H.E. Dr. Tariq Bin Hendi is the Director General of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO). He leads the organisation’s efforts to grow and diversify Abu Dhabi’s economy through private sector investment. He also oversees strategic initiatives that support the emirate’s economic growth and reputation on the world stage. Prior to joining ADIO, His Excellency held leadership roles at various institutions including Emirates NBD, Mubadala and Citibank. He also sits on a number of boards including AXA GCIC and EPG (Emirates Post Group). His Excellency holds a PhD in Economics from the Imperial College London, and graduate degrees from Columbia University and London Business School.
Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, is an economist and politician from Cape Verde. A leading expert in global development, she has worked in public service for over thirty years, tackling the root causes of hunger and poverty by promoting long-term food security and nutrition, sustainable agriculture and food systems, biodiversity mainstreaming and gender equalilty. Ms. Semedo has previously been an FAO Representative in Niger; Deputy Regional Representative for Africa; Sub-regional Coordinator for West Africa; Cape Verde Secretary of State for Fisheries; Minister for Fisheries, Agriculture and Rural Affairs; Minister for Tourism, Transportation and Marine Affairs and her country's first female Member of Parliament. Ms. Semedo has received the Crans Montana Forum Prix de la Fondation (2019), the Order of Rio Branco (2018), the Honoris Causa doctorate from the Universidade Aberta (2018) and the Order of Niger (2008). She was named “Woman of the Year” at the 2018 Women Diplomats Day commemoration in Portugal.
In 2013, Danielle Nierenberg co-founded Food Tank with Bernard Pollack, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization focused on building a global community for safe, healthy, nourished eaters. Bringing together all sides of food issues for critical discussion, Food Tank is a global convener, research organization, and non-biased creator of original research impacting the food system. Danielle conducts extensive on-the-ground research, having traveled to more than 70 countries across the world to document what’s working to help alleviate hunger and poverty while protecting the environment. Her knowledge of global agriculture issues has been cited widely in more than 20,000 major print and broadcast outlets worldwide. Speaking at more than 100 events per year, Danielle has built a worldwide social media following and web following of more than 1,200,000. Danielle has an M.S. in Agriculture, Food, and Environment from the Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and spent two years volunteering for the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.
David Rosenberg co-founded and leads AeroFarms, a mission-driven company that builds and operates advanced vertical farms in urban environments. AeroFarms was listed on Fast Company’s 2019 Most Innovative Companies and Inc. Magazine’s 25 Most Disruptive Companies. AeroFarms received the inaugural Global SDG Award for Zero Hunger, was listed in Time Magazine’s 2019 Best Inventions, and received The Ethical Corporation’s 2019 Responsible Business Award in Sustainable Innovation. As a member of the World Economic Forum, David co-chaired the Young Global Leaders Circular Economy Taskforce and is a member of the Global IoT Council. David serves as a Managing Trustee of the Liberty Science Center – a prominent U.S. interactive science museum and is on the Board of Directors of Aspire, the world leader in cricket protein. David was named one of the 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs at Goldman Sachs’ 2019 Annual Builders and Innovators Summit. David received his BA from UNC Chapel Hill and holds an MBA from Columbia University.
His Excellency Rashid Muhammad Khalfan Al Shuraiqi is the Senior Advisor for Agriculture at Al Dahra Agricultural Company, a member of the Executive Committee of the Parliamentary Union (since 2007), and a member of Abu Dhabi Quality and Compliance Council Board Directors (since 2016). H.E. Al Shuraiqi’s professional experience spans over 35 years. He was the Director General at the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority from 2006-2017 and Vice-Chairman of Abu Dhabi Food Security Center from 2011-2017. H.E. Al Shuraiqi also served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Parliamentary Union and member of the Federal National Council (2007-2015). H.E. Al Shuraiqi received his MSc degree in environmental science with honors from UAE University and a bachelor’s degree with honors in agricultural science from the College of Agricultural Sciences, UAE University.
Nicole Thorpe is a Founding Director of Cultinova, a boutique IT engineering consultancy providing customised monitoring, control and data solutions for improved efficiency and sustainability of agriculture and urban green infrastructure. Nicole’s mission is to leverage the power of the Internet-of-Things to contribute to improving the way we produce and consume our food, design our cities and look after our health and the environment. In her role as a steering, advisory board and founding member of several national and international industry associations (the Vertical Farm Institute [Vienna]), the Farm Tech Society (Brussels), U.K. Urban Agtech collective UKUAT, Smart and Sustainable Urban Agriculture Committee in Singapore, Cluster of Sustainable Cities, UK), Nicole is working with industry experts, shaping and promoting the advancement and acceptance of technology-based agricultural solutions. Her experience working with public and private sector organisations worldwide has enabled her to lead several technical expert groups as well as education and outreach activities, underlining her commitment to driving multidisciplinary, multi-stakeholder innovation for a sustainable future for our planet.
