Events and insight for sustainability

Innovation for Sustainable Agriculture

Wednesday 22 March
Thursday 23 March

Timeslots are provisional and exact timings may change


Opening debate: Can technology and innovation make industrial agriculture sustainable?

The majority of food consumed in the US is produced in large-scale industrial operations. The environmental consequences of this are numerous. However, there is a globally recognised need for the intensification of agricultural production in order to feed the world’s growing population. The world’s largest agri-businesses, producers, processors and retailers have increasingly tough sustainability targets to meet, yet for consumer groups, industrial agriculture is controversial. There’s evidence that shows that intensification of agriculture can deliver significant environmental benefits. But there are ‘social acceptance’ and reputation challenges.

According to the FAO, pollution released by farming is directly responsible for the global warming equivalent to 21% of global GHG emissions. Pressure to reduce these emissions is going to grow. In this session we’ll debate both the science and impact of scaled up industrial agriculture, and whether the concerns about it can be met by the industry successfully. We’ll also discuss the role of the agriculture industry in delivering on GHG reduction commitments set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. So how should business respond? How far have companies come, and where do the leading firms feel they are having the most success to date?


Roger Buelow, chief technology officer, AeroFarms
Dawn Rittenhouse, director, sustainable development, DuPont
Pamela Strifler, global stakeholder engagement and sustainability lead, Monsanto

Moderated by Tobias Webb, founder, Innovation Forum


Coffee break


Sustainable sourcing: Why some agricultural commodities lag, whilst others lead

Progress on sustainable sourcing of soya and cattle products is falling behind timber, palm oil and paper, according to a recent WWF report. Just one third of assessed companies are implementing sustainability policies specific to these two commodities, which seems odd when beef production is responsible for ten times more deforestation that palm oil. When sustainability is so often driven by NGO campaigns, why have certain commodities been targeted more than others, and what are the consequences of this neglect?

WWF claim that 14% of Consumer Goods Forum members have made measurable commitments to source commodities derived from forests, fisheries and farming in a way that meets the NGO’s sustainability standards. On the other hand, according to CGF, their members are ahead of the game, when compared to companies who are not CGF members.

By better using science and data, what are the techniques than can deliver improved sourcing outcomes? This session will begin with the perspective of membership bodies Consumer Goods Forum and the Sustainability Consortium, followed by Walmart’s corporate experience, with an overall critique from COSA.


Caroline Popkin, senior manager in sustainability, Keurig Green Mountain
Christy Melhart Slay, director of research, Sustainability Consortium
Katherine Neebe, director of sustainability, Walmart

Moderated by Chris Sellers, director of global operations, COSA




Commodity tours: cross learnings and shared lessons

These practical working groups will take a deep dive into the prevalent issues in each commodity. There are often understated lessons to be learnt from other sectors, so this session block will provide a quick-fire commodity tour of cross learnings.

All sessions will be chaired by leading experts, discussing the various environmental risks of each commodity, how they impact your business, and how business can implement science and technology to achieve sustainability commitments.

Commodities that we’ll take a closer look at are beef, soy and corn.


Moderated by Marcia Delonge, agroecologist, Union of Concerned Scientists 

  • 1.00 – 1.40 Beef

Townsend Bailey, director, supply chain sustainability, McDonald’s
Ben Weinheimer, PE, VP, Texas Cattle Feeders Association; board member, US Roundtable for Sustainable Beef

  • 1.40 – 2.20 Soy

Megan Weidner, VP corporate responsibility and sustainability, Bunge
Glenn Hurowitz, CEO, Mighty

  • 2.20 – 3.00 Corn

Paul Bertels, VP production and sustainability, National Corn Growers Association
Kraig Westerbeek, VP environment and support operations, Smithfield


Coffee break


Working session: Technologies for lowering emissions and increasing resilience and yields

There is a huge number of technologies available to help businesses lower emissions in agricultural production. But which ones have evidence of success, which ones can scale, and how can they be accessed?

In this interactive working session, the panelists will discuss the challenges around the practicalities of integrating new technologies. We will focus on the different ways companies use technology to collect and monitor data, covering issues around grower engagement and feedback, data accuracy, integrity and security.


  • Megan Weidner, VP corporate responsibility and sustainability, Bunge
  • Matt Carstens, senior VP, SUSTAIN, Land O’Lakes
  • Tommy Jackson, sustainable solutions lead, Syngenta

Moderated by Tobias Webb, founder, Innovation Forum


Question time: GM vs GE: The future, and always will be? A critical perspective for use in sustainable agriculture

Genetic modification has had its successes, and as with any innovation, many failures. Meanwhile gene editing is increasingly seen as a way to improve on areas where GM has struggled. The fields are of course highly technical and much scientific debate, experimentation and investment continues to be forthcoming. In this session, we’re going to debate the business applications of cutting edge agricultural science that have helped, and will help, big companies deliver against their sustainable agriculture targets around the world. From use of GM crops to mapping plant genomes to developing more heat and disease resistant crop strains, we’ll debate progress on what works for business when meeting sustainability targets, example by example, and look at the challenges and opportunities ahead.


Perry Hackett, cofounder and chairman of scientific board of advisors, Recombinetics
Jon Entine, executive director, Genetic Literacy Project

Moderated by Tobias Webb, founder, Innovation Forum


Evening networking reception


Solutions for business: Where’s the evidence that climate smart agriculture works at scale?

