Events and insight for sustainability

Can innovation and technology make agriculture sustainable?

Thursday 5 April
Friday 6 April

Timeslots are provisional and exact timings may change


Opening debate: Will the AgTech revolution’s cross-sector collaborations be a win-win-win for farmers, businesses, and the planet?

Agriculture and land use change combined are said to contribute as much as 24% of global GHG emissions. Climate change is projected to have significant impacts on agricultural growing conditions, food supply, and food security.

Meanwhile the ongoing data revolution is benefitting farmers in tangible ways through efficiency, reduced input costs, and higher yields. Buyers are increasing demands for real time transparency about how crops are grown.

Data collection allows farmers to use pesticides and fertilizer more efficiently to improve air, water, and soil quality.  The collection and analysis of data have tremendous potential to mitigate the impacts of agriculture, at scale.

Cross-industry collaborations are leveraging agricultural technology to increase farm production by an estimated 70 percent by 2050. Robotics, automation, software, and data are enabling businesses to cut impacts, and connect to growers to advance our vision for a digitally connected and sustainable agriculture industry.

This all sounds great, but the scale of the challenge is significant. Collaboration is heralded as the solution, with technology as the key enabling factor. In this opening debate we’ll look at some of the key issues in all this, including:

  • How do you balance the benefits of leveraging technology among farmers, business and the planet?
  • The technologies which will be a key part of the mix in achieving sustainable agriculture
  • The key success factors needed to make collaborations both genuine and effective
  • How will we know when we have a true “Win Win Win” collaboration and what will it take to convince stakeholders this is the case?


Google, Kirsten Rainey, procurement and resource utilization manager, global food program

World Wildlife Fund, Jason Clay, senior vice president, market transformation

TechnoServe, David Galaty, director, research and innovation

Indigo Agriculture, Kevin Kephart, head of industry relations


Refreshments and networking break


Spotlight Q&A session: How do you get a multi-billion dollar food company to embrace sustainability strategy?

With annual sales of $13 billion, Land O'Lakes is one of the US’s largest cooperatives. In 2016 they announced the formal organization of a new business unit, SUSTAIN. SUSTAIN is focused on aligning environmental sustainability efforts across the full Land O'Lakes, Inc. enterprise. In this quick Q&A session, we’ll ask Matt Carstens, senior vice president of Land O'Lakes, for his views on the following important points:

  • How to build a strategic business case for sustainability in a major foods company
  • Proven ways to get business units and departments aligned on sustainability strategy, towards real implementation
  • What’s been learned about how to incentive and motivate suppliers
  • Performance metrics: What you can expect, and when, and how you continue to use data to make the business case internally and externally

Land O'Lakes, Matt Carstens, senior vice president


The road from policy to implementation: How can Mars deliver on its bold climate change commitments and drive a transformation of agricultural supply chains?

One of the world’s largest chocolate and pet care companies announced their Sustainable in a Generation Plan this year and committed to invest $1bn within the next few years to mobilize action along their full value chain to reduce emissions and meet sustainability goals.  Mars has set a target to reduce their value chain emissions by 27 percent by 2025 and 67 percent by 2050.  In this session, we'll hear the step-by-step considerations Mars made in shaping their policies, how they are influencing others to drive transformation, and open the floor to implementation strategy feedback and ideas from influential stakeholders in a confidential environment.

Mars, Ashley Allen, climate and land senior manager




Climate smart agricultural management: What are emerging climate resilient strategies based on US commodities? Cross learning and shared lessons…

We hear much about climate-smart agriculture in the short-term, but in ten to twenty years time, the focus will be on switching crops, says Jason Clay, senior vice president, market transformation, WWF. As climate change affects commercial crops, alternatives will have to be sought out. In Mexico, the government is looking to varieties of cocoa to replace coffee crops, which may not be suitable to grow by 2025 due to climate change.

Though climate change continues to progress at an advanced pace, negative impacts can be mitigated by focusing on adaptation strategies. In this quick-fire session we’ll look at what  the leading climate resilience strategies are in Corn, Beef and Soy, and how efforts can be scaled.

  • 1.00 – 1.40 Corn sustainability

Smithfield Foods, Kraig Westerbeek, vice president, environment and support operations

Monsanto, Pam Strifler, vice president for global sustainability, stakeholder engagement and corporate insights

World Wildlife Fund, Jason Clay, senior vice president, market transformation

National Corn Growers Association, Dr Nicholas Goeser, director of soil health and sustainability

  • 1.40 – 2.20 Beef sustainability

Arby's, Keith Anderkin, senior vice president, procurement

JBS USA, Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, director of sustainability

Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Ben Weinheimer, vice president and board member

World Wildlife Fund, Nancy Labbe, senior program officer, ranching and conservation

  • 2.20 – 3.00 Soy sustainability

Bunge, Michel Santos, director, global sustainability

Mighty Earth, Lucia Von Reusner, campaign director, US Agriculture

World Wildlife Fund, Jason Clay, senior vice president, market transformation


Refreshments and networking break


Is the future of food animal-free? How will plant-based meat impact sustainable agriculture?

In this session, we will explore the growth of the plant-based protein market as well as the success and challenges that plant-based manufacturers are experiencing. We will learn about the companies attempting to bring plant based meats to the marketplace, the investment money behind it, and how it might appeal to a different consumer segment. A leading Canadian meat company will explain why they are repositioning themselves as a "maker of protein" rather than a "maker of meat."

