Our leadership holds the common belief that global food security can and must be addressed through investment in meaningful and enduring alternatives delivered by long-term sustainable enterprises.
Steve has over 20 years of venture capital and fund management experience working in underserved capital markets. Today, he is focused on making venture and growth stage investments with an emphasis on agriculture and energy. Through the Kirchner Impact Foundation’s Food Fellowship (www.fundthefood.com) initiative and using elements of the traditional merchant banking approach, Steve is also experimenting with new, millennial-powered, low-cost, high-impact potential investment models that can cost-effectively push modest amounts of equity investment capital and business resources out to historically unservable regions. He is also a frequent speaker at events related to entrepreneurial solutions to global food security.
Earlier in his career, Steve worked with Citibank, the Harbinger Group, as a Special Agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and as an Anglican Lay Minister in Newfoundland. Steve graduated from Harvard with BA in economics and religion, and from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with an MBA. He is a Director of the Hunger Solutions Institute, the Kirchner Impact Foundation, Enviva Biomass and Gridsmart.
Blair G. Kirchner
Blair has over 12 years of experience in merchant banking, specifically in marketing, back office operations and finance. Blair is also a Managing Director with Jotralair Holdings and a Partner in the Food Security Group, the agricultural impact arm of Kirchner Group. In addition to his extensive background with the Kirchner Group he has performed research and analysis for financial services firms.
Prior to managing the front-line CRM activities at an IT multi-national Blair was the highest earning sales associate during his tenor of direct sales. Blair began his career at the age of 12 as a summer apprentice with Kirchner Group Founder and CEO Bud Kirchner. Blair co-ordinates IT, research, analysis and also conducts specialty research engagements in business development and advisory services for Kirchner Group.
Blair is on the Board of Directors for the Christopher Douglas Hidden Angel Foundation a charitable organization devoted to enriching the lives of individuals with cognitive, emotional, and/or physical impairments through programs centered on the use of multi-sensory environments.
Kate Thornton currently serves as the Director of Hunger and Sustainability Initiatives at the Hunger Solutions Institute and the Director of Global Education in the College of Human Sciences at Auburn University. She has a varied background ranging from business to biochemistry and is interested in utilizing her diverse knowledge base to bring sustainable solutions to help solve the major global challenges facing the world today. She is passionate about connecting students with scholars and mentors across a spectrum of fields to create an environment where students are empowered to create solutions for the future. Thornton earned her Ph.D., as well as an MBA and an MS in Consumer Affairs from Auburn University.
Kate also holds a BS in Biochemistry and a BFA in Painting from Clemson University, where she achieved many academic accolades, including being named a Rhodes and Marshall Scholar finalist and Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award recipient. Her interest and commitment to solving problems of hunger and poverty stemmed from adopting her children from Ethiopia. Both of her boys were orphaned because of extreme hunger and poverty and while thankful for their place in her family, Thornton has committed her life’s work to eradicating hunger and poverty around the world so that other birth families will not have to relinquish their children for these reasons. Prior to her work in higher education, Thornton worked as a defense contractor in Washington, DC where she was part of a small team charged with developing and utilizing a risk-based investment strategy to allocate 16.8B in Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection and Public Safety funds for the US Navy.
Rod has 35 years experience of consulting and market research in the pesticide, fertilizer and biotechnology industries and has worked in over 30 countries. He founded and developed his company Agricultural Information Services specifically to bring new technology to agricultural input suppliers; this included establishing the first global database on weed, insect and disease problems of crops to track major drivers of change and give direction to the R&D of chemical active ingredient manufacturers.
Rod runs a seminar in Shanghai every year for Chinese chemical companies aiming to develop their businesses overseas. Earlier in his career Rod worked for the Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus OH for 11 years developing their agricultural inputs activities.Rod graduated from Newcastle University in the UK with a B.Sc. in agricultural economics.
W.B. (Bud) Kirchner – Founding Investor and Principal Mentor
Bud Kirchner is a serial entrepreneur with over 50 years of operational, transactional and asset management experience and is the Founder and CEO of Kirchner Group. The Kirchner Group is a traditional merchant bank established in 1985. Bud has started and successfully exited companies in industries as diverse as financial services, agribusiness, airline and consulting; he has conducted corporate transactions in over 25 countries. He has been a principal or agent in over 375 private capital ventures.
Bud is also a serial philanthropist and is active in a variety of impact activities. He is the co-founder of the Christopher Douglas Hidden Angel Foundation, a charitable organization devoted to enriching the lives of individuals with cognitive, emotional, and/or physical impairments through programs centered on the use of multi-sensory environments. He is also co-founder of The Food Security Group which is the Agricultural Impact Arm of the Kirchner Group and is focused on harnessing the power of entrepreneurial for-profit enterprises to accelerate the global deployment of ground breaking agricultural technologies. This group attempts to address the challenges of producing sufficient food to feed the world’s expanding population.
Bud is also a serial sponsor of Impact Activities via the ‘Kirchner Impact Foundation’ which is based on innovative approaches to sustainability in areas such as Agriculture & Food, Health & Life Sciences, Education as well as Energy Efficiency & Cleantech.
Alastair Summerlee – Director Emeritus
Alastair Summerlee is a passionate humanitarian, dedicated teacher and internationally renowned researcher. He served as president of the University of Guelph, Canada (2003-2014). During his tenure the University became preeminent among Canadian universities with a strong reputation in food security and civic engagement. In receipt of a prestigious 3M teaching fellowship, the first president elect in North America awarded this honour, he still teaches and is actively engaged in research.
Summerlee has received significant support for research in cancer, iron deficiency and HIV/AIDS and is published widely. He is a strong advocate for sustainable, socially-driven business to solve hunger and food security issues worldwide. His contributions to humanitarian action have been recognized by awards from Soka University (Japan), the International Quality of Life Award from Auburn University (AL), YM/YWCA and Rotary International (Canada). He is currently chair of the Advisory Board of the Hunger Solutions Institute.