In its fourth year, the 2019 Innovator Summit at Davis, CA brought together leading experts, investors and changemakers to continue accelerating Transformation of the Food System. This year, the event focused on:

The Summit featured an evening reception on May 20, followed by two days’ of invigorating keynote presentations, parallel sessions, innovation showcases, and a tour to the Culinary Institute of America’s Copia campus in Napa Valley on May 21 & 22. Guests from industry, research, technology, finance, NGO and government further developed joint interests and collaborative multi-sector partnerships to bring solutions to market.

KEYNOTE Presentations


Drawing from deep research, communications and industry expertise, we were taken on a journey of possibility regarding future options for transforming the food system.

Carlito Lebrilla, Distinguished Professor at UC Davis and Co-Founder of Evolve Biosystems and InterVenn.

Opportunities in Carbohydrates (An Academic’s Experiences in Starting Companies): The food system could benefit from better analytics, lending itself to food and gut health investment opportunities. However, good science is not enough – it must also be accompanied by the right people and technology transfer strategy.

Charlene Finck, Division President, Producer Media, Farm Journal

Building Trust, Inclusion and Confidence: Full-circle inclusion involves breaking down silos and engaging all stakeholders to harness different perspectives from a collaborative network. Pre-competitive collaboration turns food and agriculture goals into sustainable outcomes by guarding against unintended consequences. 

Ralph Jerome, former Chief Innovation Officer of Mars, Incorporated

GoMo – A Partnering Journey: A good partnership is about creating a team
that transcends organizational boundaries. Presentation link

DAY 1 Summary


Co-hosted by Colorado State University

David Lee, Lead Technologist, Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, Booz Allen Hamilton
Sophisticated data analytics are helping to phenotype different kinds of soils and make determinations about best practices for future crop production. Building scientific communities through ‘transformative technologies’ will be crucial for implementing new technology in the agriculture and energy arenas.

John Field, Research Scientist, Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University
Researchers are working on methods to retain greater levels of carbon within soil biomass using ‘frontier technologies’ like enhanced root growth. Such large-scale carbon sequestration has the potential to absorb and retain much of the carbon dioxide currently emitted into the atmosphere.

Kerri Wright Platais, Special Advisor to the Chancellor for International Agriculture at National Western Center, Colorado State University
Energy and agriculture technology share a unique bond in helping to develop the food system sustainably, especially in parts of Africa where the private sector is poised to play a greater role over the next thirty-years through ‘market first’ models.

Co-hosted by UC Davis Institute for Food & Agricultural Literacy

David Zilberman, Professor, Agricultural & Resource Economics, UC Berkeley
Public reluctance and opposition to new food technologies has the potential to disadvantage producers and consumers, especially in resource-restricted regions of the world.

Sarah Davidson-Evanega, Director, Alliance for Science, Cornell University
Scientists are using a naturally occurring soil bacteria as a limited-application pesticide, leading to a significant reduction in pesticide use.

Nassib Mugwanya, Outreach Officer, Uganda Biosciences Information Center (UBIC) at the National Crops Resources Research Institute
New food technology appears to be a sustainable solution for meeting one of Africa’s greatest challenges of feeding its growing population. Promising results include crops resistant to threats related to climate change and insect infestation.

Co-hosted by UC San Francisco Center for Digital Health Innovation

Rick Peters, Technology Innovation Lead and Assistant Professor of Medicine, Dell Medical School, University of Texas
Proper food and nutrition intake for infants and children is widely debated throughout the medical field. Food-related diseases like diabetes are the subject of continual research, showing greatest promise in treating the disease rather managing symptoms.

Rachael A. Callcut, Associate Professor of Surgery, Center for Digital Health Innovation, UC San Francisco
Integrating nutrition and diet into outpatient care needs more priority in the health care sector. Better coordination between the food science industry and health care could unlock learnings from complex data, and provide deeper insight into how food affects health.

Co-hosted by UC Agriculture & Natural Resources and The Mixing Bowl

Irwin R. Donis-Gonzalez, Postharvest Engineer, UC Davis
Food scarcity in developing countries results in better care and less waste. Reevaluating food consumption and sustainability practices at scale will require us to change wasteful practices.

Eric Tilton, Chief Technology Officer, HermetiaPro Inc.
Waste streams in agriculture can themselves be utilized to produce food for animals and insects, resulting in new protein sources for human consumption that have the potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Adam Behrens, Co-founder and CEO, Cambridge Crops
New technologies are being developed to extract natural proteins from silk for the preservation of perishable foods, where topical application could improve the shelf life of fruits and vegetables.

Emily Gousen, Capital and Innovation Manager, ReFED
The US stands to learn from international examples of reduced food waste through school education on food conservation practices, which are then transferred into the family unit.

DAY 2 Summary


Co-hosted by UC Davis Institute for Food & Agricultural Literacy

Robert Paarlberg, Adjunct Professor of Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University
Several African countries have adopted new technologies for crop production, but not all African nations utilize such breakthroughs. Sensitive to international regulations, production and distribution efficiencies are being affected.

Frank M. Mitloehner, Professor and Air Quality Extension Specialist, UC Davis
Africa expects a 50% increase in population over the next 30 years. Deemed the ‘2050 Challenge’, it may turn into a ‘crisis of major proportion’ unless food supplies and systems improve.