The Good Food Institute, David Welch, director of science & technology

Good Catch, New Capital Crop, Chris Kerr, Director, Partner

Maple Leaf Foods, Tim Faveri, Vice President, Sustainability & Shared Value

The Good Food Institute, Alison Rabschnuk, director of corporate engagement (moderator)


Will Genome Editing be socially acceptable?

Dubbed the “CRISPR Revolution” the scientific advances in gene editing have great potential to fortify our food system and feed an increasing population of farmers at risk of the threats of food scarcity caused, in part, by climate change.

But consumer rights advocates have called into question the ethics of who can use GE in an industry based primarily on corporate profit. Long-held views regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs) continues to influence the public perception of gene-editing, steering consumers towards the “organic” aisle despite scientific evidence. In this session, we’ll hear questions from the audience on the challenges and opportunities of GE.

Recombinetics, Perry Hackett, chief science officer

USDA-APHIS-BRS, Neil Hoffman, chief science advisor              

Genetic Literacy Project, Jon Entine, director 


Networking drinks reception


Public-private sector collaborations

In the following two sessions, we will hear case study examples of existing partnerships between NGOs and private sector companies and learn how their collaborations have led to delivering key sustainability targets.

Wal-Mart has pledged to create zero waste in its operations and be operated with 100 percent renewable energy. As a part of its sustainability journey, Walmart has collaborated with environmental NGOs, worked with suppliers and even joined forces with competitors in seeking to create solutions to shared problems.

Walmart, Katherine Neebe, director of sustainability

The Nature Conservancy, speaker tbc


Refreshments and networking break


Financing for sustainable landscapes and agriculture

How can investors generate financial, environmental and social returns? How far should it go and what should be the expected returns? Agriculture technology start-up Indigo has raised $100 million in a new round of funding, bringing its total financing to more than $150 million. What is the investment outlook in advancing healthy food for all and conserving resources for future generations? 

EcoAgriculture Partners worked with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Office of Environmental Markets to study innovative payments for ecosystem services (PES) projects in the Farms of the Future Project. How can organizations promote the financing of ecosystem service provision, in the form of improved water quality, biodiversity conservation, wildlife habitat, flood control and carbon sequestration? How can these approaches be scaled in US agriculture? Which are the financial mechanisms, which will attract investors?

Indigo Ag, Kevin Kephart, head of industry relations

EcoAgriculture Partners, Seth Shames, director of innovations in policy and markets

Food System 6 Accelerator, Renske Lynde, co-founder and managing director


The business case for water risk management: What are the practicalities and how do they apply to your business?

Agriculture accounts for 70 percent of freshwater and contributes about one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions. Water shortages and climate change pose severe risks to the $5 trillion food and agribusiness industry.  In this session, we will look at the business case for water management and review specific case studies of how companies have responded to water performance management in governance and strategy, operations and supply chains.  MSCI research has indicated that about $460 billion of revenue is at risk from lack of water availability for irrigation or animal consumption and $198 billion is at risk from changing precipitation patterns affecting crop production.

OLAM SVI, Adrienne Gifford, corporate responsibility & sustainability manager

World Resources Institute, Paul Reig, manager, corporate water stewardship

Calvert Investments, Stuart Dalheim, VP of shareholder advocacy

Ceres, Eliza Roberts, senior manager, water




Animal welfare: Changing the business case for action

Globally, more than 70 billion animals are farmed annually for meat, milk, eggs and other products. Some two-thirds of these animals are farmed intensively. The consequences of intensive farming have profound implications for the business case for intensive production and, in turn, for the structure of the global food industry as a whole. The views held by food companies on animal stewardship, and the management practices and processes that they adopt are of vital importance in determining the welfare of billions of animals. 

As architects of the highly acclaimed Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, and as co-editors of The Business of Farm Animal Welfare, the first comprehensive account of business and farm animal welfare, our speakers will provide an authoritative analysis of current corporate practice on farm animal welfare. The speakers in this session will further discuss how animal welfare, far from being a niche ethical concern, has profound implications for corporate costs, revenues, assets, brands and reputation.    

Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare, Nicky Amos, executive director

The Business of Farm Animal Welfare, Dr Rory Sullivan, co-editor


Organic Agriculture 101: USDA Organic Standards. How to verify organic supply chains

USDA National Organic Program, Betsy Rakola, director of compliance and enforcement


Biotech and Organics: How can they work together to revolutionize our food and farming system?

In the last thirty years, the biotech and organic industries have mostly been foes not friends. But if sustainability, not the process of getting there, is the goal, is it possible to consider genuine collaboration? In this closing session, we’ll look at whether biotechnology and organics could work together to deliver sustainable agriculture. We’ll discuss how the differing factions might be brought together if the common end goal is clear, and how – and when – that might happen. We’ll also look at how this might reflect consumer desires for sustainable food, and what such collaborations might mean for defining that, and making it happen.

Genetic Literacy Project, Jon Entine, director 

University of Florida, Kevin M. Folta, Professor and Chairman, Horticultural Sciences Department, Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology Program and, Plant Innovation Program


Conference ends

Brochure thumbnail

Download the conference brochure