Climate smart agriculture (CSA) is a term that gets bandied around a lot, but let’s start with grasping what it means for big companies, how it works on a trial basis, and how you scale it from there. CSA aims to tackle three main objectives. Firstly, sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes. Secondly, adapting and building resilience to climate change and thirdly, reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions, where possible.

That’s an ambitious brief, so what does it mean for business? In particular, where can companies point to examples where they’ve made specific progress here, and what’s been saved/learned and improved that impresses sometimes-skeptical senior managers and boards. In this panel, the audience will be guided through (i) the brand’s experience with CSA, and how operations have been adapted to achieve scale, and (ii) how EcoAgriculture Partner have collaborated with partners to create climate-smart landscapes.


Seth Shames, director, policy and markets, EcoAgriculture Partners
Matt Carstens, senior VP, SUSTAIN, Land O’Lakes

Moderated by Jeff Hayward, VP landscapes and livelihoods, Rainforest Alliance


Water: best practice in risk mitigation and improving efficiencies

A global rise in population and food demand, increasing loss of land due to growing urbanization, and climate change are putting immense pressures on water sources. Agriculture is one of the biggest users of freshwater, accounting for around 70% of freshwater usage. For the global environment, it is necessary for water to be managed appropriately, and this is ever more important in agricultural production.

More and more food sector companies are recognizing the very real risks that global water stress poses to their entire value chain, and are taking action by evaluating their exposure to water risks, setting targets and working with producers to reduce water use and impacts.  As these risks move up the register of major food and agribusiness companies, institutional investors are examining these risks as well.

In this session, we will explore how companies and investors are thinking about best practice when it comes to mitigating water risk and, as we look forward, how science can be used to improve water efficiencies.

  • How are companies evaluating risk and measuring performance?
  • What information do investors need to understand if their portfolio companies are adequately managing water-related supply chain risk?


Stu Dalheim, VP, shareholder advocacy manager, Calvert Research and Management
Josh Prigge, director of regenerative development, Fetzer Vineyards
Duane Martin, corn product manager, Syngenta
Margaret Henry, sustainable agriculture lead, North America, PepsiCo

Moderated by Eliza Roberts, manager, water program, Ceres


Coffee break


Corporate financing for sustainable agriculture: How far should it go and what should be the expected returns?

The agriculture sector is currently under-invested and in need of financial support, particularly if it is to have a sustainable future. Investment in agriculture will play an important role in increasing resilience to climate change and improving food security.

With more and more large companies trying to help suppliers become more sustainable, this panel will discuss the hard questions on how companies determine the success of such programs, how economic and sustainability returns are measured, and if these funds are actually sustainable long-term.

Furthermore, at a time when commodity prices are already low and farmers are struggling to maintain their farms, what role will politics play and what can traders and food companies do to better support their farmers?


Bruce Wise, operations officer - manufacturing agribusiness services department, IFC
Stephanie Potter, vice president, sustainable business development, Rabobank
Stefani Millie Grant, senior manager, Unilever

Moderated by Tobias Webb, founder, Innovation Forum




Rethinking waste step-by-step: How technology can turn agricultural waste to wealth

Waste is one of the biggest issues associated with food, from production to consumption. At farm level, there is organic waste like manure and slurry, but there is also packaging, machinery and chemical waste. Companies must have a strategy for dealing with waste, including knowing the amount of waste that is being produced, and how this can be prevented, minimised, recycled and safely disposed. This session will look at how companies are dealing with waste at the farm level, and what new and innovative approaches are being looked into to improve management and combat waste.


Elise Golan, director for sustainable development, USDA
Kai Robertson, food loss and waste protocol, World Resources Institute
Sandra Vijn, director of sustainable food, WWF

Moderated by Josh Prigge, director of regenerative development, Fetzer Vineyards


Debate: Is certification helping companies meet sustainable agriculture targets?

Corporate sustainability targets are often based on those prescribed by certification bodies as they provide a base framework and level from which brands can create goals. Certification can strengthen corporate sustainability targets, thus improving impact and credibility. However, critics are increasingly asking if it is doing enough. This in-depth session will question the continued relevance of certification, its future role in environmental protection and sustainability, and will look at alternatives for moving beyond it.


Lara Koritzke, director, development and communications, Iseal Alliance
Jeff Milder, chief scientist, Rainforest Alliance
Ruth Thomas, FSA program manager, SAI Platform

Moderated by Tobias Webb, founder, Innovation Forum


Collaboration to meet your business targets: where is the evidence?

Collaboration is often hailed as the answer to scaling up projects and increasing impacts on the ground. However, there are a number of challenges involved. In this session, we will hear examples of existing partnerships at different tiers of the supply chain. The panelists will take a look at the practicalities and different hurdles that arise with collaboration. We’ll also hear what lessons that can be learned so that it can deliver on the potential it promises, and be effectively scaled to meet your targets.


Suzy Friedman, senior director of agricultural sustainability, Environmental Defense Fund
Rod Snyder, president, Field to Market
Margaret Henry, sustainable agriculture lead, North America, PepsiCo

Moderated by Tobias Webb, founder, Innovation Forum


Closing remarks

End of conference.

Brochure thumbnail

Download the conference brochure