Plant Futures Symposium

The inaugural Plant Futures Symposium (January 23rd & 24th 2021) is convened to underscore the urgency of shifting to plant based diets for healthier, more equitable, and resilient food systems and to explore how students will play a pivotal role in this transformation. Plant Futures brings together accomplished industry leaders, scientists and academic researchers at the forefront of food system innovation. Plant Futures is the first program at UC Berkeley to feature in-depth, multidisciplinary conversations aimed at exploring the role and importance of plant based foods as a critical lever for change, and provides a unique opportunity for students to directly connect to and intimately interact with prominent influencers, facilitating pathways for future professional engagement. 


The symposium will draw cross-disciplinary participation from students and faculty at UC Berkeley and around the world,  as well as established industry leaders from a variety of backgrounds including public health, policy, and product design. The multidisciplinary and intergenerational structure of the symposium will by design create a foundation for participants to comprehend, collaborate, and form comprehensive networks in plant-based food entrepreneurship.





Panel: Capital and its Expectations

Lisa is the CEO and Managing Director of Stray Dog Capital, one of the most active venture capital funds in the plant-based market. With more than 35 investments in the United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Israel, and New Zealand, Stray Dog Capital invests in early-stage food, food-tech, and biotech companies that will transform our food system. Lisa brings more than 20 years of experience in food operations and consumer packaged goods and led billion-dollar brands in multinational companies such as Procter & Gamble and General Mills. Lisa has an MBA from the University of Chicago and a BS in Chemical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Selected to be a Kauffman Fellow (Class 22), Lisa has been selected twice to the “Top 100 Most Influential Latinas”. A passionate vegan and triathlete, Lisa serves on the boards of Mercy for Animals, the Great Plains SPCA, Miyoko’s Creamery and No Evil Foods.





Changing the Game: How Beyond Meat & Athletes are Fueling the Plant-Based Movement

Ethan is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Beyond Meat, a company dedicated to building meat directly from plants. Ethan gained an appreciation for agriculture and the natural world from his father, a professor, conservationist, and hobby farmer. This interest shaped the direction of his career, where he sought to make a contribution to climate change through the clean energy sector. His early work centered on electricity restructuring in support of an open grid, where his analysis at the gubernatorial level directly informed federal and state policies on grid management. Subsequently, Ethan joined the world’s leading Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cell developer Ballard Power Systems, rising to report directly to the Company’s Chief Executive Officer.  Though passionate about clean energy, Ethan returned often to the role of livestock in our economy and became convinced that a change in the origin of the protein—from animals to plants--that we place at the center of our plates could simultaneously address human health, climate, natural resource, and animal welfare challenges in a unique and powerful way. In 2009, Ethan founded Beyond Meat. As of September 26, 2020, the Company sold products at approximately 122,000 retail and foodservice outlets in more than 80 countries worldwide.





Challenges for Leadership

Miyoko is the fearless CEO/founder of Miyoko’s, a food brand combining culinary traditions with food technology to revolutionize dairy by making cheese and butter without cows. Through an innovative proprietary process that merges food science with old-world creamery methods, Schinner has successfully scaled the production of fermented cheese and cultured butter made from plants and replaced animal-dairy products on the shelves of more than 15,000 retailers nationwide and in Canada. The pioneer of the plant-based cheese revolution, Schinner is passionate culinarian, former restaurateur, best-selling cookbook author, co-host of the national public television cooking show Vegan Mashup, and a founding board member of the Plant Based Foods Association. Schinner also co-founded a farmed animal sanctuary in California that provides a home to over 70 farm animals.





Panel: Capital and its Expectations

T.K. is Co-Founder and Partner at Powerplant Ventures (PPV), an investment fund that supports world-changing, plant-centric companies that deliver better nutrition in more sustainable and ethical ways. PPV investments include Beyond Meat, Thrive Market, Ripple Foods, REBBL, Beanfields and Vive Organics. Prior to starting Powerplant, Pillan co-founded Veggie Grill, the largest 100% plant-based restaurant company in the United States.  Pillan currently serves as Veggie Grill’s Executive Chairman.  Prior to entering the food arena, Pillan co-founded Guidance Solutions, one of L.A.’s first e-commerce development firms and named one of the regions’ 15 fastest growing technology companies in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Pillan earned an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from UCLA.  When not helping advance a plant-centric future, Pillan enjoys playing beach volleyball and trying to reclaim his glory days of playing collegiate baseball and basketball at MIT.





