Speakers

Ted Abernathy, Executive Director, Southern Growth Policies Board – Ted currently serves as Executive Director of the Southern Growth Policies Board, a public policy think tank that develops economic development policies for 13 Southern states. Southern Growth specializes in the areas of technology and innovation, globalization, workforce development, community development, civic engagement, and leadership. The focus of his 28-year economic development career has been on strategic competitiveness and economic positioning. Born and raised in Dallas, North Carolina, Ted received his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; his Master’s from Johns Hopkins University, and graduated from the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma. Ted is an Eisenhower Fellow.

Robert Abt, Professor of Forestry & Environmental Resources, North Carolina State University – Bob is a professor of forest economics at NC State University where he teaches natural resource management and forest economics. He is the chair of the graduate admissions and departmental advisory committees. He has 25 years of experience in bio-economic modeling of forest resources and markets. He developed the Sub-Regional Timber Supply (SRTS) modeling framework initially for the USDA Forest Service in the South’s Fourth Forest study for which he received an award “for innovative research in developing the first usable system for projecting inventory trends at the state-level.” Later extensions and applications of the model were funded by DOE, NASA, USDA Forest Service, and EPA.  SRTS has been used by NASA and EPA to evaluate the potential impact of climate change and other environmental stressors of southern forests. The model was also used by the USDA Forest Service in the 2002 Southern Forest Resource Assessment.

Adam Allard, President, Allard Research & Development – Adam and Sharon Allard founded Allard Research and Development, LLC. in the first quarter of 2007. From the beginning of the company, Adam focused his efforts around the design and manufacturing of the world’s first automated ethanol “minirefinery”machines targeted for business and commercial use. Adam designed, engineered and built the prototype machines, and also created the software and electronic control systems necessary for the machines to operate automatically. Prior to 2007, Adam spent the majority of previous decade working for Yum Brands (NYSE: YUM) managing corporate technology solutions and was Chief Architect of Information Technology on a global-basis for the International division.

Sumesh Arora, Strategic Biomass Solutions, Mississippi Technology Alliance – Sumesh is the Director of Strategic Biomass Solutions (SBS) that is focused on commercializing biomass conversion technologies.  SBS is managed by the Mississippi Technology Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to economic development through innovation and technology.  As a member of the entrepreneurial development team at MTA, Sumesh provides strategic business guidance to researchers, entrepreneurs, economic developers, communities and investors who are seeking to develop renewable energy projects. His 20 years of commercial experience includes working as a project development engineer for the Mississippi Alternative Energy Enterprise, the State Energy Office, and a research project leader for a large chemical fertilizer manufacturer.  He was named to the “Top 40 Under 40” by the Mississippi Business Journal in 2005 and was appointed by Governor Haley Barbour to represent Mississippi on the national Governors’ Biofuels Coalition.  He serves on the advisory board of two renewable energy startup companies and a firm which invests in renewable energy projects.  He is the co-inventor of a patented system to convert poultry litter into renewable energy. Sumesh recently completed his PhD in International Development from the University of Southern Mississippi with research focused on technology adoption and the biotechnology industry in India.  He has a Masters in materials engineering and BS in electrical engineering from the University of Central Florida.

Brent Bailey, Southeast Facilitator, 25x’25 – Brent is a 1994 graduate of the Mississippi State University Department of Agriculture and Biological Engineering where he obtained a B.S. degree in Biological Engineering with Environmental Emphasis. After graduation, Brent worked as an Environmental Consultant for two central Mississippi environmental engineering firms.  In 1999, Brent went to the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation to become the organization’s Environmental Programs Coordinator and served in that capacity for over seven years. In October 2006, Brent began an association with the 25x’25 Initiative and serves as the Southeast Facilitator for state alliance activities.  Brent is working with agriculture and forestry leaders to mobilize support for renewable energy solutions from agriculture and forestry and communicating to the public agriculture and forestry’s potential role in a new national energy strategy.

Tom Ballard, Director of Partnerships, Oak Ridge National Laboratory – Tom serves as Director of the Partnerships Directorate for UT-Battelle, the managing contractor for Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In this role, Ballard leads an organization that plays a key role in connecting the world to the technology rich assets of ORNL. Ballard joined UT-Battelle in July 2004 after retiring from The University of Tennessee as Vice President for Public and Governmental Relations following nearly 35 years representing the institution with a variety of stakeholders.