Kieran Dowd is the Vice President of Sourcing Solutions at Emirates Flight Catering (EKFC) and the General Manager for Emirates Crop One. The insights and experience Kieren has gained from managing complex, diverse interactions and interests have qualified him to support, influence and lead internal and external change management projects that provide sustainable business improvements. Prior to EKFC, Kieran was the Director of Procurement at the Tourism Development Investment Company (TDIC), an Abu Dhabi Government entity, delivering tourism assets within the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, including Sir Bani Yas Island and Saadiyat Island, home of the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Before relocating to the Middle East, Kieran was the Director of Procurement for GlaxoSmithkline in the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan regions. Kieran has worked in Procurement for 22 years, having received his MBA in Strategy and Procurement Management from Birmingham Business School.
Dr. Hanan Afifi has been a lead researcher at the Research and Development Division, Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority, since 2014. She is a certified trainer (AUPSCER 170803543 AE) with extensive experience in delivering successful training programs across food technology and food safety and has more than 25 years of academic experience in the field of food science. Her R&D interests involve areas including foodborne diseases, chemical and microbial contamination along the supply chain, exposure and risk assessment, product shelf-life and safety. She has held the position of Chair of the Innovation and Scientific Research Committee, ADAFSA, since 2018 and is a member of many committees including the Abu Dhabi Food Safety Index, Technical Group of Food Legislations and more. Dr. Afifi has been awarded many distinctions throughout her career. Most recently, she was the first prize recipient in the poster competition at the “7th Dubai International Food Safety Conference and IAFP's First Middle East Symposium on Food Safety Symposium” in 2012.
Abdulaziz’s interest in food security began during his time at McKinsey & Co. working extensively with GCC governments addressing a variety of national risk challenges. A serial investor in disruptive technologies (Lyft, Indigo Ag, among others), he is dedicated to addressing the food security challenge. He dedicates time to the region’s food ecosystem as a mentor at Savour Ventures, the Middle East’s first accelerator focused on food. Previously a banker with HSBC, Abdulaziz holds a BA from University of Pennsylvania and MBA from Wharton.
Ramesh Jagannathan is currently the Vice Provost for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and Managing Director of startAD, the global accelerator at NYU Abu Dhabi. An entrepreneurial technologist specializing in leading global teams, since 2010 Ramesh has led the focus on innovation and entrepreneurship at NYU Abu Dhabi. Previously Ramesh spent 30 years at Eastman Kodak in the US and the UK, which culminated in a prestigious appointment as a Research Fellow at Kodak Research Labs. A gold medalist from the University of Madras from where he received his B.Tech degree, Ramesh went on to complete his PhD from Clarkson University and sat on the Cambridge University Mentor Panel. Ramesh holds 46 US patents and has invented a dry inkjet printing technology and a new atmospheric process for coating organic device quality thin films. He also has 39 peer-reviewed articles in journals.
Feroz is a Partner at Roland Berger and focuses on digital transformation in the areas of machine learning/AI, blockchain and crypto solutions, cybersecurity and digital inclusion. Roland Berger is an independent company, founded in 1967, the leading global consultancy firm is of German origin, with a strong footprint in Asia and other geographies. Previously, Feroz was the founder of the Middle East, Turkey and Africa office of Intel Capital, a venture capital and private equity arm of Intel Corporation. Feroz holds an electrical engineering degree from The University of Maryland (honors) and an MBA from the Ross School of Business at The University of Michigan. He was a member of the Abu Dhabi Chapter of YPO (Young Presidents Organization), A charter member of TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs), an Investment Selection Panelist at Endeavor and currently belongs to numerous technical and leadership honor societies.
Cinar obtained his BSc in Electrical Engineering from the University of Evansville, as well as his MSc in Electrical Engineering and Telecommunication Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. His career began as a System Integration Engineer at Motorola, before advancing to become a Technical Release Manager for Motorola’s iDEN Group until 2004. As a serial entrepreneur, he has founded several companies including KES Engineering based in Chicago (1997), dBKES Engineering Services (2000) and DEK Technology (2010) based in Istanbul, MGT Electronics based in Chicago (2007), and HAWK Technology based in Abu Dhabi (2011). Post exiting these companies, Cinar currently leads Catalyst, a Masdar-BP initiative, which is the first startup accelerator focused on sustainability in the MENA region, funding in the following fields: Clean & Renewable Technologies, Energy Storage Solutions, Harvesting, Efficiency & Optimization, Waste Transformation & Food Security Technologies, Biomechatronics, Smart City & Living, Sustainable Building Material Science, Predictive Analysis & Maintenance, E-Mobility & Efficient Logistics and Agro Tech.