Panel: Obstacles to Access, Affordability, Equity

Garrett's research and teaching explores the role of media and communication in networked movements for social change. Much of his work focuses on local and global food systems, as he considers how food can contribute to neighborhood health, environmental sustainability, and the rights and welfare of animals. His first book, More Than Just Food: Food Justice and Community Change, was an ethnographic exploration of community-based food justice organizing in urban America. His recent research has examined the possibilities of what he calls “food tech justice,” seeking ways to use new food innovations to advance health and equity in the food system and beyond.





Panel: Media Advocacy

James is the producer and narrator of The Game Changers, a critically acclaimed documentary about the dramatic rise of plant-based eating in professional sports. Best known for winning Season 9 of The Ultimate Fighter, Wilks also serves as a combatives trainer for government agencies including the US Marshals, US Marines, and US Navy SEALs. Men’s Health recently ranked him as #3 on their "13 Most Influential Men in Health & Fitness" for 2020.





The Future of Dairy

Greg is the founder of Califia Farms, California-based health & wellness company with the leading premium brand of plant-based beverages in the United States, with a rapidly growing global presence. Greg has been a natural foods entrepreneur since 1980 when he ignited the fresh juice revolution by co-founding the Odwalla Juice Company in Santa Cruz California and selling juice out of the back of a van. In growing his small start-up to a publicly held corporation with an average growth rate exceeding 50 percent per year, Greg was also a pioneer in applying environmental sustainability, employee empowerment, creative corporate culture and community-based marketing as core drivers of business success. Today, Greg’s holistic approach to executing vertically integrated go-to-market strategies for building multi-stakeholder value animates Califia Farms’ “something different, something better” culture and has earned Greg numerous leadership awards, including Specialty Foods’ Hall of Fame, BEVNET “Best New Product” Awards 2015, 2016, and 2018, and Goldman Sach’s 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs of 2017-2019. Steltenpohl also co-founded the Interra Project in 2000 and Adina for Life beverage company in 2004.  He has also served on the board of numerous organizations including Social Venture Network and Frontier Natural Products.  Greg holds a degree from Stanford University in Environmental Science.





Entrepreneurial Opportunity

Björn has over 20 years of experience in the Food Tech Industry including co-founding of Oatly, the global leader in plant based dairy products  and several other companies spawned off from Aventure AB, Björn's and his brother Rickard's Food Tech Labs. Aventure's research and business activities are today spanning the globe with offices in Sweden, USA, Hong Kong, India and Bolivia.





Plant Based Foods: Eater Trends into the Future

Melissa has been tracking key trends in the health, sustainability, food and retail industries for over twenty years, focusing on re-energizing brands and identifying growth opportunities.  Among the first to analyze the European soy foods sector and evolving natural/organic products consumer in the UK, Melissa has developed a deep understanding of retail & cultural trends in her consultations with a variety of companies including both CPG companies and retailers. She has an MS in Food Marketing from the National University of Ireland, Cork  and a BS in Political Communication from Emerson College and has appeared on The Food Network as well as numerous national media annually.





Biggest Challenges, What’s Working and What’s Not?

Blake leads GFI’s efforts to identify bottlenecks in the alternative protein industry and equip high-potential entrepreneurs, scientists, and investors with solutions to fill those gaps. A former strategy consultant, advisor to an institute for regenerative medicine, and public health enthusiast, he is keen to harvest the next crop of companies that are unambiguously good for our planet and palate. Blake graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a B.S. in Public Health and a minor in Entrepreneurship.





Panel: Nutrition and Health

Will is the New York Times bestselling author of the book Fiber Fueled. He's also an award winning gastroenterologist, gut health expert and the author of more than twenty articles in the top American gastroenterology journals. He's a graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine and was chief medical resident at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and chief gastroenterology fellow at the University of North Carolina Hospitals. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina, with his wife and two children.






Alli applies her lifelong interest in quality, responsible food to help clients protect and grow their “good for you” food and beverage brands. Alli has represented food, beverage and pet food companies, distributors, retailers, farms and restaurants. While the meat of her practice centers on evaluating food labels and claims for regulatory compliance and litigation risks, she advises on a broad range of topics such as Prop 65; hemp-derived CBD; food/alcohol delivery; plant-based foods and alternative proteins; standards of identity; and menu labeling. She also counsels clients on local, state, and federal food safety regulations and navigates product recalls with government agencies.





