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Dec. 3, 2014, 9:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. | The Washington Post

By 2050, there will be 9 billion people on the planet. How will we grow the food we’ll need on the land we have?

This Washington Post forum will convene agriculture experts, policy makers and business leaders who are working on innovative methods and cutting-edge technologies that will define the farms of the future. We’ll look at what’s working and how agricultural growth here in the U.S. can support the global need for food. ​

Event Agenda
-Robert Bierman, General Manager, Washington Post Live
-Mary Jordan, Editor, Washington Post Live

9:05 a.m. | OVERVIEW
-Kathleen Merrigan, Executive Director, Sustainability Institute, George Washington University

-Mark Cackler, Manager, Agriculture and Rural Development Department, The World Bank
-Ephraim Nkonya, Senior Research Fellow, International Food Research Policy Institute
-Peter Rosset, Professor, Department of Agriculture, Society and the Environment, ECOSUR Advanced Studies Institute

-Dan Glickman, Co-chair, Agree; Senior Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center
-Ricardo Salvador, Director, Food and Environment Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

-Saharah Moon Chapotin, Division Chief for Research and Acting Director, Office of Agricultural Research and Policy, USAID
-Laura Furgione, Deputy Director of the National Weather Service and U.S. Permanent Representative to the World Meteorological Organization
-Luke MacDonald, Deputy Director, The Water Institute, Johns Hopkins University

10: 50 a.m. | BREAK


-Emily Best, Apprentice Organic Farmer and Market Manager, New Morning Farm
-Chris Jones, Director of Culinary Innovation, Hampton Creek
-Trent McKnight, Rancher, Founder of AgriCorps

12:00 p.m. | WHAT’S NEXT?
Sonny Ramaswamy, Director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA

12:25 p.m. | LUNCH


-Caroline Kronley, Associate Director, The Rockefeller Foundation
-Robert van Otterdijk, Agro-Industry Officer, Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN
-Steven Waldmann, Executive Director, Society of St. Andrew


-Goncalo Cabrita, Founder and CEO, Cool-Farm
-Ernest Earon, President, Precision Hawk
-Greg Levow, Co-founder, Agronomic Technology Corporation


Secretary Vilsack

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

Secretary Tom Vilsack leads the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In five years at the USDA, Vilsack has worked to implement President Obama’s agenda, supporting America’s farmers, ranchers and growers and helping provide a safe, sufficient and nutritious food supply for the American people. As chair of the first-ever White House Rural Council, Vilsack and USDA aim to strengthen services for rural businesses and entrepreneurs by finding new ways to partner with other federal agencies and the private sector to spur investment in rural America. Prior to his appointment, Vilsack served two terms as the governor of Iowa, in the Iowa State Senate and as the mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.

Emily Best

Emily Best

Apprentice Organic Farmer & Market Manager, New Morning Farm

Emily Best just completed her third season as an apprentice at New Morning Farm, an organic family farm in central PA. Her responsibilities include managing seedling production, overseeing several crops from transplant to harvest to final sale, running the weekly market stand at Dupont Circle, and updating social media. In the off season, she works with the National Young Farmers Coalition to organize young farmers in PA. Emily served in the Peace Corps in Senegal and holds an MA in Environmental Policy from American University.


Gonçalo Cabrita photo

Founder & CEO, Cool-Farm

Gonçalo is a robotics engineer with a particular taste for bringing technology and Nature together. CoolFarm is the perfect example, the artificial intelligence based system for nurturing plants that will take agriculture into the future. Gonçalo is also a PhD student with several international conference and journal publications, and is involved in the development of robots for humanitarian demining. In his spare time Gonçalo loves to ride his bike, cook and read, not necessarily in that order.

Mark C

Mark E. Cackler photo

Manager, Agriculture & Rural Development, The World Bank

Mark Cackler is Manager of the Agriculture Global Practice at the World Bank, where he oversees World Bank global programs for agriculture and food security. In prior assignments at the World Bank’s Washington headquarters he worked in agriculture units for East Africa, China, Indonesia, the Pacific Islands, and Latin America.  He has also served in the Agriculture Unit of the World Bank’s New Delhi Office. Mr. Cackler was raised in Moline, Illinois. He has economics degrees from Oberlin College, Ohio, and the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland, and an MBA from Harvard Business School. Before joining the World Bank, Mr. Cackler worked for John Deere Intercontinental, Ltd., based in Thailand.

Chapotin Photo

Sahara Moon Chapotin

Division Chief for Research and Acting Director, Office of Agricultural Research and Policy, USAID

Saharah Moon Chapotin is Division Chief for Research and Acting Director of the Office of Agricultural Research and Policy in the Bureau for Food Security at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Dr. Chapotin leads USAID’s implementation of the Feed the Future Research Strategy, which addresses global agricultural and food security challenges through targeted public and private sector international research partnerships. Prior to joining the agency in 2006, she worked at the Biosafety Institute for Genetically Modified Agricultural Products at Iowa State University. Dr. Chapotin holds a B.S. in Biology from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in Plant Physiology from Harvard University, has completed the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship Program, and has extensive experience working in Africa and South Asia.

