Crop, Animal and Food Tech Showcase

Online Registration Now Closed - But Don't Worry You Can Register Onsite

For its sixth year, NCBiotech will convene ag tech investment firms, global ag tech companies and other key industry stakeholders for information sharing, networking and partnering. See the program and speakers button listed above.

This year's Showcase will highlight the following crop, animal and food tech breakthrough technologies:


See the full list of companies already registered to attend!

** See highlights from 2017: Program, Speakers, and Attendees **


View map and directions.


View map and directions.


Onsite Registration

  • $300 - Full Event Admission
  • $150 - One Day Admission

Only Credit Card payments accepted onsite.


Day One: Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Noon - 9 p.m.

Day Two: Wednesday, April 25, 2018


Joerg Bauer, Ph.D.

Head, Scouting and Insight, BASF Plant Science

Dr. Joerg Bauer, a well-travelled scientist, led the global Rice Yield Project in January 2015, spearheading activities not only in the US, but in Belgium, Brazil and India as well. In July 2010, he was Technical Center Leader for Plant Discovery at Metanomics GmbH in Berlin, and has done research at the BASF Plant Sciences in Germany.

Educated at the University of Hohenheim, Dr. Bauer studied Biology, with a focus on plant physiology, microbiology, organic chemistry and genetics. In 1991, Dr. Bauer received his Ph.D. at ETH Zurich.

Matt Bell

Principal / Managing Director, Cultivian Sandbox

Matt Bell has over nine years of technology commercialization and startup experience through his time with the University of Michigan’s Office of Technology Transfer where he was directly involved with the formation activities of over 20 startup companies. Prior to working at the University, Matt spent over 10 years in the agriculture industry working for several production ag supply companies including Growmark Incorporated where he was involved with their highly regarded precision farming services group.

Matt represents Cultivian on the board of directors of AbCelex. Matt has two degrees from the University of Illinois in Agronomy and an MBA.  He spent much of his early career as a professional grain farmer on the family farm where he grew up in Central Illinois.

Sharon Berberich

CEO, Plastomics

Sharon Berberich has an extensive and broad background in agriculture resulting from experience at Monsanto Company, Chlorogen, Inc., Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, Dow AgroSciences, LLC and Kaiima BioAgritech Inc.  At Monsanto, she held positions in R&D, Regulatory Science & Affairs, Licensing and M&A, Specialty and New Crops, Field Operations and other crop-focused businesses. After Monsanto, Sharon was an independent consultant and spent three years at Chlorogen as VP for Business Development.  Subsequently she served as Director of International Programs and Assistant Director of Technology Management at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.  Sharon then joined Dow AgroSciences to establish an Agronomic Traits pipeline and to lead out-licensing efforts related to the EXZACT™ Precision Technology (zinc fingers in plants). She was instrumental in developing a dedicated licensing function for Dow Agro and led transactions across the business, including biotechnology traits, enabling technologies and crop protection. She also led the Venture Capital investment strategy and related deals for Dow Agro.  Sharon left Dow to build and lead US Operations for Kaiima, an Israeli-based start-up.  She joined Plastomics as the founding CEO in 2017.  Sharon has a B.S. in Agriculture and Biochemistry from the University of Missouri, Columbia.

Blake Bextine, Ph.D.

Program Manager, AG Biosecurity Program, Defense Advanced Research Projects

Dr. Blake Bextine joined DARPA as a Program Manager in March 2016. He is interested in novel approaches to addressing issues facing agricultural biotechnology and biosecurity, including nucleic acid-based anti-pathogen/anti-pest strategies, insect and plant transformation strategies for rapid trait selection, and innovative approaches for altering insect behaviors.

Dr. Bextine came to DARPA from the University of Texas at Tyler where he was a Professor of Biology and Assistant Vice President for Research and Technology Transfer. Prior to his arrival at UT Tyler, Dr. Bextine was a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Entomology at the University of California, Riverside.

He received his Doctor of Philosophy degree from Oklahoma State University, Master of Science in Entomology from Texas Tech University, and Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the University of Northern Iowa.