Making Plants Delicious

Charlotte is the Chief Operating Officer of Row 7 Seed Company. Founded by Chef Dan Barber, vegetable breeder Michael Mazourek and organic seed grower Matthew Goldfarb, Row 7 works alongside chefs, farmers and plant breeders to develop and distribute new plant varieties that make an impact in the soil and at the table. Prior to Row 7, Charlotte spent ten years at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, where she spearheaded creative and culinary initiatives that explored issues of agriculture and the environment through the lens of flavor. Charlotte received a BA in History and Literature from Harvard University.





Chief Change Agent, Eat the Change | Co-founder, PLNT Burger | Chair of the Board, Beyond Meat

Seth is Founder of Eat the Change®, a platform to inform and empower consumers to make dietary choices aligned with their concerns around climate and health. Seth is also the Co-founder of PLNT Burger, Honest Tea and Chair of the board of Beyond Meat. He has been widely recognized for his entrepreneurial success and impact, including Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in Greater Washington, the Washington DC Business Hall of Fame, Beverage Industry magazine’s Executive of the Year, Beverage World’s #1 Disruptor and Partnership for Healthier America’s CEO of the Year.





Panel: Climate Change, Diet, and Health

Matt is an Assistant Professor at New York University's Department of Environmental Studies. His research concerns emissions from food production and quantifying opportunities for greenhouse gas mitigation across food systems. He received his PhD at the Harvard Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Science, where he performed atmospheric measurements over the Amazon rainforest to better understand forest carbon exchange, ecosystem health and resilience to climate change. Now, with a focus on food systems, Dr. Hayek works at the intersections between ecosystem biogeochemical cycling, land use, emissions, dietary demand, and human health and wellbeing.






Panel: Nutrition and Health

David is the founder and former director of Yale University’s Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center (1998-2019); Past President of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine; President and Founder of the non-profit True Health Initiative; and Founder and CEO of Diet ID, Inc. He is a Fellow of the American College of Preventive Medicine; the American College of Physicians; the American College of Lifestyle Medicine; and Morse College, Yale University. 

The recipient of numerous awards for teaching, writing, and contributions to public health, Katz was a 2019 nominee for a James Beard Foundation Award in health journalism, has been a widely supported nominee for the position of U.S. Surgeon General, and has received three honorary doctorates. David holds multiple US patents; has over 200 peer-reviewed publications; has published many hundreds of on-line and newspaper columns; and has authored/co-authored 19 books to date including multiple editions of leading textbooks in nutrition, preventive medicine, and epidemiology. His career-long focus has been the translation of science into action for the addition of years to life, and life to years.





Panel: Obstacles to Access, Affordability, Equity

Jasmine C. Leyva is an independent filmmaker based out of Los Angeles who directed "The Invisible Vegan," a documentary about health in the black community that can be found on Amazon Prime.  Prior to directing her own films, she starred in several national commercials and worked behind-the-scenes on several network TV shows.  She is currently working on two follow up documentaries highlighting food issues in communities of color.





Panel: Nutrition and Health

Milton Mills, MD is a practicing critical care physician in the metro Washington DC area and has served previously as Associate Director of Preventive Medicine and as a member of the National Advisory Board, for Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). He has been a major contributor to position papers presented by PCRM to the United States Department of Agriculture regarding Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and has been the lead plaintiff in PCRM’s class action lawsuit that asks for warning labels on milk. Dr. Mills earned his medical degree at Stanford University School of Medicine, and completed an Internal Medicine residency at Georgetown University Hospital. He has published several research journal articles dealing with racial bias in federal nutrition policy. Frequently donating his time at free medical clinics, Dr. Mills travels widely, speaking at conferences, festivals, hospitals and communities both domestically and abroad. He was also featured in the documentaries What The Health and The Invisible Vegan.





Panel: Media Advocacy

Joseph wrote and produced The Game Changers, and also sits on the board of the Game Changers Foundation. Prior to his work with The Game Changers, Joseph coordinated What’s On Your Plate?, a 60,000-word multidisciplinary report that examined the hidden costs of industrial agriculture in Canada on public health, rural communities, the environment, and animal welfare. Joseph also played a pivotal role in helping to launch — the first non-commercial website to provide free scientific updates on the latest in nutrition research — which currently receives more than 50 million views per year.





Ethics and Unintended Consequences

Zoë is Assistant Professor in Ethics of Technology at the Philosophy Group of Wageningen University. Her work investigates moral responsibility under conditions of uncertainty in the field of biotechnology in agriculture. In 2019, she received a VENI grant from the Dutch Research Organization for her research on the virtues for innovation in practice. In this work, she combines conceptual and empirical investigations to develop a notion of responsibility under uncertainty that builds on the practices of both scientists and farmers. Zoë is also a Research Fellow in the Gravitation program on the Ethics of Disruptive Technologies.





Panel: Media Advocacy

An award-winning journalist with more than 20 years’ experience in multimedia business-to-business journalism and events management on both sides of the Atlantic, Elaine has covered a diverse range of topics from nutrigenomics to corporate espionage. Elaine moved from the UK to the US in 2011, and as editor of – a leading online b2b title in the US food and beverage industry – she has helped to establish the site as a pre-eminent source of news and analysis on hot button issues from cultured meat and alternative proteins to CBD and labeling conventions in plant-based foods and beverages.





Access & the Future of Vertical Farming

Nate is the co-founder and chief science officer of indoor vertical farming company Plenty. Plenty farms deliver‌ fresh, flavorful produce with just 1% of the water and 5% of the land used by traditional farms. Nate oversees Plenty’s plant science department and research and development farm in Laramie, Wyoming. Nate has extensive experience in plant production and equipment design. Prior to Plenty, he founded Bright Agrotech, an agriculture company that created hardware, software and services to advance the indoor and vertical agriculture industries. Nate received his Ph.D. in Agronomy from the University of Wyoming with an emphasis in vertical plane hydroponic production. He also received his Bachelor’s and Masters of Science degrees in Agriculture Science from the University of Wyoming.





Panel: Obstacles to Access, Affordability, Equity

lauren is the founder of Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.), a vegan food justice nonprofit that promotes veganism, fights for workers, and works on lack of access to healthy foods in Black and Brown communities. She has been an animal activist for three decades, during which she has launched numerous groups, investigated factory farms, run consumer campaigns, and helped stop the construction of an industrial dairy in California. Watch lauren’s TEDx talk on The Power of Our Food Choices. Learn more about F.E.P.’s work at,, and





The Future of Protein

Seth Tibbott founded Turtle Island Foods in 1980, now "The Tofurky Company", on $2500 savings from his 8-year career as a teacher/naturalist. The company’s first product was a tasty fermented Indonesian soy product called Tempeh.  Many people, including his midwestern Aunt and fellow elementary school teachers, thought selling moldy soybeans to the meat centric American public was a very bad idea.   For 15 years it appeared the naysayers were right as Seth pursued his dream while losing his shirt as a pioneer of the early plant-based foods movement.  With an income of only $300/month, Seth built a 3-story treehouse that he called home for 7 years.  In 1995, also against the advice of his partners, Seth introduced the first nationally marketed vegan holiday roast named "Tofurky".  The Tofurky brand now includes 43 different vegan products which are sold in 27,000 stores worldwide. Seth has chronicled his   “40-year overnight success story” in a new book, In Search of the Wild Tofurky-How a Business Misfit Pioneered Plant-Based Foods Before They Were Cool. 





History of Plant Based Foods in Asia

Today, Hodo is one of the most original and sought after plant-based brands in the US. But Vietnamese refugee Minh Tsai never expected he’d be running such a company. Minh simply decided to make the delicious, organic artisan foods he grew up eating in Vietnam, but found elusive in the US. He started with one farmer’s market stand in the San Francisco Bay Area 15 years ago. Through innovating his own take on wholesome, traditional methods, Hodo products quickly became must-have ingredients for renowned chefs. Now, Hodo is found in ingredient-driven restaurants from Chipotle to Benu and Daniel, and in thousands of retail stores nationwide including Whole Foods Markets and Target. Before entering the food business, Minh worked in investment banking, software and management consulting. He has a BA & MA from Columbia University.





Policy & Consumer Access

Sabina is the Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives & Communications at the Plant Based Foods Association where she leads their food service, communications, and partnership initiatives. In her role she creates partnerships with food service institutions, distributors, and non-profits to help get more plant-based foods on menus everywhere you eat outside the home (including take-out). She is particularly passionate about sustainability and ensuring access to healthy foods through a diversity and equity lens. She has worked for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the strategic consulting firm ICF, as well as Kaiser Permanente. Her roles have spanned from designing and implementing programs, health education, to providing training and technical assistance for chronic disease prevention in communities. Sabina received her Master of Public Health degree from the University of Southern California, and she is certified in Plant Based Nutrition by the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.