Steve Bares, Executive Director, Memphis Bioworks Foundation – In September, 2001 Steve became President and Executive Director of the Memphis Bioworks Foundation. Prior to this position, Dr. Bares served in a series of Executive roles at International Paper, the world’s largest forest products company, specializing in growth business management, new product development and marketing.  Dr. Bares is an expert in the design, development and market introduction of advanced technologies to meet business, financial, competitive and customer demands.  He has led the development of more than 15 new technologies, from concept, business case, and feasibility analysis through the entire technology development cycle to penetration of consumer and commercial markets.

Joe Bouton, Senior Professor, Samuel Roberts Nobel Foundation – Joe is a Senior Professor at the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation’s Forage Improvement Division, and Professor Emeritus, University of Georgia. Joe develops forage and bioenergy cultivars for Southern USA with 11 cultivars currently in commercial production, but is best known for the release and commercialization of ‘Alfagraze’ alfalfa, “MaxQ” tall fescue, and ‘Durana’ and ‘Patriot’ white clovers. His switchgrass cultivars, Blade EG1101, EG1102, and EG2101 are currently in seed production for commercialization as a biofuel and forage crops during 2010 and 2011.  For his achievements, he was presented the Carl Sprengel Research Award by the American Society of Agronomy, named Man of the Year in Service to Southeastern Agriculture by Progressive Farmer Magazine, and awarded the Richard R. Hill Achievement Award by the North American Alfalfa Improvement Conference and a Creative Research Medal by the University of Georgia.

Ron Bell, President,  Arkansas Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils – Ron and his wife, Dianne, are cattlemen/tree farmers in Independence County, Arkansas.  Ron has served as a county conservation board member since 2000, has served as Chairman of the Ozark Foothills RC&D Council from 2004-2006, and is currently serving as President of the Arkansas Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils.  As President, he has worked with councils to develop an $8.5 million package of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects which councils will be implementing across the state during years 2010-2012.

John Bonitz, Farm Outreach and Policy Advocate, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy – As the son of a dairy farmer, John’s interest in agriculture, forestry, and the environment runs deep. John’s environmental profession began at his alma mater, UNC Greensboro, where he built an award winning recycling program. During graduate studies in climate change policy, John worked at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) analyzing cost-effective renewable energy technologies.  He has been with SACE since 2007, helping farmers and woodland owners learn the economic opportunities in a clean energy future.

Denise Broughton, Sustainability & Strategic Fund Manager, Buckeye Technologies – Denise recently assumed the role of Corporate Sustainability Manager with Buckeye Technologies Inc.  Educated at the University of Florida as a Chemical Engineer, she brings over 30 years of Buckeye experience in manufacturing, research & development, customer service and sales to the position.  Buckeye, a leading manufacturer and marketer of specialty fibers and nonwoven materials, is committed to a sustainability strategy.  Denise is responsible for ensuring that the Sustainability Policy and Goals are supported by the business growth strategy.  She leads communication of the corporate sustainability message to employees, customers and suppliers.  She also works to focus the efforts of process identification, development and funding, ensuring Buckeye continues to move forward towards more energy efficient, eco-friendly technologies.

Dan Burciaga, President & CEO, ThermoChem Recovery International – Dan is President and CEO of TRI, ThermoChem Recovery International, Inc., an innovative technology firm leading the commercialization of the thermochemical biorefinery platform. He brings to bear over 30 years of experience in new technology startups, technology development and deployment, project development, project management, industrial engineering and construction. Prior to joining TRI, he was Vice President and General Manager of Industra Engineers & Construction, a firm serving the pulp and paper, chemicals and metals industries. He also served in the international division of Procter & Gamble (P&G) where he was responsible for a wide range of international projects over the broad spectrum of P&G’s manufacturing technologies. Mr. Burciaga received his B.S., M.S. and Engineer degree all from Stanford University, and an MBA from Xavier University.

