Now more than ever, opportunity awaits as growers plant the seeds of change for a more sustainable and profitable tomorrow. Which technologies hold the greatest potential for optimizing production, and how can farmers maximize their yield while conserving our natural resources? Join us as we explore fresh strategies for producing better crops.
Co-Owner and Sales Manager, Green Cover Seed
Keith Berns has more than 20 years of experience with no-till farming, as well as 10 years' experience teaching agriculture and computers. In addition to no-tilling 2,000 acres of irrigated and dryland corn, soybeans, rye, triticale, peas, sunflowers and buckwheat in south-central Nebraska, Berns also co-owns and operates Green Cover Seed, one of the major cover-crop seed providers and educators in the United States.
Through Green Cover Seed, Berns has experimented with and studied more than 100 different cover-crop types and other mixes planted in various situations. Thanks to this work, he has learned a great deal about cover crop growth, nitrogen fixation, moisture usage and the grazing utilization of cover crops. Berns also developed the SmartMix Calculator, one of the most widely used cover crop selection tools on the internet.
In 2016, Berns was honored by the White House as a Champion of Change for Sustainable and Climate-Smart Agriculture. He was also appointed by Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts to the state's Healthy Soils Task Force, and he has served as the task force's chairman.
Berns received a master's degree in agricultural education from the University of Nebraska. He teaches various groups and audiences about cover crops and soil health often throughout the year.
Founder & CEO, Agritecture
Henry Gordon-Smith is a sustainability strategist focused on urban agriculture, water issues and emerging technologies. Born in Hong Kong, Gordon-Smith has spoken on the topic of urban agriculture on four continents and has been interviewed about urban and vertical farming by the Wall Street Journal, Futurism, Men’s Health, Bloomberg, The Atlantic, Arabian Business, CNBC and others.
In 2011, Gordon-Smith started exploring urban agriculture and launched a blog called “Agritecture” to share case studies and analyses from around the world. In 2013, he co-founded the Association for Vertical Farming (AVF), and he served on the association's board until 2017. In 2014, Gordon-Smith responded to a global need for technology-agnostic guidance on urban agriculture by launching the advisory firm Agritecture Consulting, which has now consulted on more than 100 urban agriculture projects in over 20 countries. Agritecture Consulting primarily helps entrepreneurs with vertical farming feasibility studies, recruiting and systems design.
In 2018, Gordon-Smith was listed as one of the top 10 in produce in the U.S. and was named one of the "40 under 40" food policy influencers in New York City. In 2019, he became a Guelph University Food Policy Fellow and also began serving as an advisor to Ryerson University's urban agriculture and food security curriculum development committee. Gordon-Smith was named a top-20 influencer in food and agriculture by Rabobank in 2019. He serves on the advisory boards of numerous ag-tech startups, including Smallhold and Foodshed.io. Gordon-Smith also serves on the board of directors for the not-for-profit food access organization Teens for Food Justice in New York City.
Gordon-Smith received a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and and a master's degree in science with a focus on sustainability management from Columbia University. He also studied food security and urban agriculture at Ryerson University in Toronto.
Co-Founder and Director of Partnerships, CropWalk
Charlie McKenzie is the co-founder and director of partnerships at CropWalk, a full-service IPM consultancy that empowers growers to develop and improve their integrated pest management programs.
McKenzie is also the host of the #LeadersTalkCrops series on the CropTalk podcast. He is a father of two, a husband, a horticulturist, a biocontrol advisor and a proud Georgia Bulldog.
Head of the Research and Development Department, Embrapa Environment
Rodrigo Mendes is the head of the research and development department at Embrapa Environment in Jaguariuna, Brazil. He also works as a principal investigator at the Laboratory of Environmental Microbiology.
An agronomist, Mendes is the executive secretary of "Back to the Roots," an international research program. His studies focus on the interactions of complex microbial communities to better understand how the rhizosphere microbiome sustains plant growth and health.
Mendes received a doctorate in genetics and plant breeding from the University of Sao Paulo. He was a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands, and he served as a visiting researcher at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland; the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in the U.S.; Rothamsted Research in the U.K.; and at the Isaac Newton Institute at the University of Cambridge.
Professor, Federal University of Lavras
Dr. Luiz Roberto Guimarães Guilherme is an agronomist and a professor of soil chemistry and environmental toxicology in the department of soil science at the Federal University of Lavras (UFLA) in Brazil.
Dr. Guilherme’s research is currently focused on trace elements in agro-ecosystems and mining areas — two subjects of major social, economic and environmental importance in his home state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Some of his recent work has also addressed food security, with a special emphasis on food quality and safety in relation to trace minerals in agro-ecosystems.
Previously, Dr. Guilherme's research has focused on increasing fertilizer use efficiency for better agricultural productivity. This work has had a direct effect on improving the soil fertility, crop yields and economic sustainability of Brazilian agriculture.
In 2015, Dr. Guilherme began collaborating closely with the HarvestPlus Program, coordinating the third and fourth phases of the HarvestZinc Project in Brazil. The HarvestZinc Project is an important initiative aimed at studying the efficacy of fertilizer and its potential ability to help alleviate micronutrient deficiencies, with a special focus on zinc, selenium and iron. This project has the potential to positively impact human health on a global scale, especially in developing countries. Additionally, Dr. Guilherme’s work studying the impact of selenium-enriched fertilizers on plant nutrition and food quality influenced recent legislation regulating selenium in Brazilian fertilizers.
Dr. Guilherme is a permanent member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. He received a master's degree in soil science and plant nutrition from the Escola de Ciências Agrárias at UFLA and a dual doctoral degree in crop and soil science and environmental toxicology from Michigan State University. He has spent sabbatical leaves at the University of California Riverside and at INRA d'Orléans, France
Assistant Professor of Entomology and African-American Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Dr. Esther Ngumbi is an assistant professor of entymology and African-American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is also a senior food security fellow with the New Voices Fellowship at the Aspen Institute.
Dr. Ngumbi has been the recipient of several national and international awards, and she serves as a mentor to many. As an entomologist, her research has focused on understanding the multifaceted uses of chemical signals by herbivores, natural enemies, plants and their associated microorganisms. Additionally, Dr. Ngumbi's research studying beneficial soil microbes seeks to find microbial-based solutions for improving crop production, alleviating drought stress in crop plants and sustainable pest management.
Believing that global sustainability issues like hunger and food insecurity affect all of us, Dr. Ngumbi works as a food security advocate and researcher and has continued to demonstrate visionary and inspirational leadership in the pursuit of a sustainable future where hunger and food insecurity are eradicated. She has contributed immensely to global discussions in several areas, including science policy, climate change, agricultural development, food security, gender issues, youth leadership, global education and sustainability.
Dr. Ngumbi has written more than 150 opinion articles, which have been published by several international media outlets.
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