Transforming food systems to equitably feed a more populous planet while conserving and regenerating the natural world.
The VERGE 23 Food Program showcases the organizations and innovations making global food systems more sustainable, just, nourishing and resilient. Join the conversation to discover the most impactful strategies, technologies and products enabling food systems transformation and connect with the leaders bringing them to life.
Supply Chain Decarbonization
Food Loss and Waste
Participants include professionals in:
Research and innovation
Featured Food Program Speakers
Anna Hammond is the Founder and CEO of Matriark Foods, a food waste startup that upcycles farm surplus and fresh-cut remnants into healthy, shelf-stable vegetable products for institutional foodservice. Matriark is building a circular food future, creating products that solve for inefficiencies in the supply chain while combating climate change—at scale. The first Matriark product to market is a low-sodium vegetable broth concentrate that diverts 1,500 pounds of vegetables from landfill and 1,033.35 pounds of methane gas per pallet sold. Since its founding in 2018, Matriark has participated in the Food Systems 6 Accelerator, the global Huhtamaki Circular Economy Start Up Program, and the Foodbuy Accelerator for Minority and Women Owned businesses. Matriark was featured as a leader and innovator in Tetra Pak’s 2020 global sustainability report.
Prior to founding Matriark Foods, Hammond spent 25 years as a nonprofit leader at The Museum of Modern Art New York and Yale University, successfully building and scaling programs and teams into dynamic, impactful, stable organizations. Most recently, Hammond was Executive Director for The Sylvia Center, which provides evidence-based food and nutrition education programs to teens and families in public housing community centers across the 5 boroughs of NYC and in all 6 school districts in Columbia County in upstate New York. During her tenure, Hammond grew the program from 300 to more than 25,000 students, reducing health disparities in underserved communities and empowering the next generation to lead healthier lives. Hammond is a founding Board member of the Upcycled Food Association, and she serves as an advisor to The Rockland Farm Alliance and Heroic Food, a nonprofit that trains military veterans for careers in sustainable farming and food entrepreneurship.
Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin began working on economic development projects with indigenous Guatemalan communities in 1988. He served as a consultant for the United Nations Development Program’s Bureau for Latin America and as an advisor to the World Council of Indigenous Peoples and was a founding member of the Fair Trade Federation in 1994. Since migrating to the US in 1992, Regi has led the creation and launch of multiple enterprises. His first significant contribution to the US social enterprise sector was in 1995 when he founded Peace Coffee, a Minnesota-based fair-trade coffee company. Regi’s social enterprise development work includes woodland owner cooperatives and a multitude of inner-city new immigrant enterprise efforts in Minnesota.Haslett-Marroquin was named one of MN’s Twin Cities International Citizens of the Year in 1996. In 2008 he received two regional Service to Mankind Awards (SERTOMA). He has served on numerous non-profit boards. Regi serves on multiple advisory boards to organizations working on regenerative agriculture with a focus on agroforestry as a global solution to climate, hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. Regi is Co-Founder and CEO of Tree-Range® Farms, a MN-based company, and leads multiple teams in Minnesota, South Dakota, Mexico, and Guatemala that have broken new ground in the regenerative food and agriculture field through an innovative Poultry Centered Regenerative Agriculture System he has pioneered.A native Guatemalan, Regi received his agronomy degree from the Escuela Nacional Central de Agricultura (ENCA), studied at the Universidad de San Carlos in Guatemala, and graduated from Augsburg University in Minnesota. Regi lives in Northfield Minnesota with his wife Amy, they own and operate a 65-acre farm where he continues to do to R&D on regenerative poultry production systems.
Michiel Bakker is an accomplished senior strategic, multi-disciplined, global ‘services and experiences’ business leader, grounded in hospitality with a touch of technology. As the visionary behind Google’s celebrated flagship Food@Work program, he brings deep experience in global operations, people, project, program, design / development, change management and food systems.
He presently leads Google’s Real Estate and Workplace Services’ (REWS) Global Programs Team (= Food, Transportation, Sustainability, ‘Global Events, Amenities and Guest Services’, Health and Performance and Placemaking) with overall responsibilities for the ongoing delivery of REWS global workplace programs & services to over 250K+ individuals around the world (55+ countries).
He is an active contributor to various Advisory Boards around the world, including the Culinary Institute of America (USA) Menus of Change Business Leadership Council, the Yale Center for Customer Insights’ Advisory Board (USA), the EAT Advisory Board (Sweden), and the Food & Nature Board of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. He is also an Executive Advisor for the Future Food Institute (Bologna, Italy), a member of the James Beard Foundation Board of Trustees and a member of the Dutch startup Orbisk Supervisory Board.
Before joining Google in 2012, Michiel spent two decades in global hotel and food and beverage operations, creating and building out partnerships, leading hotel F&B developments, openings, and food experience design.
Arthur Chow is a Vice President at S2G Ventures. Arthur supports the Food & Agriculture strategy, focusing on consumer brands, marketplaces, and automation across the supply chain. His responsibilities include evaluating and executing investments as well as managing and supporting portfolio companies.
