The Food, Environment, Agribusiness & Development (FEAD) Group hosted speakers from Instacart, Alinea, John Deere and Cargill that drew a crowd of around 80 Boothies for the annual FEAD Fall Forum at Gleacher on Nov. 18. The theme of the evening was "Innovation: From Farm to Fork," and the event's four panelists spoke about the diverse ways their companies are bringing innovation to the food on our tables.
John Deere's Tom Brockmann gave a presentation about innovation in farming, showing audience members a video about how famers' use cutting-edge technology every day in their fields. Next, Ryan Engle of Cargill Inc., spoke about how his firm too places a focus on innovation: Cargill's food scientists assisted in developing a revolutionary opportunity for Taco Bell with the launch of the Doritos Locos Tacos. Taco Bell sold a whopping 100 million Doritos Locos Tacos in 10 weeks — the biggest launch in the history of the fast food chain, according to Business Insider.
Next, panelist Aditya Shah of Instacart shared with guests his insight on the future of grocery shopping, explaining the ways in which his San Francisco-based startup is changing how Americans buy weekly groceries. And last, Stephen Bernacki, CFO of Alinea, Next and the Aviary, explained how his restaurant group is using innovative ticketing methods to create more predictability and less fluctuation for the restaurant industry.
FEAD co-chair Taimur Awan '14 said he and his fellow co-chairs were thrilled by the event's turnout, the quality of the panelist presentations and the rich discussion between students and presenters that followed.
"The feedback was overwhelmingly positive – from the audience, the administrators and the panelists themselves," said Awan. "My favorite moment was the point when we realized it was going pretty well, and that we actually had to add extra chairs to the seating area of the event because we had more attendees than expected."
Awan said he and his co-chairs had been planning the event since the summer, and landed on the theme of innovation to appeal to a broad audience.
"FEAD membership interests are pretty varied, so we were trying to think of a theme that's all-encompassing and really thought innovation would appeal to a wide base," he said. "And I want to give a shout out to our first-year leadership council; we couldn't have done it without them. They really stepped it up, making sure everything was taken care of."
Aditya Shah - Head of Chicago Launch, Instacart
Aditya's work at Instacart builds on his entrepreneurial background and experience in product development, sales, and marketing. He is the Co-founder and former Chief Marketing Officer for Loose Button, one of the largest subscription eCommerce companies in North America. Aditya attended the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.
Stephen Bernacki - CFO Alinea, Next Restaurant, The Aviary
Stephen joined Alinea in 2009 to manage the buildout and opening process for Next & Aviary. He is currently serving as the group's CFO. Previously, he was a management consultant for Bain & Company. Stephen holds a BBA in Finance and Marketing from the University of Michigan and a BSA in History of Art.
Tom Brockmann - Manager, Moline Technology and Innovation Center, John Deere
Tom has been employed at John Deere for 17 years, holding various roles in marketing, channel support, and product planning. He is currently Manager of Enterprise Advanced Marketing. Tom has a degree in Agricultural Economics from Iowa State University and an MBA from St. Ambrose University.
Ryan Engle - Assistant Vice President, Strategy & Business Development, Cargill, Inc.
Ryan joined Cargill Strategy and Business Development in April 2013. Prior to joining Cargill, Ryan worked in private equity at Norwest Mezzanine Partners in Minneapolis and at Lindsay Goldberg in New York. He holds an MBA from the Columbia University Graduate School of Business and an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame.