By March 2020, much of the world was in crisis mode as the spread of COVID-19 upended our lives and businesses. At the height of the pandemic, three agri-food experts provided their captivating assessments of both the short-term and lasting impacts that this virus would have on the supply chain, consumers and the global economy. Today, as vaccines and declining case numbers offer hope for a post-COVID future, have predictions shifted? What surprises have arisen in the agri-food industry and altered the outlook as we prepare to emerge from adversity? Join us for a two-part series as we check back in with our experts for a status update and explore the future of agri-food through the lens of COVID-19.
Vice President, Corporate Affairs at Mars Wrigley
Jessica Adelman is vice president of corporate affairs at Mars, where she oversees all external communications worldwide for Mars Wrigley, as well as corporate affairs in North America, and also sits on the Mars Wrigley Foundation board of directors as vice chair. Additionally, she teaches a course in sustainable branding at Northwestern University and was recently named to the board of directors for the National Endowment for Democracy.
Previously, Adelman served as vice president of corporate affairs for Kroger, a major U.S. retailer, where she directed communications, corporate affairs, sustainability and both of the Kroger foundations. She was part of the team that created Kroger's Zero Hunger Zero Waste plan, which led to Kroger being included in Fortune magazine's list of top ten companies changing the world.
Prior to her service at Kroger, Adelman held management roles at Syngenta, Monsanto and Cargill. She has been included on numerous notable lists, such as the top women in PR and the most powerful women in America. She graduated from Dartmouth College as a Russian studies major and subsequently lived in the former Soviet Union for several years. She later received her MBA from the Wharton School and a master's degree in international relations from the University of Pennsylvania.
Jack Bobo is the author of the forthcoming book, "Why Smart People Make Bad Food Choices," and the CEO of Futurity, a food foresight company that works with food and agriculture businesses and organizations to help them better understand emerging food trends and consumer attitudes and behaviors so they can position themselves to thrive in an ever-more complex world. He has delivered more than 400 speeches in 50 countries on the future of food and how to build consumer trust. In 2015, Scientific American named him one of the 100 most influential people in biotechnology.
Bobo previously served as the chief communications officer and senior vice president for global policy and government affairs at Intrexon Corporation. He worked at the U.S. Department of State for 13 years as a senior advisor on global food policy. He also previously served as an attorney at Crowell & Moring LLP.
Bobo received bachelor's degrees in biology, psychology and chemistry, a master's degree in environmental science and a doctoral degree in jurisprudence from Indiana University.
Economist and Professor, Trinity College Dublin
David McWilliams is an economist, author, journalist, documentary-maker and broadcaster. He is also an adjunct professor of global economics at the Trinity School of Business at Trinity College Dublin. He has been ranked in the top 10 most influential economists in the world and was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum at Davos.
McWilliams has devoted his entire professional life to the objective of making economics as widely available and easily understandable on as many platforms and to as many people as possible. He co-founded the world’s only economics and stand-up comedy festival, Kilkenomics, described by the Financial Times as “simply the best economics conference in the world.” He also founded Ireland’s leading literary and ideas event, the Dalkey Book Festival.
As well as writing a weekly economics column in the Irish Times, McWilliams is active on social media and was named Ireland’s “most influential Twitter user” in 2016. He strives to identify new ways to explain economics, including through a new venture with the Financial Times, "Punk FT," which creates cartoons that help make economics more understandable for the general populace.
McWilliams has written four bestsellers, including "The Pope’s Children," the best-selling nonfiction book ever published in Ireland. Previously, McWilliams worked extensively in the public and private sectors. He has served as an economist in the international relations department of the Irish Central Bank; the chief European economist at UBS, Europe’s largest bank; and head of emerging markets research at Banque Nationale de Paris.
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.