Dr. Bextine is a recipient of the University of Texas System Regents’ Outstanding Teaching Award and has also won the UT Tyler President’s Scholarly Achievement Award, White Fellowship for Teaching Excellence Award, and multiple UT Tyler Researcher of the Year Awards. He received the 2014 USDA Partnership Award along with other members of the Zebra Chip Research group. In 2014, he appeared on the Discovery Channel Television Show “Tethered.”

Julianne Bielski

CTO, Rx Maker

Julianne Bielski has over 20 years experience in software development and design, having worked for both start-ups and large enterprises in such diverse areas as educational software, application performance monitoring, computer platform management, and now precision agriculture. Her interests lie in machine learning, software architecture, and cognitive computing. She has a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Michigan, an M.S. in biomedical engineering from the University of North Carolina, and an MBA from the University of Phoenix.

Reese Blackwell

CEO, AgroSpheres

At AgroSpheres, Reese is responsible for forming and maintaining investor and customer relationships. Reese joins the team after two years at Deutsche Bank's Investment Bank in New York where he focused on large industrial companies ranging from aerospace & defense to waste disposal. Before going to New York, Reese got his MBA from Darden at the University of Virginia. Prior to Darden, he worked for Sphere Consulting and Patomak Partners, public affairs and regulatory compliance consulting firms in D.C. Reese has a passion for small business and innovative technologies.

Stephen Briggs

Launch Director, Plant Sciences Initiative, N.C. State University - College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Steve Briggs joined NC State's Plant Sciences Initiative (NC PSI) in August 2017 where he works to assemble the inaugural research project teams and develop partnerships that will enable NC PSI to achieve its goal of making North Carolina a world leader in plant sciences. Steve is responsible for the oversight of the $160.2 million - 184,000 square foot Plant Sciences Building on the campus of NC State which will house the interdisciplinary plant research projects.

Prior to joining NC State he was the Senior Vice President of Agronomy and Corporate Marketing for South Dakota Wheat Growers (SDWG), the largest farmer-owned cooperative in the United States, where he managed the $400M budget and provided financial analysis and led discussions on several capital project studies.

Steve’s career began as an Extension Entomologist at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, going on to join American Cyanamid Company in Des Moines, Iowa where he held many positions  in the Technical Service Group, Sales Management, and Marketing Product Management. In 1996, he was appointed Vice President of Technical Service – North America, and in 1998 was named Vice President and General Manager of American Cyanamid’s Specialty Products Department, concentrating on non-crop businesses such as pest control, turf, industrial vegetation management and forestry.  He has also held senior executive positions at BASF, Cheminova and TyraTech.

Steve has served as chairman of two boards – Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment (RISE) and Consolidated Sourcing Solutions (CSS) – and as an ex-officio member of the Strategic Outlook Committee for Crop Life America.  He also has served on the Board of Directors for the Council of Producers and Distributors of Agrotechnology (CPDA), the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA), the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC), and MZB Technologies (a precision agriculture LLC).  He currently serves as a board member for Security Seed and Chemical, Clarksville, TN. Funding for Steve's NC PSI Launch Director has been provided by North Carolina Farm Bureau.

Tom Cohen, Ph.D.

Co-founder and CEO, Nanopore Diagnostics

Dr. Cohen is an entrepreneur and scientist focused in the molecular diagnostic industry. Prior to Nanopore Diagnostics he conducted post-doctoral research at Washington University in Saint Louis focused on diagnostic technology development. Dr. Cohen was a 2014 fellow in the nationally recognized Pipeline entrepreneur development program and founded two non-profits promoting entrepreneurship throughout his academic career still in operation today; The UC San Diego Entrepreneur Challenge and The BALSA Foundation.  Since moving to a full-time position at Nanopore Diagnostics he has a lead team that has raised $1.4M, secured a 12-patent IP portfolio, and developed their product towards commercial validation in animal and human health applications.