Anne Barnhill, Associate Faculty; Research Scholar, Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, John Hopkins University
Food ethics relates to the ethical, practical, and logistical implications of agriculture, nutrition and food production. Advocates for ‘ethical framework’ tools insist that better trade-offs can be realized between competing interests when a diverse group of stakeholders is consulted.

Co-hosted by UC San Francisco Center for Digital Health Innovation

Bruce Ames, Senior Scientist, Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute
Proper vitamin and mineral intake through diet and nutrition is crucial to improved life expectancy.

Jordan Bisanz, Gnotobiotic Core Facility Consultant at the Hooper Foundation, School of Medicine, UC San Francisco
In their expert study of a healthy gut, researchers find low calorie diets change the gut biome, but considerable debate remains over how these factors influence host energy balance and other biological responses.

Co-hosted by UC Agriculture & Natural Resources and The Mixing BowlCo-hosted by Colorado State University

Silke Hemming, Head of Greenhouse Technology, Wageningen University and Research Centre
Artificial intelligence seems poised to play a larger role, taking over some of the complexity in greenhouse management. Growers and farmers play a pivotal role, but can make different kinds of informed decisions to assist and direct machine learning protocols.

Michael Schutt, Partnership Development Manager, Raley’s
Consumers have already responded positively to products branded as ‘sunless’ produce. When awareness and demand converge, it is anticipated that consumers will gravitate towards indoor grown products.

Viraj Puri, Co-Founder and CEO, Gotham Greens
Indoor and greenhouse farming offers a value proposition for many in the food production chain, especially city dwellers. Machine learning could potentially bring about an ‘autonomous greenhouse’ that needs less human intervention to produce and harvest crops.

Melanie Yelton, Vice President of Research, Lumigrow
Growing produce with LED lights can provide more nutritious food and reduce the need for plant growth regulators, with specific light spectrums changing the density, size, color, and other aspects of indoor crops.

Co-hosted by Colorado State University

Jeff Callaway, Associate Director of Fermentation Science and Technology, CSU

Sustainable brewing practices are producing new kinds of beverages and optimizing brewing procedures. Beyond the environmental factors of energy and water, these efforts also offer opportunity for social and economic sustainability.

Brent Young, Agricultural Business Management Economist, Colorado State University
Greenhouse gas inventories from agriculture, livestock and soil management industries demonstrate they are significant contributors to global emissions, opening the possibility for solar power as a viable alternative to ease emissions during energy use.

Hailey Summers, Mechanical Engineering PhD Student, CSU
‘Sustainability’ is a prominent buzzword in agricultural science, but it remains quantitatively elusive. Researchers are designing tools to quantify measures of sustainability beyond superlatives.


List of Attendees

Please reach out to for any assistance in connecting with an attendee directly.

ADM Research

AGR Partners


Anubis Bio


Bayer Crop Science

Bennett Consulting

Better Food Ventures


Booz Allen Hamilton

Bow Capital

Buhler, Inc.

Cambridge Crops

Carnegie Institute of Science

Cayuga BioPharma


Colorado State University Energy Institute

Colorado State University & Extension

Cornell University

Elemental Excelerator



Farm Foundation

Farm Journal

FemTech Fund


FoodShot Global

Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research

Frinj Coffee

FTW Ventures

Genoa Ventures

Global Crop Diversity Trust

Gotham Greens

Greater Sacramento Economic Council

Harvard Kennedy School

HermetiaPro, Inc.

HM Clause

IBM Research

in’Sight Labs

Johns Hopkins Berman

Institute of Bioethics

Land & Ladle

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

LumiGrow, Inc.

Marrone Bio Innovations, Inc.

Mars, Incorporated

MISTA / Givaudan


NASA Ames Research Center

National Crops Resources Research Institute

National University of Singapore


Nuffield Farming Scholarships Trust



PRIME Market Access





Rockefeller Foundation

Salim Group

Stanford University School of Medicine

Swick Consulting

TechAccel LLC

The Culinary Institute of America

The Food Business School of the CIA

The March Fund

The Mixing Bowl

The Morning Star Company

The Production Board

The University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School


Thomas Jefferson Foundation


Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy

UC Agriculture & Natural Resources

UC Berkeley

UC Davis

UCD Agricultural Sustainability Institute

UCD Biotechnology Program

UCD Coffee Center

UCD Global Tea Initiative

UCD Graduate School of Management

UCD Health System

UCD Innovation Institute for Food & Health

UCD Institute for Food & Agricultural Literacy

UCD Institute for Innovation & Entrepreneurship

UCD Net Impact

UCD Office of Research

UCD Olive Center

UCD Policy Institute

UCD Russell Ranch

UCD Seed Central

UCD Undergraduate Research Center

UCD World Food Center

UC San Diego

UC San Francisco Center for Digital Health Innovation

UC Santa Barbara


University of South Florida

Vitality Biopharma

Wageningen University & Research

White Dog Labs


2020 Innovation Forum – Mark Your Calendars!

We look forward to you joining us again next year in Spring 2020 for an international innovation forum – planned to be our biggest yet!