Debtosh Chakrabarti, President, PMC Biogenix – Debtosh is the President of PMC Group. In this capacity, he is responsible for the North American based operations and businesses of PMC Group. In addition, he serves on PMC’s corporate committee responsible for overall corporate management of the global group. PMC Group is a growth oriented, diversified, global chemicals and plastics company dedicated to innovative solutions to everyday needs in a broad range of end markets including plastics, consumer products, electronics, paints, packaging, personal care, food, automotive and pharmaceuticals. The Company was built on a sustainable model of growth through innovation while promoting social good. Dedicated to sustainability, PMC derives over half of its raw materials from renewable sources and operates from a global manufacturing, innovation and marketing platform with facilities in the Americas, Europe and Asia.

Tamra Fakhoorian, President, Mid-South Chapter, National Algae Association – Tamra  is the president of the Mid-South Chapter of the National Algae Association where she coordinates workshops and conferences related to the emerging algae industry. She is the founder of US Algae Supply, Inc. and does consulting work in the field of algae production and biomass sustainability.  Ms. Fakhoorian served as president and CFO of Vegan Metal Fabricators Corporation for twelve years. She is currently associate editor for Algae Industry Magazine.

Steve Flick, Chairman, Show Me Energy – Steve is currently Chairman of the Board of Show Me Energy Cooperative, a cellulosic biomass facility owned by 400 farmers.  The 10 million dollar project has been completed and is operational, developing and processing energy crops and agricultural residues into biomass engineered fiber fuel.  This fuel pellet for co-firing is used at a local utility and for heating residents’ homes and poultry houses. He is a trained Environmental Ecologist and has consulted for 20 years for EPA, D.O.D., and D.O.E. along with several state agencies.

Dewayne Goldmon, Director Stakeholder Relations, Monsanto – Dewayne is currently Director of Stakeholder Relations for Monsanto.  He resides in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and has worked in various positions at Monsanto since 1995.  Prior to that, he was employed by American Cyanamid, Agricultural Research Division. Goldmon earned his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Agronomy from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.  He earned his Ph.D. degree in Agronomy from Iowa State University. Goldmon has been active in many professional organizations, including the American Society of Agronomy, Minorities in Agriculture, National Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS), and the Entomological Society of America.  He has also served in various capacities with other agencies including the USDA- NRCS county and state committees, University of Arkansas Pine Bluff Agricultural Research and Advisory Council, Arkansas 4-H Foundation, and the University of Arkansas Black Alumni Society.  He is owner/operator of Dell-Cam Farm, Inc.

Frank Hardimon, Director of Sales, Blade Energy Crops, Ceres, Inc. – Frank grew up on a corn and soybean farm in central Illinois. After graduating from college at Champaign, Illinois, he became involved in the family farming operation. He began his seed career in corn research in 1986 for Sungene Technologies, a venture capital company based on the west coast. In 1989 he began working for KWS Seeds of Einbeck, Germany. Frank served in several sales management roles during his 18 years at Great Lakes Hybrids, a brand of AgReliant Genetics based in Westfield, IN. Frank has worked in a variety of capacities during his 25 years in the seed industry. His responsibilities have included: crop research, product management, inventory management, agronomy support, and senior sales management. Frank lives in central Illinois and is now the Director of Sales for Ceres, Inc.

Barry Hill, President, Ontario Soil & Crop Improvement Association – Barry and his wife Cheryle operate Hillsfield Farms, a 2,000 acre grains and oilseeds farm in Southern Ontario. A rotation of winter wheat, soybeans and corn is grown using no-till and min-till practices.  Barry is the 2010 President of the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association. He is the past President of the Brant County Federation of Agriculture, the founding President of the First Nations AgriGroup and one of the founding Directors of the Integrated Grain Processors Cooperative Ethanol Plant in Aylmer, Ontario. He continues to hold directorships on several community planning and economic development boards.

John Hochstein, Co-Director, Administration & Business Development, University of Memphis – John is Co-Director, Administration and Business Development. He currently serves as Chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and has been a member of that department since 1991. His research interests have been primarily in the computational modeling of fluid flows, heat transfer, and thermodynamic processes. In addition to his current focus on biofuel energy and sustainable technologies, he has made contributions to the understanding of spacecraft cryogenic propellant management, solar dynamic power systems, and blood flow in aneurysms.