Andy Curliss

CEO, N.C. Pork Council

Andy Curliss is CEO of the North Carolina Pork Council, the statewide trade association that advocates on behalf of farmers and other partners in the state's pork industry, where he leads a wide range of efforts including communications, public policy, education, promotion, research and charitable activities.  Andy also serves as a director on several boards, including for NC Farm Families; Feed the Dialogue Foundation; the N.C. Agricultural Foundation Inc.; and the N.C. Foundation for Soil & Water Conservation.

Prior to joining the N.C. Pork Council, Andy led the public affairs and strategic communications division at Gelia, Wells & Mohr, a national marketing and communications agency, where he advised executive-level clients on matters concerning business, public policy and communications.  His clients at Gelia included hog production, pork processing and other agribusiness companies.

Prior to that, Andy was a journalist at the Raleigh News & Observer for two decades. Andy was state government editor at The News & Observer when he left the paper in 2015 – and was an investigative reporter for many years prior to that. As a journalist, Curliss was the recipient of multiple national, regional and statewide awards. He was named the Journalist of the Year by the American Journalism Historians Association, was a Goldsmith Prize finalist at Harvard University, and won the Taylor Award for Fairness in Reporting.

Rick DeRose, Ph.D.

President, TechAnalytics

Rick DeRose has over 25 years’ experience in crop protection and ag biotechnology and recently started a consulting company to provide senior stakeholders quantitative data for business development, creating innovation and R&D strategies, technology landscaping, technology identification and technology evaluation, mentoring startup companies, and technical due diligence teams for mergers/acquisitions and equity investments.  Prior to TechAnalytics, Rick's career at Syngenta Crop Protection and Bayer CropScience was spent developing innovation strategies for R&D projects and identifying options to fill any identified strategic needs through collaboration, partnership or crowd sourcing.  He is recognized as a co-inventor of the first commercialized Roundup Ready Corn varieties, and was awarded the 2017 Innovation Prize for Agricultural Technology by American Society of Plant Biologists, which recognizes outstanding work by industry researchers who successfully translated discovery research into demonstrable, real-world outcomes on Global Agriculture.  Rick is also the current President of the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Agricultural & Life Sciences Research Foundation.

Mike Fromm, Ph.D.

CEO & CSO, Epicrop Technologies

Dr. Fromm was a leader in developing the world’s first genetically engineered corn and wheat plants, was a project manager at Monsanto Corporation where he led the technical teams that developed YieldGard™ Bt corn, RoundUP Ready corn, and corn rootworm-resistant corn.  He was a founder and CEO of Mendel Biotechnology, an agricultural functional genomics company in Hayward, California.  He received his Ph.D. from Stanford University with Nobel Prize winner Paul Berg and for his thesis that included the discovery of the SV40 enhancer. Dr. Fromm completed his postdoc at Stanford with Virginia Walbot in Maize transformation and gene expression, and went on to the USDA Plant Gene Expression Center before joining industry.

Goutam Gupta, Ph.D.

Co-founder and CSO, Innate Immunity

Dr. Gupta is globally recognized for his contributions in human genome and infectious disease research. For his groundbreaking research in deciphering the role of DNA repeats in the human genome, Dr. Gupta was invited to organize and speak in a special session of the Biophysical Society.

Dr. Gupta received his MS and Ph.D. from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India where he was trained by G. N. Ramachandran and V. Sasisekharan, who pioneered the field of Protein Structure. For his expertise in infectious disease research, the citrus researchers and growers selected him as the national chair to build genome-based research and technology to combat Huanglongbing, the most deadly citrus disease. Dr. Gupta was able to apply the protein therapy to clear intact pathogens. This therapy involved engineering of a novel innate immunity. He has been successful in demonstrating that transgenic trees with enhanced innate immunity are resistant against bacteria that cause deadly diseases in grape and citrus. The transgenic grape lines, resistant against Pierce’s Disease, have been in field trials for three years and are showing high efficacy against the disease-causing bacteria. Innate Immunity LLC is a New Mexico-based startup currently working with the grape/wine and citrus industries to commercialize Dr. Gupta's novel discoveries to treat and develop disease resistant trees/vines/plants.

Michael Harrington, Ph.D.