Ranching and Plant Futures: A Symbiotic Relationship

Renee is the Founder and Executive Director of Rowdy Girl Sanctuary, a 501(c)(3) non-profit with pioneering initiatives: The Rancher Advocacy Program transitions cattle ranchers and animal farmers out of animal agribusiness and Families Choosing Compassion is a compassionate alternative to Future Farmers of America and 4-H. Since going vegan on October 31, 2014 Renee has converted Rowdy Girl Sanctuary from a cattle ranch to a sanctuary for over 120 animals–the first documented beef cattle ranch vegan conversion in history. As a result her husband, a former cattle rancher is now vegan and together they are creating a strong vegan footprint in Texas. Because of extreme flood events associated with climate change, Renee recently moved the entire organization from Angleton to Waelder, Texas near Austin and San Antonio. She is passionate about the future, and is laying the groundwork to build an educational center and knowledge base with a central theme of showcasing ranchers and animal farmers in RAP programming; and she is developing a facility and system of care designed to care for aging bovine and other large animals for the rest of their natural lives as beings instead of food.





Panel: Capital & its Expectations

Dan Altschuler Malek is a Managing Partner at Unovis Asset Management / New Crop Capital, a global investment firm that provides early-stage funding to entrepreneurs developing plant-based and cultured meat alternatives to foods derived from conventional animal agriculture including beef, chicken, pork, dairy, egg, fish and shellfish products. Through its initial fund,  New Crop Capital, the team has invested in more than 37 companies including Beyond Meats, Memphis Meats, BlueNalu, Good Catch, Nova Meats, Alpha Foods, Zero Egg, Aleph Farms, and Miyoko’s. As Managing Partner, Dan heads the firm's activities in North America and Israel exploring deal- flow, creating strategic opportunities, and working with founders to solve daily challenges and evaluate strategic decisions. Dan is passionate about food, startups, and sustainability and prior to joining Unovis his endeavors included launching a snack company, heading a logistics firm, opening a restaurant, and managing a creative agency. He received his BA from Mexico’s Universidad Iberoamericana and an MBA from Babson College. In addition to his other work, Dan serves as a mentor at Food-X and Startup Bootcamp as well as a board member of Zero Egg and Alpha Foods. 






Panel: Capital & its Expectations

Ricardo is the Research Director of the Alternative Meat Program at the SCET Center at UC Berkeley. In this role, he guides and encourages students to discover and tackle needs currently existing in the plant-based market. He also works on various research projects that aim to develop sustainable and affordable plant-based foods.  For over 35 years, he has been a hands-on inventor and entrepreneur of plant-extracts, some of which are used today by companies to develop plant-based foods. Dr. San Martin holds a B.S. from Universidad Catolica de Chile in Chemical Engineering, a MSc. in Chemical Engineering from UC Berkeley and a Ph.D. in Biotechnology from Imperial College, London.





Plant Futures: A Young Farmer’s View

Emma Jagoz is a first-generation farmer who founded Moon Valley Farm, a community-supported vegetable and herb farm in 2012 to provide herself and her two young children with a nurturing environment to grow in.  Moon Valley Farm’s mission now is to provide ambitious locals with meaningful year-round employment, provide her community with a full year-round plant-based diet of food from her farm and partner farms, and to improve the soil surrounding our region's most important resource: the Chesapeake Bay.





Lunch with a Chef

George is from Taipei, Taiwan and currently an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley. Before he went to college, he spent a summer at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, where he received his culinary training in cuisine. While he loved to cook, he did not enjoy having to process raw meats. After arriving at college, Lee took a short break from cooking and began focusing on pursuing a degree in science. He became particularly interested in food science and alternative protein. During April 2020, in the midst of a raging pandemic, Lee started Chez Jorge while staying home in lockdown, eventually deciding to dedicate the page to strictly posting vegan recipes (even though he was not fully vegan then), to feed off his budding interest in the field. Over time, he slowly fell in love with plant-based cooking, and taking those techniques to recreate dishes that might re-live moments from his childhood. It was exciting — liberating, almost. Lee feels that it not only allowed him to bridge his love of science and cooking, but take pride in his heritage and continually challenge himself to innovate.