FEAD Your Mind

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Did you know that Chicago is the global hub for agribusiness commodities and the capital of Midwest agriculture? Chicago Booth is fortunate enough to have over 1000 alumni in the industry at the cutting edge of each step of the value chain.

Last week, I attended the FEAD Fall Forum at the Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago. FEAD (Food, Environment, Agribusiness, and Development) is one of 70+ student-led groups at Booth, and currently the second largest career-focused group on campus. For a group that was just established this past spring, their activity and amazing growth is quite the accomplishment! And with a packed house of close to 100 attendees at the forum including students, alumni, and staff from Admissions, Career Services, and Academic Services, there is clearly a strong interest from the Booth community as a whole.

After a welcome by Stacey Kole, Deputy Dean for the Full-Time MBA Program, the moderator Scott Meadow, Clinical Professor of Entrepreneurship, continued the conversation with the diversely represented panel: Geoff Anderson, Director of Global Citizenship and Strategic Planning, John Deere, Kathy Nyquist, ’09, Founder of New Venture Advisors LLC, Dana Beningo, Head of Green City Market, and Curtis Hector, Senior Brand Manager, ConAgra Foods. A few topics from the panel discussion that grabbed me:

  • Health & Nutrition:some success has been made in tackling child obesity at the community level, but this is still a significant concern in the United States. With many dual-income families, cooking at home is becoming more and more challenging, so it’s even more important to have accessible and convenient natural food options. But, even when accessible, consumers often still rely too heavily on taste over nutrition.

  • Farming & Food Production: technological advances have certainly been made in production to make food healthier, but sometimes sales still decline as consumers get used to certain taste profiles and tend to not like change. The greatest food production currently occurs in China, India, and the US, but production in Africa is on the rise and will be a key player along with Brazil within the next ten years.

  • Emerging Technology & Innovation:precision, precision, precision. With sustainability top of mind, precision agriculture is becoming the industry trend. By using data modeling, farmers can pinpoint exact seed placement, appropriate fertilization, and hydration to be accurate, affective, and efficient. Post-harvest logistics are becoming more important as the need to store and move larger quantities of food increases.

  • Rise of Foodie Culture:consumers are hungry and searching for authenticity. They are driven to find the source of food, and taste local specialties. The trend of having dinner out is becoming more of an experience where you pay for an evening of entertainment.

These are just a few key points that resonated with me. You can read more about this forum from the student perspective on the group’s blog.

As I was leaving the event, I was approached by a student I got to know well as a new admit who is currently one of the FEAD co-chairs. He reminded me that he actually wrote about starting this student group in his application two years ago! It was pretty fulfilling for me personally to see the excitement on his face that he’s had the opportunity to pursue this passion and make that dream a reality.

This Friday, I’ll be attending our Healthcare Group Conference, so until then, have a great rest of the week and hope you all had a nice holiday!