Dr. Rami Zurayk is professor and chairperson of the Department of Landscape Design and Ecosystem Management at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, American University of Beirut, where he has been on the faculty since 1991. He was a member of the High-Level Panel of Experts for Food Security from 2015 to 2019, a founding member of the Arab Food Sovereignty Network, and a member of the Conflicts and Protracted Crisis Working Group of the Civil Society Mechanism of the Committee on Food Security and a member of the EAT-Lancet commission for sustainable diets from sustainable food systems. He has written over 100 peer reviewed articles, books chapters and technical reports and has served as advisor to the minister of Agriculture in Lebanon. He has worked extensively in the Arab region and has recently collaborated with UN ESCWA for the development of the Arab Food Security Monitoring Framework. He obtained his PhD from Oxford University.
Dr. Dionysia Angeliki Lyra has been a Halophyte Agronomist at the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) in Dubai, United Arab Emirates since 2013, working on evaluating halophytes (salt-loving plants) in inland and coastal desert areas exploring their multiple uses. She is also working on modular farming systems that integrate agriculture with aquaculture utilizing low-quality water resources such as the reject brine from desalination incorporating halophytes too. After running a successful project funded by USAID in 2016, Dr. Lyra was announced as one of the 29 global innovators for EXPO2020 of the first phase of the EXPO Live program in 2017 and received a grant for the project “Inland and coastal modular farms for climate change adaptation in desert environments” which is continued giving emphasis on the development of halophyte-based food products. Her vision is to develop integrated farming systems tailormade to the needs of farming communities living in salinized areas, utilizing low-quality water and land resources to grow halophytic crops enhancing food, nutrition, water and income security.
Stuart Oda is an investment banker turned urban farmer with a passion for innovation and sustainability. In 2013, Stuart founded Alesca Life, an agricultural technology company that builds indoor, vertical farms and farm digitization solutions to modernize the agricultural supply chain. Alesca was selected as a 2019 World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer and has been accepted into prestigious global accelerator programs including Stanford StartX, Thrive Agtech, BitsxBites, Pearse Lyons, Unreasonable Impact, and Dubai Future Accelerators as an innovator in the field of controlled environment agriculture, precision agriculture, and hyper-local urban farming. Alesca's indoor farms and precision agriculture solutions have been deployed in the UAE, China, and Singapore and large-scale projects are under way in Saudi Arabia and South Africa. Stuart previously worked in the investment banking division of Merrill Lynch Japan Securities and the global emerging markets business development team at Dell China. He received his B.A. in Political Science and Business Economics from UCLA.
Penny McBride has over 20 years of experience in green building practices, waste utilization, vertical farming, strategic development, and entrepreneurship. Penny has a deep understanding of the complexities of food systems and works with clients to develop personalized, strategic and comprehensive solutions tailored to their needs. In 2004, after completing an M.A. in Environment and Community through Antioch University, she went on to co-found Vertical Harvest, a three-story hydroponic greenhouse in Jackson, WY. Since that time she has worked to help others spearhead agriculture projects. Currently she is the Vice Chair of the Association for the Farm Tech Society (FTS) an international non-profit industry association that unites and supports the Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) industry, seeking to strengthen the sector through the development and implementation of resilient and future proof methods and technologies for indoor growing. Through the development of innovative food systems and integrated urban agriculture solutions, Penny strives to promote community, economic, and environmental well-being, working with both public and private sector and NGOs alike to redefine community food systems.
Dr. Merle Jensen's background includes intensive agriculture/food support systems for developing agricultural communities and aerospace application. Research interests include programs in protected agriculture, the growing of horticultural crops out of season using agricultural plastics for modification of the microclimate. Coinciding with these research interests is the application of new systems of protected agriculture to developing agricultural programs throughout the world. These research interests extend to a past program with NASA in comparing plant growth and reproduction in hydroponic liquid culture versus solid media food production techniques for a "Closed Ecological Life Support System" (CELSS). Merle Jensen has devoted his career to controlled environment agriculture, designing intensive food production systems ranging in application from Spaceship Earth to Planet Mars. Merle attended Washington State University, graduated from California State Polytechnic University with a bachelor’s degree and went on to receive advanced degrees from Cornell University and Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
Dr. Dino Francescutti Motis is the Sub-regional Coordinator of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for the Gulf Cooperation Council States and Yemen and also the FAO Representative in the United Arab Emirates. He is Mexican and Italian, with a Ph.D. in Economics and a M.Sc. in Agricultural Economics from the USA and a B.Sc. in Animal Husbandry from Mexico. In 1991, Dr. Francescutti joined FAO as Food Security Officer. From 1995 to 2019, he worked as Economist and Senior Economist of the FAO Investment Centre, in Rome (Italy) and Santiago (Chile). Currently, he leads the development of the FAO programme of work in several GCC States, in support of the food security strategies of member countries. In the UAE, he facilitates policy and technical dialogue between FAO, other partners and the Government in support of strengthening strategic frameworks and actions around food and water security, nutrition, natural resource management, sustainable agriculture (crops and livestock) and aquaculture.