Chairman and CEO, Genoverde Biosciences

As co-founder and Genoverde’s™ CEO, Dr. Harrington formulates and executes long-term strategy, chairs the board of directors, and is responsible for managing the company. Over the past 16 years, he has made building a solid foundation on scientific discovery his primary focus. Before his tenure at Genoverde™, he served as Senior Research Scientist in Biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass), where he worked with Samuel P. Hazen, Ph.D., also a co-founder of Genoverde™. Dr. Harrington’s prior positions include a four-year Postdoctoral Research Associates position at the French National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA) in Versailles, France. At INRA, he worked closely with international researchers to develop tools to identify the mechanisms regulating plant cell wall development, which underscores the scientific efforts carried out at Genoverde™.

In 2002, Dr. Harrington obtained his Bachelors of Science degree from Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, where he worked with Larry L. Lowe, Ph.D., and NASA to better understand the relationship between space flight (zero-gravity) and muscle atrophy. In 2009, he received his Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). Simultaneous to his studies of the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying central nervous system development, Dr. Harrington maintained his responsibilities as a Meyerhoff Graduate Scholar at UMBC.

Outside of his scientific responsibilities, Dr. Harrington serves as a guest lecturer and student mentor for the Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship at the Isenberg School of Management (UMass). His focus is to help burgeoning start-ups to develop and validate business models, identify key customer segments for product commercialization, and secure early stage funding. Most recently, he accepted a contract position with VentureWell™ towards this mission.

Laura Hearn

Co-founder, Glean

Laura Hearn has spent her career working with North Carolina's state vegetable, the sweet potato.  Over the past decade she has been deeply involved in the agriculture industry, working for one of the world’s largest producers of fresh sweet potatoes as Director of Marketing and Business Development.  She has extensive experience in promoting the commodity to retailers and consumers and in developing sweet potato products and packaging.  Laura has a focus on creating innovative, new products through the entire product life cycle from idea, research and development, market research and product launch.  She has experience collaborating with academia, food scientists, production, operations specialists and technologists.  In 2016, Laura was recognized as "Top 40 Under 40" for the Global Produce Industry by Produce Business Publication.  Most recently Laura co-founded Glean, an innovative health foods company focused on reducing waste of fresh produce by creating alternative products.  Laura's background has given her a keen understanding of agricultural and consumer trends and a passion for sustainabilty and creating clean label foods.

Yiannis Kaznessis, Ph.D.

Founder and CEO, General Probiotics

Dr. Kaznessis founded General Probiotics in 2014 and joined the company as Chief Executive Officer in 2017 where he recruited an excellent team, raised >$1M in grants and private funds, and established a partnership with a major animal health company.

Dr. Kaznessis is a world respected expert in synthetic biology and antimicrobial technologies, having authored more than 110 refereed papers and the textbook “Statistical Thermodynamics and Stochastic Kinetics." He received his diploma in chemical engineering at the Aristotle University in Greece in 1994, and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering at the University of Notre Dame in 1999. He completed his postdoctoral research at Pfizer Global R&D, and at the University of Michigan.

In 2001, Kaznessis joined the faculty of Chemical Engineering at the University of Minnesota as an assistant professor where he was later tenured and promoted to associate professor in 2007 and to full professor in 2011. He directed the Bioinformatics Summer Institute from 2004 to 2011 and served as Director of Graduate Studies from 2010 to 2017.

As professor, Dr. Kaznessis mentored 15 Ph.D. students, six M.S. students and 12 postdoctoral fellows. He raised over $7M in research funds and was the recipient of several honors and awards including the Fulbright Award, the NSF CAREER Award, the 3M non-tenured Faculty Award, the IBM Young Faculty Award, the Charles E. Bowers Teaching Award and the AIChE CAST Outstanding Young Researcher Award.

Bill Kuhns

Director of Product Development, Vermont Energy Control Systems

Bill Kuhns lives with his wife of more than 35 years in Vermont where he is a mechanical engineer who caught the computer bug early, starting a business making embedded test equipment in 1980.

After working as an aerospace engineer for more than 15 years, he started a second career as a process improvement consultant. In that role he worked with companies ranging from small manufacturers to IBM.

He also designed and built a house for his family and added a biomass heating system. The automated controls he designed for the heating system became another business – Vermont Energy Control Systems LLC (VECS). The open-source monitoring and control system produced by VECS quickly found applications far beyond home heating, leading to a third career as an entrepreneur.

In 2017, VECS was chosen by our Congressional representative to represent Vermont at the US House Internet Of Things Showcase, and Bill was asked to testify to the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

Murli Manohar, Ph.D.

Founder, Ascribe Bioscience

Dr. Manohar , as a Research Associate at the Boyce Thompson Institute, specializes in molecular plant-pathogen interactions, plant defense signaling, plant-microbiome interactions, and metabolomics. He has additional experience in protein biochemistry from his Ph.D. research at Texas A&M and University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston. He received his M.S. from the Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee, India.

Dr. Manohar has been published in numerous high-impact journals including Nature Communications, Frontiers in Plant Science, PLoS Pathogens, Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions, and Journal of Experimental Botany.  In addition he has been invited to present his research at national and international symposiums.

Dr. Manohar has participated in establishing academic and industrial collaboration in order to develop new methods to lessen crop losses caused by plant diseases. He contributes to the field by serving as an editorial board member for Nature Scientific Reports and Frontiers in Plant Science and has mentored several postdoctoral associates, graduate and undergraduate students throughout his career. Additionally, he has participated in teaching plant biology to elementary school students, is a team member of Society for Creating Difference, an India-based Non-Government Organization, and has participated in assisting and encouraging students to consider a career in science.

Pete Nelson

President and Executive Director, AgLaunch

Pete Nelson is a life-long advocate for farmers and is the President of AgLaunch, an organization championing a farm-centric innovation model to create and grow new companies that address real-world problems in food and agriculture while opening inclusive pathways for new participants. Prior to this position, Pete worked with multiple entrepreneurial organizations to facilitate projects that addressed growing new and value-added crops, identifying new markets, and creating efficiency-improving technologies. He has worked with major companies such as KWS, Monsanto, Chevron, and Case IH to create and manage commercial-scale research related to new seeds, processing, and machinery. He has also organized entrepreneurial farmers to create new business opportunities, leading to more than $2M in pre-seed funding from the USDA and checkoff programs.

Working with Battelle and other consulting groups, Pete has led regional strategic approaches to stimulate new investment into agriculture, including supporting the land grant university system, innovation strategies for institutions, and specific policy recommendations. This work has led to over $40M in direct investments in research & commercialization projects to date. Recently, he supported Innova Memphis in creating an early-stage investment fund for agriculture through the USDA Rural Business Investment Company program, resulting in a $31M fund backed by eight Farm Credit banks.

Always a voice for farmers and the role of agriculture in creating a better society, Pete is a frequent speaker, writer, and policy advocate for their role in agricultural innovation.  He is a graduate of the University of Memphis, lives in an intentional Christian community in Memphis, and has a wonderful wife and three daughters.

Steve Sarussi, JD

Partner, McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff

Steven J. Sarussi is a partner with MBHB and serves as Chair of the firm's Chemical Practice Group. Mr. Sarussi has more than 25 years of experience in the field of intellectual property law. His practice encompasses all aspects of patent prosecution, reissue, reexamination, patent interference, due diligence, strategy development, and counseling, including Orange Book listings of patents covering FDA-approved drugs, and infringement and validity analysis in the chemical fields. Mr. Sarussi has represented domestic and international clients in ex parte and inter partes matters before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. His experience extends to a wide variety of chemical-related technologies and industries, including areas such as catalysts, coating compositions, printing technology, cosmetics and personal care products, food and beverage chemistry, petroleum chemistry, pharmaceuticals and related formulations, polymers, nano-materials, agricultural chemicals, lubricants, and surfactants.

Mr. Sarussi has counseled clients in patent portfolio management, patent and trademark validity and infringement matters, and strategic R&D planning, business development, and freedom to operate matters. He has assisted clients with negotiations about the intellectual property aspects of development, research service, confidentiality, and other types of agreements. He has developed patent portfolios that have resulted in valuable licensing opportunities for his clients. Mr. Sarussi also has extensive experience with opposition proceedings and patent prosecution matters at the European Patent Office.

He is the author of several articles on novel synthetic pathways to organic molecules. Prior to embarking on his legal career, he was a medicinal chemist in the cardiovascular diseases research department at G. D. Searle and Company.

Karl Schiller

Co-founder and COO, Pheronym

Mr. Schiller is an experienced entrepreneur with a BA in economics and MS in pharmacy healthcare management. Prior to Pheronym, he co-founded Kaplan Schiller Research LLC and volunteered as president of a not for profit organization where he managed a five person team. In addition, he was a freelance consultant for pharmaceutical product development, cost-effective analysis, modeling, and statistical analysis. His clients include the University of Florida, University of Alabama, Florida Medicaid, and Pfizer.

Robert Schwartzman, Ph.D., JD

Shareholder, Myers Bigel

Rob Schwartzman received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his Doctor of Philosophy degree in pharmacology from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. His doctoral research focused on steroid-induced apoptosis in thymocytes. He conducted postdoctoral research at the Carnegie Institution of Washington Department of Embryology on the steroid-induced gene expression program during tadpole metamorphosis. Rob spent six years as an examiner at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, examining applications in the areas of gene expression and regulation, gene therapy, vectors, and cell lines. He received his Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University Law Center and has worked in the patent law field since 1996.

Rob is a member of the North Carolina and District of Columbia bars and is registered to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He is a member of the North Carolina Bar Association (NCBA), Association of University Technology Managers, American Intellectual Property Law Association, and American Bar Association. He currently serves as a council member of the NCBA IP Section and has been the chair of the chemistry/biotechnology patents committee.  His practice is concentrated in the area of strategic patent counseling and U.S. and foreign patent prosecution in the biotechnological, chemical, and pharmaceutical arts. He is experienced in due diligence, freedom to operate analysis, and invalidity analysis. Before joining Myers Bigel, Rob practiced at an intellectual property firm in Washington, D.C.

Sherry Scullion

President, Scullion Strategy Group

Sherry Scullion has long-standing career in innovation strategy, marketing, product development and design engineering across a broad scope of industries, spending the last 15 years of her career in animal health.

Fueled by a personal passion for innovation, Sherry founded the Scullion Strategy Group to help companies commercialize their new products and services in the life sciences industries. She leads a team of more than 25 people in various areas of expertise developing go-to-market strategies, managing R&D projects, selecting and managing CDOs, CROs and CMOs and providing supply chain, logistics and marketing support once a product is on the market.

Prior to founding the Scullion Strategy Group, she worked for companies such as Elanco Animal Health, Novartis Animal Health, B/E Aerospace and the Communication and Security Systems Division of Philips Electronics. Most recently Sherry served on the Board of Directors and was the Vice President of Branding for The Queen's Foundation, a North Carolina nonprofit organization that mentors middle and high school girls in poverty to help them be the first in their families to go to college.

Anita Shek

R&D Project Manager, SinnovaTek - a strategic engineering partner, Induction Food Systems

Anita manages Sinnovatek’s R&D product trials and the QC lab. She has been coordinating R&D trials across benchtop, pilot and commercial scale systems since 2010. She acted as the Quality Assurance Manger for Wright Foods during the commercialization of the microwave thermal processing technology and the subsequent commissioning and validation of 3 hot fill and 2 aseptic processing lines and the associated product lines. She returned to her role in R&D after the facility was awarded SQF level 2 certification.

Anita graduated with distinction from North Carolina State University’s Food Science program and received the Forbes award for excellence in leadership. Her research involved studies on the effects of continuous flow microwave thermal processing on anthocyanins, phenolics and vitamin C in strawberries and blueberries.

Ernst Thompson, Ph.D.

CEO, Beonics Feed Suplements

Dr Ernst Thompson is the co-founder and CEO of Beonics Feed Supplements, a company that develops and commercializes natural feed supplements for the agriculture industry. Before devoting his work full-time to Beonics, his experience included developing agri-biotech technologies for various aquaculture enterprises,  as well as a short stint as a data analyst for large corporations in South Africa.

