At the Convergence of Agriculture and Business
Food and Ag Immersion brings executives and researchers together with MBAs
Ranked number one in the world for veterinary science and number two for agricultural and forestry research, UC Davis is leading the charge to develop solutions to feeding the world—and improving food systems.
The Food and Ag Industry Immersion course offered by the Graduate School of Management converges these two areas of expertise—business and agriculture—and introduces a cross-section of graduate students from various programs to a variety of inspiring professionals in the field.
From the CEO of an innovative crop biopesticides company to executives from one of largest beverage companies in the world, the Immersion stirred amazing conversations and lasting connections among the students and speakers.
With a packed schedule of four classes, the choice to enroll in the Food and Ag Immersion was a risk. As any graduate student knows, free time is a scarce luxury and by adding an extra class, I was potentially limiting my other activities. Now I can say that taking this class was the best decision I’ve made in graduate school so far. Discussing innovations in agriculture, I was hooked from the first session.
Enrolling in this class was the best decision I’ve made in graduate school so far.
Each week we had the pleasure of meeting with executives from companies such as Mars, Coca-Cola, McKinsey & Company, H.M. CLAUSE, Once Upon a Farm, Marrone Bio Innovations and Mattson. We learned valuable lessons from the cases they presented and through the stories and experiences they shared.
Yet one truth stood clearly out. To quote UC Davis Assistant Professor Edward Spang, one of our speakers, “There is no silver bullet.” The idea that there isn’t one answer to why our food system is breaking is both daunting and hopeful.
Like most of my classmates, my hope coming into this class was to better understand how I can create real changes in a system that is spiraling out of control. From food waste to resource constraints to environmental challenges, the agricultural industry on a global scale is facing major issues.
Coupled with an ever-growing world population and existing food distribution problems, the industry needs major change. The reality that there isn’t an already-conceptualized solution that we could feed into was disheartening at first. As the course progressed, a daunting task became an inspiring one.
So many of the companies and individuals we learned from were passionate about developing innovative ways to add to the tide of change in the industry.
The Coca-Cola Company has a project called Renew, in which they promise that by 2020 they will “safely return to communities and nature an amount of water equal to what we use in our finished beverages.” In 2016, they reported a return of 133 percent of water used, and this number is continuing to grow.
Marrone Bio Innovations is a small agrochemical company that solely creates bio-friendly, natural crop protection and enhancement products. These products are changing how growers think about pesticides and crop protection.
UC Davis is at the cusp of creating lasting solutions for getting food to plates in a more sustainable, healthier and overall superior way.
Assistant Professor Spang brought in a group of his doctoral candidates to introduce their experimental company, ReNew, which produces food for consumption from the pulp in organic juice waste.
These stories, among the many others we heard, not only inspired us individually during class but also led to conversations and connections outside of class and between graduate programs that could potentially be the spark of new solutions for the industry.
To say I would recommend this class to anyone passionate about agriculture would not even be a full recommendation. This class has by far been my most rewarding learning experience, mainly due to three key aspects: real-life stories and challenges, honest and passionate speakers and the open-discussion format.
The food industry is likely the largest industry in the world and its needs and consumers are becoming more complex.
The true question is: As the field of the game changes, how will the players react? Through continued research and cross-knowledge sharing opportunities such as this Immersion class, UC Davis is at the cusp of creating lasting solutions for getting food to plates in a more sustainable, healthier and superior way.