Keynotes and Panelists

Keynote Speakers

Michelle L. Grainger

Michelle L. Grainger is the managing director of the Executive Farm Management program at NC State which contributes to the advancement of business practices of the modern farmer.

A proud alumni of NC State University’s Poole College of Management and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Michelle has led The Center for Innovation Management Studies (CIMS), a global innovation management research center, for the last twenty years. 

Check out Michelle’s TEDx Talk here.

Yorm Ackuaku

Yorm Ackuaku is the founder of esSense 13, a platform dedicated to raising the profile of African food globally through interactive online and offline experiences.

Since its inception in 2014, esSense 13 has hosted several events including the African continent’s first food hackathon, food business pitch competitions and dining experiences in Accra and London. In 2018, Yorm launched ‘Item 13: An African Food Podcast’, an audio production of esSense 13 that celebrates the stories of African food entrepreneurs around the world.

A former CPA, Yorm graduated Magna Cum Laude from Marquette University with a BS in Accounting and Information Technology. She holds an MBA degree from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and has lived and worked in the U.S. for over 10 years, with work experience in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Yorm is currently based in Seattle.

Sandi Kronick

Sandi is the CEO of Happy Dirt, a farmer- and staff-owned wholesale produce distributor. The company started in 2004 with the goal of helping transition tobacco farmers into organic vegetable production to meet an increasing need for local and organic produce in the marketplace.

Ardent supporter of organic family farmers and proud business partner of 16 growers. Proven change agent for sustainable food system development, farmer-friendly distribution programs, and authentic connections between growers + consumers. Committed to creating a more equitable food system for all.


Redefining Food Systems

Dr. Sierra Young, Assistant Professor Biological and Agricultural Engineering North Carolina State University

Rachel Wooten, Supply Chain and Food Safety Specialist at Seal the Seasons

Bart Creasman, Raleigh-Durham Market Manager at Hungry Harvest

Culture of Food

Alex Borst, Buyer, Happy Dirt

Graham Givens, Sustainability Manager, FoodBuy,

Tahz Walker, Farmer, Tierra Negra Farm and Program Manager and Farmer Liason at Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA(RAFI-USA)

Yesenia Cuello, Executive Director, NC Field

The Landscape of Sustainable Beverages

Anne Fitten Glenn, award-winning beer writer and beer historian

Leah Cooper, Sustainability Specialist at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. 

Karen Jordan, NC Dairy Alliance

Sean Wilson, Founder and Chief Executive Optimist, Fullsteam Brewery

Launching a Venture, Growing an Idea

Steve Barr, Distinguished Professor of Technology Management Technology Commercialization and Entrepreneurship Department of Management Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Mick Huffstutler, Business strategy consultant with a passion for entrepreneurs and startups in the FoodTech and AgTech sectors, Navicerne Group.

Laura Hearn, Co-Founder – Ripe Revival

Will Kornegay, Co-Founder & CEO – Ripe Revival

Shraddha Rathod, CEO & Co-founder, Freshspire

The Sustainable Future of Proteins

Leah McGrath, Registered Dietian, Corporate Dietian for Ingles Markets. Twitter: @InglesDietitian

Bill Aimutis, Director of the North Carolina Food Innovation Lab. 

Stephan Van Vliet, Human Physiologist and Postdoctoral Associate at the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute and the Duke Molecular Physiology Institute

Chad Herring, NC Farm Families, Hog Farmer

Moderator: Tracy Triggs-Mathew, Associate Director, Center for Sustainable Enterprise, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

B Corps and Using Food as a Force for Good

Seth Gross, Bull City Burger and Brewery, a locally owned, independent restaurant and craft brewery located in downtown Durham, NC

Lyle Estill, CEO of Fair Game Beverage Co. Produce of spirits and cider located in Pittsboro, NC


Moderator: Jessica Thomas, Director of Business Sustainability Collaborative and Lecturer, Director of the NC State B Corp Clinic