Omar Al Jundi is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Badia Farms, a pioneering and revolutionizing agricultural initiative to provide a sustainable solution for the region’s future. A Saudi national and qualified industrial engineer, Omar began his career in the financial and engineering industries in Saudi Arabia, before following his entrepreneurial passion. This led to a successful business in hospitality, and recognition in the 2007 book ‘Leaders of Saudi Arabia’. Strongly committed to the region, its development and sustainable future, Omar became focused on agricultural innovations. Studying a variety of methods and techniques around the world, he moved to the UAE to establish Badia Farms. As founder and CEO of Badia Farms, Omar drives the business vision, with ambitious plans to lead the region’s agriculture industry. Omar holds a BSc in Industrial Engineering and MBA from the University of Miami. He is a certified industrial consultant from the Saudi Council of Engineers license number 3536 and a member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) UAE Chapter.
Hana is a dynamic and highly driven individual who has worn many hats in her 14 years of academic and professional experience as a scientist, psychologist, coach and program manager. The last six years were particularly focused on the Tech scene where she worked closely with Entrepreneurs and C- Level professionals in Lebanon and the UAE, as well as built and managed a research commercialization program focused on turning applied research into innovative marketable products. As an Interim Director at startAD, she works closely with her team to design and deliver high quality and impactful programs supporting corporates and startups in their innovation journey and growth. She's also been a jury member on many local and international competitions such as Seedstars, Startup Sauna, and Ibtikari.
An accomplished Food Scientist, Dr. Raman Bhaskaracharya is working as Assistant Professor in College of Food & Agriculture, United Arab Emirates University. With extensive experience both in academia and food industry as a strategic corporate leader overseeing safety, quality and innovation in the wine, dairy, pet food, bakery, liquid grocery manufacturing MNCs and their contract manufacturers. Passionate in food research and application in commercial enterprises has made significant contributions to academic-industry collaborations. In his current role established grant-based collaborative research projects with industry and research institutions in Australia, UK, India, etc. Current research interests include application of green technology to design biopolymers with dairy proteins and/or phyto-compound mixtures to fortify foods with bioactives and nutrients in model dairy/plant-based food systems. He is open to further collaborations with both academia and industry/research organizations and is in process of recruiting postgraduate students to carry out novel research.
Georg has extensive experience in agricultural and horticultural production systems. After receiving his MSc degree in horticultural science from the university of Bologna, Georg joined BayWa AG, a German-based conglomerate and global leader in agriculture, energy and construction. Here, Georg occupied a variety of positions before assuming the role of General Manager at Al Dahra BayWa Agriculture, the developer and operator of a 10 hectare high-tech Greenhouse facility in the UAE. The Greenhouse is the first large-scale, sustainable indoor farm in the UAE to produce high-quality tomatoes 365 days a year. Since his instatement at Al Dahra BayWa Georg has aimed to manifest the Al Dahra BayWa Greenhouse solution, as a vital contributor to the UAE food security strategy and sustainable, future oriented farming.
Eng. Fatima Al Suwaidi is an Analyst in the Business Development and Investment team in the Clean Energy division at Masdar, focusing on Asia and East Europe. Currently, she is the Project Manager for the Cirata Floating Solar Project in Indonesia. Fatima also supported the BD&I team covering the Americas and West Europe, where she contributed to in-depth due diligence analyses investigating and vetting investment opportunities, primarily for brownfield renewable energy projects. Previously, she was responsible for managing applied research and development projects in collaboration with local and international institutions. Fatima was also involved in the Masdar Eco-Bus; the first electric bus developed in the UAE and tailored to the country’s climate. She was recently awarded the Woman in Solar of the Year 2019 by Middle East Solar Industry Association (MESIA). Fatima holds a Bachelor of Science in Sustainable and Renewable Energy Engineering from the University of Sharjah.