Brad Holen, CEO, AmeriFuels – AmeriFuels, LLC was established for the purpose of developing, designing and distributing engine technology (as it relates to the consumption of renewable fuels) and to provide logistical support of the distribution of the renewable fuel to support the engines. In 2008 AmeriFuels Energy Solutions introduced a new closed-loop energy system, designed specifically for agriculture irrigation applications that has proven to be a win-win situation for everyone involved in agriculture. The main component of the AmeriFuels system is a specially designed, ethanol-fueled irrigation engine.  In essence, the engine will allow producers to sell corn or other feedstock to a local ethanol plant, buy ethanol back and use it to power their irrigation pumps to grow more crops – currently at a substantial savings in fuel costs over other energy sources such as diesel.

Elizabeth Hood, CEO, Infinite Enzymes – Elizabeth has more than thirty years experience in biology. She is currently Distinguished Professor of Agriculture at Arkansas State University. With 3 partners, she has started a company to produce enzymes for biomass conversion from transgenic plants. She runs an active research lab at ASU in plant-based protein production technology and cell wall structure and function. Dr. Hood was a Program Director in Molecular and Cellular Biosciences at the National Science Foundation during the 2003-2004 academic year. She was a leader in forming one of the world’s foremost transgenic plant research groups at ProdiGene, a plant biotechnology company. Previous to ProdiGene, Dr. Hood was director of the cell biology group for plant production of therapeutic proteins at Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a Fortune 500 Company. Dr. Hood is internationally recognized for her research program and associated expertise as evidenced by over 75 publications and patents as well as invitations to speak nationally and internationally.

Bud Hughes, Partner, Verdant Partners – Thomas (“Bud”) Hughes is a Partner with Verdant Partners LLC, a business brokerage and consulting firm specializing in the seed and crop genetics industry. Verdant advises regional, national, and multinational clients on mergers & acquisitions, strategic planning, technology integration & business
operations across a wide array of crops and geographies. Bud has been involved in the industry for more than 25 years, including operational management positions with Cargill Hybrid Seeds and Calgene Inc., and 11 years as President and CEO of Stoneville Pedigreed Seed Company where, under his leadership, the Company developed and commercialized the world’s first biotech cotton seed products.

Dave Jessen, CTO, Chromatin – David is the Chief Technology Officer of Chromatin, Inc.  He has over 26 years of experience spearheading agricultural biotechnology product development.  Previously, David was with Syngenta Seeds Inc., where he served as the Head of Traits & Technology for Corn and Soy, and previously held several strategic leadership roles within the company, including Global Head, Field Crops R&D, and Vice President of Research and Development at Novartis Seeds, Inc. (legacy organization of Syngenta Seeds, Inc.). Dr. Jessen has also managed trait and breeding programs at Pioneer Hi-Bred and Land O’Lakes.

Mike Karst, Senior Partner, Entira – Since the mid 1980s, Mike has designed strategies for incorporating new technologies in the agribusiness farm-to-consumer value chain.  He’s worked with companies and clients ranging from farm retail operations to global e-commerce ventures to biofuels and bioenergy. Mike has created strategies for new initiatives and strategic alliances while working in management positions for retail farm suppliers and leading global crop protection manufacturers with positions in crop protection, forestry products, and global strategic planning. His focus is on creating and capturing value from biotechnology, information technology and alternative crops that are changing the agriculture marketplace.

Tom Kimmerer, Senior Scientist, Moore Ventures – Tom is Senior Scientist at Moore Ventures LLC in Lexington, Kentucky.  Moore Ventures is an engineering consulting firm specializing in biomass fuel planning and energy project development services. Tom is responsible for biomass fuel planning and analysis for a wide range of customers including utilities, independent power producers, steam plant operators and the Electric Power Research Institute. Tom is a forest scientist, with a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a B.S. from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.  Prior to joining Moore Ventures, Tom was a professor of forestry and natural resources at the University of Kentucky, and a consultant in land management. He has consulted on urban forestry issues and on forestry management, IT applications in forestry and Geographical Information Systems in the US, Malaysia and Indonesia. He was a Senior Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia.  He has developed a Fuel Planning and Logistics Network Analysis program to reduce costs of fuel procurement and transportation. Much of his work is devoted to reducing the energy use, carbon footprint and cost of delivering biomass to end users.

Gary McChesney, CTO, Futurefuel Chemical Company – Gary is the Chief Technology Officer for FutureFuel Chemical Company.  He is primarily responsible for defining and implementing the company’s technology strategy.  He received a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Mississippi State University in 1979.  Upon graduation he joined Eastman Kodak, Eastman Chemical Division, Arkansas Operations as staff engineer in the Utilities Department.  He advanced through various technical and management positions at Arkansas Operations being named Superintendent, NOBS Manufacturing Department in 1994 and Superintendent, Technology Department in 2004.  He was appointed Director of Technology for FutureFuel Chemical Company in November 2006 when Arkansas Operations was acquired by FutureFuel Corp., and to his current position as Chief Technology Officer in March 2007.

Christopher Masingill, Federal Co-Chair, Delta Regional Authority – Chris was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in June 2010 to be the Federal Co-Chair of the Delta Regional Authority (DRA). As a former senior aide to Governor Mike Beebe of Arkansas, he directed the office that coordinated the dispersal of federal stimulus funds to state entities and acted as the governor’s official liaison to the state’s congressional delegation. Prior to that, he was a former aide to U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln and U.S. Representative Mike Ross, both of Arkansas. DRA is an independent Federal/State partnership designed to stimulate economic development in the Mississippi River Delta Region, increase the area’s self-sufficiency, and help improve the lives of its nearly 9.5 million residents of the 252 counties and parishes in the parts of the eight states that make up this economically distressed region.  These states are Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.

Lew McCreery, Biomass Coordinator, U.S. Forest Service – Lew is currently Biomass Coordinator for the USDA Forest Service Northeastern Area and is on the staff of the Wood Education and Resource Center(WERC).  As Biomass Coordinator, Lew works closely with State Foresters, Federal land managers, small communities, and forest-based businesses to encourage efficient and effective use of woody biomass to generate economic opportunities. The renewable energy market is being analyzed to determine the range of economic opportunities. Lew holds a B.S. in biology from Marietta College, a B.S. in forestry from the University of Michigan, and a M.S. in population ecology from the Ohio State University. Lew is a Forest Service Certified Silviculturalist.

Mike Mills, Principal, Spectrum Consulting Group – Mike is a 1996 graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, with a degree in Agricultural Economics.  In December of 1996, Mike became the Director of Research for the Missouri Soybean Association and Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. In August of 1999, Mike assumed the role of Professional Staff for the U. S. House Committee on Small Business, Sub-committee on Rural Enterprises, Business Opportunities, and Special Small Business Problems. Mike rejoined Senator Bond’s office in February of 2001 as Deputy State Director.  In April of 2005, Mike became the Deputy Director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development.  Mike lead the Department’s efforts focusing on research and technology, including working with the University of Missouri to establish a new technology commercialization system, development and final passage of the Lewis and Clark Discovery Initiative, and streamlining and modernization of the state’s innovation centers. In March of 2008, Mike became a partner in Spectrum Consulting Group, LLC, an integrated economic development consulting firm.  Mike is leading Spectrum’s efforts on technology based economic development opportunities and is involved in multiple technology based developments ranging from plant based nutraceuticals to broad based biomass and waste to energy projects.

Sunny Morris, Arkansas Delta Training and Education Consortium, Mid-South Community College – After retirement from the U.S. Air Force in 1987, Sunny earned his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of South Carolina in 1991. Since that time He has served as a university faculty member at the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Southern Alabama. His most recent academic appointment was as Dean of Career College at the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith. After a second retirement in 2004, Sunny began a consulting career focused on assisting higher education institutions find resources to increase their academic capacity. In 2007, he became the Executive Director of the Arkansas Delta WIRED region which utilized five community colleges in eastern Arkansas to implement strategies to support expansion of the agriculture, manufacturing and transportation industry sectors in the region. Sunny is currently the Liaison for Special Projects for the Arkansas Delta Training and Education Consortium, Office of the President, Mid-South Community College.

Pete Moss, President, Frazier, Barnes & Associates – Pete is the President and managing partner of Frazier, Barnes & Associates, LLC in Memphis, Tennessee.  Pete has more than 20 years of experience in the bioenergy and agricultural processing industries.  Since 1997, he has been instrumental in growing Frazier, Barnes & Associates, a leader in Renewable Energy and Renewable Fuel project evaluation and development. Pete’s primary expertise is in the commercialization and evaluation of biomass, biodiesel and oilseed processing projects.  He is a speaker and moderator at National Bioenergy and Transportation conferences and is frequently referenced by his published studies and articles. Pete holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Management and has a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Memphis’ Executive MBA program.  Prior to joining FBA, Pete was the Marketing Director for an oilseed processing firm in Arkansas and served as Vice President for First National Bank, also in Arkansas.

Peter Nelson, Director, AgBioworks Regional Initiative -Peter is currently serving as the Director of the AgBioworks™ Regional Initiative, developed by Memphis Bioworks Foundation, which is setting up a multi-state support system to help align public and private resources towards biomass related projects. This initiative currently has offices and active steering committees in Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee. For over ten years he has served as an advisor, board member and consultant on many regional and national projects related to new agricultural technology and bioenergy. In 2009 he co-led a team with Randy Powell, Ph.D., and Battelle’s Technology Partnership Practice to assemble an unprecedented 50 organization, 98 county, five state regional study that presented a strategy for biomass-based economic development in the Mississippi Delta region.  Once an active small farmer, Peter remains committed to finding ways for farmers and foresters in the United States to participate rewardingly in the emerging advanced biofuels and biobased products industry. To this end he has developed a model “farmer network” funded by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture that is now being replicated in other states. Mr. Nelson is also a long time advocate for developing policies and support mechanisms to identify and introduce alternative crops to increase options for farmers. He is working directly with a number of biotechnology and seed companies in growing commercial trials of bioenergy crops across the region. For the last three years he has organized a New Crops Workshop for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, as a leading forum for the exchange of ideas among leading new crop companies. Peter is a co-founder of BioDimensions, Inc. and an advisor to Infinite Enzymes of Jonesboro, AR and Stemergy of London, Ontario.  He is also involved in helping minority institutions and enterprises participate in opportunities in the biobased products industry – this is being accomplished through his long standing relationship with Tennessee State University (an 1890 land grant university), as well as other partnerships. Mr. Nelson is an active speaker, writer, and advisor for startup firms and Fortune500 clients. He has a BA in English from University of Memphis and is widely traveled including short term mission trips to Sudan. He is married to Catherine Nelson and they are expecting their first child. He likes to participate in community projects, camp, garden, read, write  and spend time with his wife and family.

Jose Olivares, Biofuels Program Lead, Los Alamos National Laboratory- Jose serves as the Biofuels Program Lead for Los Alamos National Laboratory. In this position, he provides strategic and technical management and leadership for the overall program and interfaces directly with sponsors. With a current focus towards the DOE Office of Biomass Programs, he manages a program with a cross-Laboratory team of over 50 investigators and managers, has developed the Laboratory’s Biofuels Roadmap, and leads strategic partnerships for coalitions with other national laboratories, industry, academia, and regional states for advanced biofuels. He manages the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts, a consortium of over 30 institutions recently awarded a $49M program by DOE-EERE along with $17M of cost share from industry and academia. Previously he served in several technical management positions at the Laboratory, including Bioscience Deputy Division Leader, and Chemistry Division Leader. He is an adjunct member of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center.

Shelee Padget, United Sorghum Checkoff Program- Shelee Padgett serves as the Eastern States Field Services Director for the Sorghum Checkoff.   The Sorghum Checkoff is a producer funded organization dedicated to the improvement of the sorghum industry through research, promotion and market development. Shelee grew up in rural Texas and received her B.S. in Agricultural Communication  at Texas Tech University and her M.A. in Communications Studies from Texas State University.  Prior to working in the sorghum industry, Shelee was on staff at the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

Jeremy Peters, Government Relations, National Farmers Union – Jeremy is a Government Relations Representative for the National Farmers Union in Washington, D.C., where he manages policy issues pertaining to climate, conservation, energy, environment and forestry. NFU has been working since 1902 to protect and enhance the economic well-being and quality of life for family farmers, ranchers and rural communities through advocating grassroots-driven policy positions adopted by its membership. Peters previously served on the staff of the National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) where he worked as Legislative Affairs Manager on a variety of natural resource conservation issues. Prior to working for NACD, Peters worked in the office of Congressman Earl Pomeroy (D-ND). Peters is from rural Southwestern Virginia where he grew up on his family’s farm raising cattle. Peters holds Bachelor’s degrees from Emory and Henry College in Political Science and History, and holds a Master’s Degree from Virginia Tech in Public Administration and Natural Resources.

Randy Powell, Powell Consulting LLC – Randy holds a B.S. in Chemistry from Furman University, Greenville, SC and a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.  He spent almost 30 years with Eastman Chemical Company in a variety of technical, operational and management roles in the United States and Europe.  Technical contributions with Eastman included the research, development and optimization of numerous agricultural, pharmaceutical, and industrial specialty chemicals processes and subsequent scale-up to commercial production. In 2007 he established Powell Consulting LLC, based in Memphis, supporting the biofuels, bioproducts, and specialty chemicals industries.  Dr. Powell frequently works on projects in collaboration with BioDimensions, where he recently led and co-authored (with Battelle Memorial Institute) the “Regional Strategy for Biobased Products in the Mississippi Delta,” a comprehensive analysis prepared in collaboration with a five-state consortium, sponsored by the Memphis Bioworks Foundation.

Scot Quaranda, Campaign Coordinator, Dogwood Alliance – Scot is presently the Campaign Director for Dogwood Alliance, an environmental organization working to engender broad-based support to end unsustainable forestry practices in the Southern United States, the largest paper-producing region in the world.  The organization is currently engaged with the fast food industry focused on the impact of its paper packaging on the forests of the Southern US and exploring the potential environmental and community impacts of a large-scale bioenergy industry in the South.  Prior to serving as Campaign Director, he was the Field and Organizing Director and has over 10 years of experience in grassroots organizing.  He has also held positions doing communications and media work in both the non-profit sector and the music industry.  Scot received a duel degree in psychology and philosophy from Drew University in 1996.

Shirley Raines, President, University of Memphis – Shirley became the 11th president of the University of Memphis on July 1, 2001. She is the first woman to hold the presidency of the University, which was founded in 1912. Before her appointment at the University of Memphis, Shirley was Vice Chancellor for Academic Services and Dean of the College of Education at the University of Kentucky. While at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, she received the Distinguished Faculty Member award and has received two research awards from the Eastern Educational Research Association. She is the author of 14 books and numerous journal articles, and is widely regarded as an expert in teacher education and early childhood education.

Tim Rials, Director, Center for Renewable Carbon, University of Tennessee- A native of McComb, Mississippi, Tim Rials received his undergraduate degree in Forestry from Mississippi State University in 1980. He then moved to Virginia Tech where he earned both Masters (1983) and Ph.D. (1986) degrees from the Department of Wood Science and Technology. In 2005, Tim assumed the role of director for the Southeast Sun Grant Center, effectively broadening the research effort to consider bioenergy, biofuels, and bioproducts. He was named director of Bioenergy Research in Spring 2007, and assigned to the newly created Office of Bioenergy Programs in the Institute of Agriculture. Recently (2010) he accepted the position of director with the newly established Center for Renewable Carbon, to further the collaborative research framework in the UT Institute of Agriculture and make progress toward alternative biofuels and advanced materials from forest and agricultural biomass. Tim continues working today to advance the efficient use of wood and biomass to strengthen the bioeconomy in Tennessee and the Southeast.

Steve Sandroni, Production & Logistics Manager, Sustainable Oils – Steve grew up on a cotton farm in North Mississippi. After graduating from Delta State University in 1978, he farmed cotton for thirteen years. He spent the next ten years as plant manager and Mid-South Production manager for Delta and Pine land Company, the largest Cotton Seed company in the world, at the time. In 2000, he accepted a job, as National Production manager for Stoneville Pedigree Seed Company, later called, Emergent Genetics. After Monsanto purchased Emergent Genetics in 2005, Steve accepted a position in St. Louis, Missouri, as Cotton Manufacturing lead. At this position, Steve had the opportunity to lead several programs and processes such as: Crop Planning, Strategy planning, Toll processing, and both Foundation programs in Puerto Rico and Costa Rico. When Stoneville Pedigree Seed Company was offered for sale by Monsanto, he was asked to be part of a five man management team that would present to potential worldwide buyers. After the purchase of Stoneville Pedigree Seed Company by Bayer Crop Science, he help with the integration of Stoneville into Bayer , but decided not accept a position as National Production manager. After accepting the severance from Bayer, he later accepted a position with Sustainable Oils as the Production and Logistics manager.

