachelor's degree in environmental design from Oxford Brookes University and a master's degree in science from the University of Manchester.
As an environmental engineer, Whitaker saw the potential benefits to crops and livestock that come from harvesting insect protein. He launched Entocycle in 2014 to farm insects as a sustainable alternative to soy and fishmeal.
Whitaker has successfully taken Entocycle through the Mass Challenge UK Business Accelerator, the Silicon Valley Y Combinator (Silicon Valley) and the prestigious Pearse Lyons Accelerator. He has raised funding for two facilities in London and the company's soon-to-be first commercial facility in the U.K.
Chief Industry Engagement Officer, TrustBIX Inc.
Deborah Wilson is the chief industry engagement officer for TrustBIX Inc., which operates Business InfoXchange (BIX) and ViewTrak Technologies in Canada, the U.S., Mexico and China. Her responsibilities include industry engagement in agriculture, data, ag-tech, sustainability and traceability. The team at TrustBIX continues to work on system development, blockchain applications, data sharing in all supply chains, collaborative partnerships and pilot projects. TrustBIX believes that consumers want to know how and where their food is sourced and produced and that it is critical that agriculture provide some form of validation of claims. The BIX platform was the backbone of the original McDonald’s Sustainable Beef Pilot Project from 2015 to 2016.
Wilson sits on the National Council for the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB), was an advisor to the CRSB Indicator and Verification Committees and served on the Business Strategy Committee. She was instrumental in the formation of the Canadian Beef Sustainability Acceleration (CBSA) Pilot project. She believes that sustainability claims must be supported by an auditable “chain of custody” (ISEAL), which BIX provided successfully to Cargill in the CBSA pilot from 2017 to 2019. The Cargill pilot has evolved into a permanent program, the Certified Sustainable Beef program. Wilson and the TrustBIX team look forward to working with other packers, requiring chain of custody for any claims they may wish to make around their products.
Wilson is a lifelong cattle producer and has been a pioneer in technology and data for production improvement and increased profitability since the late 1980s.
General Manager, Alltech E-CO2
Andrew Wynne joined Alltech in 2010 to assist with the continued development of Alltech E-CO2 both in the U.K. and overseas. Since then, he has contributed to the creation of key models and services as well as a number of exclusive online carbon-benchmarking tools for farmers. He also oversees the management of contracts with large corporate retailers and processors, including McDonald’s U.K. and Arla Foods. Much of his work in recent years has involved the global expansion of Alltech E-CO2 services and collaborations with ag-tech groups to help farmers around the world measure and manage their environmental performance.