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 is a founding member of Kirchner’s Impact Portfolio Optimization team and has over 20 years of investment experience working in underserved capital markets domestically and abroad. Today, he is focused on promising companies delivering smarter agriculture, cleaner energy and solutions for rural communities. Through the Kirchner Impact Foundation, Steve and the Kirchner team are developing new ways to invest equity in historically unservable regions of the world through an experimental model that has been described as “the Peace Corps meets venture capital.” Using the model, the Foundation has made investments in the U.S., Mexico and Nigeria.
Steve is a Director of Enviva Holdings, Radient Technologies, Filter Easy, TrakRef and Shared-X; and a member of the Stimson Center’s Alfred Lee Loomis Innovation Council. Prior to his career in finance, Steve was a DEA special-agent. He is a graduate of Harvard with BA in economics and religion, and of UNC Chapel Hill with an MBA.
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 of consulting and market research experience 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.
Innovator and entrepreneur with experience in founding, managing and assisting ag related, social and tech based business projects. Adrian holds a PhD in Plant Biotechnology from the Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute (CINVESTAV) in Irapuato, Mexico. He is also an entrepreneur, with his platform INFOOD® he helped more than 300 small farmer families from around Mexico with access to high value markets. He also coordinates the “BioBusiness Diploma Course” at Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro where he teach young entrepreneurs tools to develop their projects and receive investment. Adrian has received awards from his academic and entrepreneurship activities like being named one of the 10 best “Innovators Under 35” in Mexico by the MIT Technology Review in 2016 and in 2017 he was selected as one of the 10 best innovators in Mexico by the “Propiedad Intelectual Magazine”, in 2018 he was selected to participate in the “Young Leaders of Americas” of the U.S. Department of State. He has also received awards like the “Cesar Garza National Prize 2010 for Seed Research” and the “IDi4Biz Prize” in 2015. On 2017 he was selected as the first student from a Mexican graduate program to receive the “Kirchner Food Fellowship”.
Adrian has a passion to work in closing the knowledge and opportunity gap between developed and developing countries, understanding that smart investment is one of the most powerful tools to boost development and fulfill the goal of global food security.
Hattie is an experienced professional in the areas of impact and ESG-factor investment, program evaluation and impact measurement. In her current role, Hattie performs underwriting, financial and legal due diligence, and other advisory services to federal clients with loan and grant programs within the mission-oriented finance practice. Prior to this role, Hattie worked for an impact investment fund focused on innovation in mental health, where she designed the fund’s strategy for investing in nutrition, developed tools for modeling impact, as well as an approach to diversity, equity, and inclusion for investment criteria and internally.
Hattie previously worked for MSCI in the ESG Research practice, where she developed a methodology for investing in nutritious products as part of the Sustainable Impact Index, as well as the indicators for measuring human capital risk and management. Prior to this, Hattie worked in compliance for a municipal bond insurance firm and a retail bank in New York City. Hattie holds a Masters of Science degree in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition and a Masters in International Business from Tufts University. She was a 2018-19 fellow with the Kirchner Impact Foundation.
Sylvio Petto Neto
Sylvio has over 25 years of international experience in the Agribusiness sector and is passionate about technology innovation and business growth opportunities across the Food and Ag supply chain. He graduated in Agronomic Engineering and started his career working for a venture capital firm investing in Ag/Food companies across Latin America.He moved to the US in 2002 and after completing his MBA he joined FMC Corporation in Philadelphia as part of their Agricultural Products Corporate Development team working on M&A opportunities in the agrochemical sector.
In 2005 he joined Cargill in Minneapolis and was one of the three founding members of a venture start-up focusing on investing in waste to energy renewable energy generation and carbon emissions reduction across the globe. From 2008 to 2010, as Head of International Product Development, he led a team to launch the company’s first business to consumer product in Europe (the Truvia tabletop sweetener). In 2010 he joined the Cargill’s Risk Management business unit and helped them to expand their offer of financial hedging solution to farmers and food companies into new geographies and new commodities. In 2013 he started a new role at Syngenta as Head of Strategy and Business Development for North America where he led the company’s introduction of a specialty corn technology into the North American livestock feeding market. During that time, he was exposed to all sorts of new AgTech startup companies that saw Syngenta as a potential investor. In 2016, Sylvio started his own consulting company, Green Prairie Consulting, to advise investors in the Food and Ag sector which led him to be invited to join the Executive Team of Wheatsheaf, a large UK based privately owned investment company part of The Grosvenor Estate, that invests across the Food/Ag value chain and manages a portfolio of 25 companies in the food and agriculture technology sectors across Europe, North and Latin America and Australia. Sylvio is also very active in the AgTech ecosystem serving as a mentor for exciting and innovative startup companies for TechStars “Farm to Fork” Accelerator, sponsored by Cargill and Ecolab in Saint Paul, MN and Plug and Play Agriculture Technology, sponsored by Microsoft, OCP, CHS and Bremer Bank in Fargo, ND.
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.
– 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.