Arthur began his career in investment banking at UBS and later joined Frontenac, a middle market private equity firm, where he focused on food and consumer buyouts. Seeking operating experience, he worked for the Kraft Heinz Company and managed a $2 billion commercial P&L within the Foodservice business unit. Arthur then joined S2G prior to pursuing his MBA, where he primarily spent time working with several early-stage consumer-focused food companies including Tovala, Once Upon a Farm, and Dom’s Kitchen and Market.
Arthur received a BBA from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business with Highest Distinction and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
2021 Women of Power, 2019 GEN T Honoree, V Label Global Hero, 2 x TEDx Speaker: Serial social entrepreneur & trends forecaster Sonalie Figueiras is a sustainability expert, food futurist and eco-powerhouse who has been inspiring global audiences for over a decade with practical steps on how to fight climate change. Known as the Green Queen of Asia, she is the founder and Editor in Chief of the award-winning Green Queen - the region’s first impact media platform that educates millions of readers on the connection between health, sustainability and the environment and showcases future solutions. She is also the co-founder and CEO of organic sourcing platform Ekowarehouse and climate tech SaaS Source Green, which helps consumer brands quit plastic packaging thanks to proprietary plastic reduction software In addition, Sonalie is a global keynote speaker and an advisor to multiple mission-driven startups and NGOs, and a venture partner to several VC funds.
Andrea Learned is a writer and social strategist by way of marketing to women and sustainable business. The thread that has run through her 25+ year career has been building connections in meaningful and human scale ways. No matter the frame, her work has always been about seeing behind the task at hand, and looking beyond the next quarter, to connect people and projects in ways that move the big ideas forward. She's enjoyed a career in writing and consulting on marketing to women that led to a deeper look at organizational leadership and then collided (in a good way) with her personal passion for sustainability. From there she wrote a Master’s thesis on what makes for good corporate sustainability leadership, and that’s when she jumped into social networking with both feet. Connecting and discovering how social engagement can so significantly amplify ideas and messages – and forward movement scale change – is what now drives her work as both a writer and social engagement consultant. Learned has written for numerous industry trade publications and regularly writes for the Huffington Post, eBrandingmarketing.com, and Marketingprofs.com, as well as her own blog, Learned On Women. She has presented to international business audiences, from the Gulf Marketing Review conference in Dubai, U.A.E, and the Baltic Marketing & Advertising conference in Tallinn, Estonia, to U.S.-based gatherings, such as: the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, the Photo Marketing Association International and the American Gem Society. Follow Learned on Twitter @AndreaLearned.
Kayalin Akens-Irby is an impact-oriented strategist who has spent her career working across tech, investment, and policy to reshape the way we do business to build a sustainable future together. Kayalin is Head of Growth at Planet FWD, the leading decarbonization platform for consumer companies. She joined Julia Collins in building the company from seed-stage and now helps global consumer companies to measure and reduce the carbon footprint of their operations, products, and decarbonize their supply chains. Previously, Kayalin was an early employee and served as Head of VC and Growth equity at Malk Partners where she built environmental, social, governance (ESG) investment strategies for top private equity funds across the US and Europe and helped build the firm into the leading ESG investment advisory for private markets, advising on over $500B in AUM.Kayalin frequently lends her voice as a thought-leader in climate, having spoken at global conferences including SXSW, COP, and UN Climate Week. During the pandemic, Kayalin co-built an online community of over 26,000 investors, founders, and individuals focused on Climate Tech on Clubhouse alongside Chante Harris. The success of the club was largely due to her focus on equity, inclusivity, and solutions, wanting everyone who left her club to feel empowered and inspired to find their role in tackling the climate crisis. Kayalin graduated from Claremont McKenna College, where she was a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Interdisciplinary Science Scholar. She is also a Board Member for the Upcycled Food Association, Member of RegenIntell (Founded by Co-founders of Project Drawdown), Advisor to green tech startups including In the Loop and Caesar, and a Climate Fellow for Amasia VC.
Ashwani Kumar, Chief Operating Officer of Vanguard Renewables, has a remarkable career spanning over 30 years in the fields of waste management, organic diversion, and renewable energy generation. As a dynamic leader with a hands-on approach, Mr. Kumar has been instrumental in transforming both early-stage ventures and large organizations within the renewable energy sector. Before joining Vanguard Renewables, Ashwani Kumar served as the Senior Vice President of Global Operations for Anaergia, where he played a crucial role in driving the company's success. He has also held key positions as the Vice President of Engineering Operations at Harvest Power and Ovivo, contributing significantly to the growth and expansion of these companies. Mr. Kumar holds an Engineering and MBA degree. Mr. Kumar's expertise and in-depth knowledge in waste management and his passion for research and innovation has led him to publish a Handbook on waste management, further cementing his reputation as a thought leader in the field. Additionally, Ashwani Kumar holds multiple international publications and patents. With his experience and strategic acumen, Vanguard Renewables continues to pave the way for sustainable practices in the renewable energy industry and create a cleaner and greener future for generations to come.
"Creating a global food system that balances human needs and desires with our planet's boundaries requires pragmatic and transformative steps. The VERGE 23 Food Program will provide food and agriculture leaders with both. Workshops, discussions and intimate networking – among many other opportunities – will equip professionals with tangible tools that make an immediate difference and the approaches and connections they need to achieve fundamental shirts in their organizations."