Dr. Thompson obtained his Ph.D. in Fisheries Science from Rhodes University, with a dissertation focusing on nutritional physiology of fish larvae. During his studies, he finished second at a National Innovation Business Competition, which was a catalyst to securing funding and starting the long road of commercializing his ideas with Beonics. Since then he, together with a strong team, has secured various rounds of funding, successfully building Beonics to a small and intimate business, while delivering innovative and bespoke solutions to the agriculture industry.

His favorite biological process is fermentation and its derivatives, making and consuming his own sour-dough breads, fermented meats, cheeses as well as some mead for the odd occasion he might have free time. In some social circles these products might be counted as his greatest achievements.

Scott Uknes, Ph.D.

Co-CEO, AgBiome

Scott Uknes is founder and Co-CEO of AgBiome, a company focused on traits and biologicals for agriculture. Previously, Scott served as the Global Lead for the In and Out Licensing function for Bayer Cropscience Bioscience based in Monheim Germany and Ghent Belgium.  Prior to the acquisition by Bayer, Scott was the Vice President of Business Development for Athenix.  Scott was also a co-founder of Cropsolution, and before that a co-founder of Paradigm Genetics where he was member of the team that designed and presented the IPO of Paradigm Genetics.  Before starting Paradigm Genetics, Inc., he managed the scientific effort aimed at understanding the mode-of-action of a novel class of disease control compounds called “plant activators” at Novartis (now Syngenta; Bion® and Actigard®). Dr. Uknes received his Ph. D. in Plant Molecular Biology from Washington University in St. Louis with Dr. David Ho and his B.S. in Honors Biology from the University of Illinois.  Dr. Uknes has authored more than 40 scholarly works, is an inventor on more than 20 patents or patent applications, helped negotiate $450 million in R and D deals and has helped raise more than $500 million in public and private equity capital.

Paul Ulanch, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Crop Commercialization Center, Agriculture Sector Development, NCBiotech

Dr. Ulanch joined the Biotechnology Center’s Ag team as Enterprise & Technology Development Director in October of 2011, developing resources to aid in the growth of ag biotech companies large and small. He was promoted to head the Crop Commercialization Program in February 2013. In that role he pursues value-add opportunities to improve specialty crop growth across the state. He also coordinates educational and support programs for ag tech entrepreneurs, enabling partnerships, recruiting companies to the state, promoting local resources and facilitating the development of an AgriFund.

Before joining NCBiotech, Ulanch served three years as director of technology commercialization services with the North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center. He also held faculty and administrative responsibilities for several years with the Department of Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Ulanch’s expertise spans both animal and crop biotechnology systems.  Ulanch received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Michigan Technological University and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Texas A&M. He also earned an executive M.B.A. from the Katz Graduate School of Business at the University of Pittsburgh.

Leah VanRyn

Director, Business Development and Sales, Growers

Leah grew up on a family farm in Michigan and has more than a decade of industry experience across ag retail, seed, and most recently, precision ag, with a career focus on helping farmers. Since joining Growers in 2016, Leah has helped the precision ag company expand from a home base in Raleigh, North Carolina to 10 states and onto hundreds of thousands of acres with some of the best farmers in the country.  Prior to Growers, Leah was a District Sales Manager with Monsanto, covering the Northeast and later, Eastern North Carolina.  While at Monsanto she also worked with the team responsible for the launch of Xtend and managed the launch in the Coastal Region. Leah is most passionate about improving efficiency on the farm and it is through her recent experiences in ag tech that she believes she'll make the biggest impact.


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For More Information

For questions or more information, contact:
Paul Ulanch, Ph.D., MBA
Senior Director of Stewardship Focused Initiatives 919-549-8818 |


The Cotton Room
807 E Main St.
Durham, NC 27701

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Ag Tech
For More Information

For questions or more information, contact:
Paul Ulanch, Ph.D., MBA
Senior Director of Stewardship Focused Initiatives 919-549-8818 |

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