John van Leeuwen, CEO, Ecosynthetix, Inc. – John is co-founder and CEO of Ecosynthetix Inc., a biotechnology company based in Milton, ON. EcoSynthetix, was founded in 1996 as a biomaterials research and development company. The company focus is on bio-based nanotechnology platforms with the goal of replacing petroleum-based adhesives and biolatex coating. Today the company has 19 patents which are extended to key markets around the world. John became CEO of  Ecosynthetix in October 2004, and has led the team in bringing the first products to market in the paper industry. The company has successfully commercialized biolatex as a replacement for synthetic latex products to the paper coating industry. He has served as Chairman of the Board of EcoSynthetix since its inception in 1996. After his graduation from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Applied Sciences in Chemistry, in 1981, John worked for 6 years in research and market development for Shell Chemicals and for Monsanto Chemical Company. He then started a computer engineering company and later started Baan Canada a software company that did a successful IPO on the NASDAQ in 1995. From 1996 until 2004 John ran a venture capital company call Tech Inspirations which made its first investment in EcoSynthetix.

Boyd Vancil, BioDimensions – Boyd manages the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of the 2010 pilot sweet sorghum crushing facility.  Mr. Vancil holds a BA in Business Administration from University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS.  His experience in agriculture and value-added processing is extensive, originating as a 4th generation farmer from Southeast Missouri who is still directly involved in the strategic planning and long term management of family farms.  His diverse farming experience on 1400 acres includes rice, soybeans, grain sorghum, corn, wheat, and experimental crops such as kenaf.  Mr. Vancil also has entrepreneurial experience with biobased feedstock processing, having constructed and operated an on-farm bast fiber pilot processing line on the family farm in Missouri.  This operation included cultivation, harvesting, processing, and test marketing kenaf primary fibers and coproducts.

Jim Wimberly, President, Bioenergy Systems LLC – Jim is the president of BioEnergy Systems LLC, a bioenergy consulting firm and project development company based in Fayetteville, AR.  Jim is a specialist in renewable energy, international agricultural development, economic & financial analyses, resource management and conservation, and project management. He has over thirty years experience in 25 countries worldwide (United States, Asia, Middle East, Africa, Central America, and Oceania) in project development, project management and consulting. Jim has both technical and business degrees, and has provided leadership in bioenergy systems and technologies in the southern United States since 1992.

Stewart Weaver, Arkansas Farmer – Stewart is from Edmondson, Arkansas, where he farms 4,600 acres in partnership with his father Bill Weaver.  He farms grain sorghum, cotton, soybeans, wheat and pumpkins.  He has a B.S. in Agricultural Economics from Mississippi State University. Stewart has served on the United Sorghum Checkoff Board of Directors since its inception in November 2008.  He is currently a member of the USCP Market Development committee as well as the Finance committee.  Stewart has served or is currently serving as a board member or officer on many other organizations, including the Crittenden County Farm Bureau, Crittenden County Extension Council, Agricultural Council of Arkansas, Arkansas Corn and Grain Sorghum Promotion Board, Staplcotn, National Cotton Council, Cotton Council International, Cotton Incorporated, and Midsouth Community College.

Jeff Wright, Manager of Product Development, ArborGen – Jeff Wright has a PhD from Oxford University following earlier degrees from Clemson University and Texas A&M University. Jeff is recognized as a world leader in the development of forest plantations for financially successful processing into products such as pulp, paper and lumber as well as carbon and bio-energy.  His previous employment includes Sappi in South Africa, Smurfit Latin America in Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico as well as Rayonier. Jeff has worked in more than 40 countries and is currently Manager, Sales and Product Development for ArborGen Inc. , where his work includes developing forest bio-energy plantations in the southern United States.