Ernest Ear

Ernest Earon photo

President, Precision Hawk

Dr. Earon is PrecisionHawk’s President and Co-founder. He has been working in the field of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and intelligent, autonomous vehicle control for over 10 years with a particular emphasis on the design, development, and control of unique and novel unmanned aircraft. He managed projects at the University of Toronto, a Canadian Space Agency, and at Quanser Consulting in Markham, Canada from a vehicle design, flight and ground operations and control development perspective, including ensuring that all regulatory and certification qualifications from the Civil Aviation Authorities were met. Dr. Earon earned his doctorate from the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies in 2004.


Chris Jones

Director of Culinary Innovation, Hampton Creek

Chris Jones is the Director of Culinary Innovation at Hampton Creek, a food technology company known for their mission to make food healthier and affordable for everyone, everywhere. He is the driving creator behind their revolutionary premier product, Just Mayo, known for its creamy texture and zesty flavor. Prior to joining Hampton Creek, Jones was the Director of Cuisine for over six years at Chicago’s renowned Moto Restaurant, where he worked directly with Chef Homaro Cantu on a variety of molecular gastronomy projects, including the famed “miracle berry” venture. Jones was also a contestant on the ninth season of Bravo’s critically acclaimed series, “Top Chef.” Jones left the restaurant industry for Hampton Creek, driven by a desire to create a better world for his daughter, Savannah.

Greg Levo

Greg Levow photo

Co-founder, Agronomic Technology Corporation

Greg Levow is Co-founder, President, and Chief Operating Officer of Agronomic Technology Corp, a startup providing software and data to help farmers make better decisions.  The company’s first product, Adapt-N, has uniquely demonstrated an ability to break the tradeoff between financial and environmental performance for corn farmers.  The cloud-based software tool uses real-time weather data in conjunction with a farmer’s field characteristics and management practices to generate an optimal nitrogen fertilizer recommendation throughout a growing season.  The result is increased yield, reduced input costs, and better environmental stewardship.  Greg focuses on the intersection between business, technology, and agriculture, and holds a degree from Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Luke MacDon

Luke MacDonald photo

Deputy Director, The Water Institute, Johns Hopkins University

Luke MacDonald is the Deputy Director of the Johns Hopkins Water Institute.  He received his PhD in 2010 from Princeton University in Civil and Environmental Engineering, where his research focused biogeochemical controls of contaminant transport, rural defluoridation strategies for India, and global water policy. He also holds a certificate in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University.   Dr. MacDonald co-leads the mWASH study (mobile Water Sanitation and Hygiene), an ongoing national monitoring program in 7 countries that examines a variety of new and old water, sanitation, and hygiene indicators in households, among women, and at health care facilities. Aside from work in the WASH sector, he has published on water and food, and studies water, food security, and climate in Ethiopia.

Trent McKnight photo

Trent McKnight

Rancher, Founder of AgriCorps

Trent McKnight is a lifelong rancher and businessman in Throckmorton, Texas, with bachelors and masters degrees in Agricultural Economics and Comparative Politics from Oklahoma State University and The London School of Economics.  He is a past National President of the Future Farmers of America and a past Texas 4-H Council Member.   He has served as an Agriculture Advisor to the U.S. Military in Iraq, Agricultural Economist to the United Nations in West Africa and Chairman of the US Department of Agriculture’s Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Committee.  Trent is the founder of AgriCorps, a Peace Corps type NGO that connects US agriculture volunteers to the demand for agricultural education in the developing world.

Kathleen Merrigan

Kathleen Merrigan

Executive Director, Sustainability Institute, George Washington University

Dr. Merrigan leads university efforts in sustainability education, research and outreach. From 2009-2013, Dr. Merrigan was U.S. Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dr. Merrigan created and led the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative to support local food systems; was a key architect of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign; and made history as the first woman to chair the Ministerial Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Before joining USDA, Dr. Merrigan held a variety of positions in government and civil society, including staff to the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, where she wrote the law establishing national standards for organic food. Recognizing the history and scope of her work, Time Magazine named Dr. Merrigan among the “100 most influential people in the world” in 2010.

Ephraim N

Ephraim Nkonya photo

Senior Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute

Ephraim Nkonya, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, conducts research on land management and natural resources in sub-Saharan countries and central Asia. A citizen of Tanzania, Ephraim earned a B.S. in agriculture from Sokoine University of Agriculture, and an M.S. in agricultural economics and a Ph.D. in natural resources, econometrics, and statistics, both from Kansas State University. He joined IFPRI in 1999.

Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy, Director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
Sonny Ramaswamy

Director, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA

Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy was appointed to serve as director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) on May 7, 2012. As part of USDA’s Research, Education, and Extension mission, he oversees NIFA awards funds for a wide range of extramural research, education, and extension projects that address the needs of farmers, ranchers, and agricultural producers. Dr. Ramaswamy has received research grants from many federal agencies, including USDA, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Environmental Protection Agency, and the United States Agency for International Development, as well as from state agencies, commodity groups, and industry.  He has published nearly 150 journal articles, book chapters, and a book.  He has received a number of awards and honors as a scientist and department head, including being named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; Fellow of the Entomological Society ofAmerica; and Distinguished Graduate Alumnus of Cook College, Rutgers University.

Peter Rosset photo

Peter Rosset, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Agriculture, Society & the Environment, ECOSUR Advanced Studies Institute

Peter Rosset, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Agriculture, Society & the Environment at the ECOSUR Advanced Studies Institute (www.ecosur.mx) in Chiapas, Mexico.  He is also a researcher at the Center for the Study of Rural Change (CECCAM) in Mexico, and is an associate of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) in Berkeley, California.  He co-coordinates the Land Research Action Network (www.landaction.org) and is a member of the technical support team of La Via Campesina International (www.viacampesina.org). He is the former director of the Institute for Food & Development Policy (Food First) in Oakland, California, and has taught at universities in various countries, including Stanford, Berkeley and Texas at Austin in the USA.  His areas of expertise include the global food system, agroecology, rural social movements and farmer/peasant organizations,  rural development, and land tenure and agrarian reform.  He has published hundreds of academic and popular articles, and a number of books, including “World Hunger: Twelve Myths,” “Agroecology,” “Food is Different,” and “Promised Land.”

Ricardo Salvador photo
Ricardo Salvador

Director, Food and the Environment Program, Union of Concerned Scientists

As the senior scientist and director of the Food & Environment Program at UCS, Ricardo Salvador works with citizens, scientists, economists, and politicians to transition our current food system into one that grows healthy foods while employing sustainable practices. Before coming to UCS, Dr. Salvador served as a program officer for Food, Health, and Wellbeing with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. In this capacity, he was responsible for conceptualizing and managing the Foundation’s food systems programming. Prior to his stint at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, he was an associate professor of agronomy at Iowa State University (ISU). He worked with other faculty to develop the nation’s first Sustainable Agriculture graduate program in 2000; Dr. Salvador served as the program’s first chair. Dr. Salvador earned his undergraduate degree in agricultural science from New Mexico State University. He holds an M. S. and Ph.D. in crop production and physiology from Iowa State University.

Robert van Otterdijk photo edited

Robert van Otterdijk

Agro-Industry Officer, Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction, Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN

Robert van Otterdijk is a food technologist (MSc), graduated in 1985 from the Wageningen Agricultural University in The Netherlands. He worked first in the dutch food industry in quality assurance and r&d, after which he joined the Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN in 1989, on projects on post-harvest and food technology in Ghana (West Africa) and Tonga (South Pacific). In 1995 he joined a SIDA (Sweden) funded field project in Zambia on processing and commercialisation of root & tuber crops. When this project was concluded he returned to the private sector – procurement, processing and export of paprika– as quality assurance manager in Lusaka, Zambia. In 2002 he joined the FAO again, as agro-industry officer of the Regional Office for Africa, Accra, Ghana. After six years he moved to FAO Headquarters in Rome in the Agro-Industries Division. His main responsibilities remained field projects on agro-industrial development in Africa. He is currently leading FAO’s Global Initiative on Food Loss and Waste Reduction under the name of ‘Save Food’.

Steven Waldmann

Steven Waldmann

Executive Director, Society of St. Andrew

Steven M. “Mike” Waldmann is executive director of the Society of St. Andrew. In 1987, Mike attended a Society of St. Andrew Harvest of Hope event, and then served as a volunteer for the Society of St. Andrew until 1994. In July of 1994, he retired from the Coast Guard and accepted the position as director of the Society of St. Andrew’s first regional office, in Durham, North Carolina. His efforts in North Carolina resulted in a program growth of more than 800% in just two years. In 1997, Mike was transferred to the national office of Society of St. Andrew as chief of operations. In May 2008, Mike became executive director of the Society of St. Andrew. Under Mike’s leadership, the Society of St. Andrew has demonstrated considerable program growth, while reducing overhead and administration costs, resulting in more food being distributed to our nation’s hungry at less cost per pound. Each year, SoSA distributes about 30 million pounds of fresh produce to thousands of feeding programs across the country at an overall program cost of about two cents per serving.

Dan Glickman pulled

Dan Glickman

Co-chair, AGree & Senior Fellow, Bipartisan Policy Center




Bios are provided by the speakers and edited only for clarity and length. Additional speakers will be announced.