Melissa Melshenker Ackerman

Melissa Melshenker Ackerman

Melissa Melshenker Ackerman


Melissa Melshenker Ackerman, President of Produce Alliance (PA), leads a national produce company specializing in consulting and purchasing of produce from field to fork. As a leading service industry
expert, PA prides itself on being an integral part of the entire process from when the crops are planted until reaching their customer’s plates.

Melissa currently sits on the board of United Fresh Produce Association, is a member of YPO Chicago Chapter, and on the Advisory Board for Freight Farms (the world’s leading manufacturer of container farming technology).

Melissa lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Jeff Ackerman, and their three young boys: Spencer (8), Logan (5), and Theo (2). Melissa studied at The University of Wisconsin, graduating in 2005 with three distinct degrees in Legal Studies, Women’s Studies, and Spanish. She earned her J.D. from The University of Miami School of Law in 2008.

Sectors of Experience

Food service distribution of produce


Hackathons Involved



Farm to Table

By Prithu Pareek

Farm to Table is a platform that aims to help solve the issue of increased food waste by farmers as well as food shortages in food banks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmers, will be able to post any surplus produce that they have. Likewise, food banks will be able to post any need for food that they have. This way we hope to utilize the excess produce that is being thrown away by farmers, as demand has gone down, to fulfill the unmet need for food in food banks and other charitable organizations that have seen an increase in demand due to a large increase in unemployment over the last few months. Additionally the platform will provide lawmakers, policymakers, and other organizations data about where food in the US is being produced and where the demand lies which can be used to shape their policies and decisions.




Andrew Mack is Founder/CEO of Agromovil, an ag tech startup that links farmers, transporters and buyers to help make the global small ag supply chain more efficient and more profitable. A former World Bank official and banker, Mack is also founder of AMGlobal Consulting, a 17 year old firm working with CSR and emerging markets strategy with clients from major corporates (Chevron, Toyota, Anheuser-Busch, etc.), donor agencies and others.

Artist in Residence

Multidisciplinarity is key for David. He is an Art History academic, Biohacker, Bonsai Expert, Classically Trained Artist and Augmented Reality developer. David focuses on art and technology as a guideline to understand our present. His work in cultural institutions centers in creating approachable media, from talks to real-time immersive technologies to effectively communicate in new insightful ways. David holds a bachelor’s in art history, a master’s degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and years of experience as a Bonsai apprentice in Japan.

International development practitioner with 10 years of international organizations, government, and non-profit experience in the field of financial inclusion, media and broadcasting, governance and elections, social services, and humanitarian aid. Solid experience in all aspects of key project operations. A multilingual (Albanian, English, Spanish, Italian, and Serbian) with expertise in developing and executing a broad range of knowledge management deliverables (printed and online publications, conferences, training, meetings, etc.) for international clients in places such as Brazil, Belize, Costa Rica, Ghana, India, Malaysia, Morocco, Kosovo, Turkey, the United States, etc. M.A. Degree in International Relations and Economics completed at Paul H. Nitze School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS), Johns Hopkins University in Bologna, Italy, and Washington DC, USA. Bachelor’s double degrees in Political Science and International Relations and European Studies received from the American University in Bulgaria (AUBG) in Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria.

A lifelong learner with an enormous appetite for diversity in culture and thought, mastering new skills, working in a dynamic, creative, action-oriented, and multi-tasking environment. A pragmatic dreamer, triathlete, marathoner, and hiker. A curious explorer, art lover, and a compassionate and dedicated volunteer for community and anything that positively impacts society, earth, and the universe. Presently, on a life-sabbatical teaching English as a second language in Spain while learning Spanish and spreading positive energy and vibes through leading free laughter sessions.

CEO coFounder

She is CEO and co-founder of Impulse4women, an international nonprofit association operating both online and offline. Our goal is to connect Female tech entrepreneurs and also Social Impact projects with investors, corporates, public-private organisations. We support at every stage of development providing the required tools and skills to increase the probability of funding, based on sector, business model, maturity, economics needs…

She is the Investor Relations Director of Telegraph Hill Venture Capital. They are investing in Cybersec, FinTech, Education Tech, Digital Tech, PropTech, Transportation, and early stages.

Since February 2019th she is part of the Jury Member @EIC H2020 SME Innovation Funding Instrument at the European Commission.

Previously, a professional background in Private Banking for 13 years.

She mentored DataQuarks, big data startup and Galigú, virtual reality startup through Startupbootcamp.

Through Everis Foundation she mentored Girls in STEAM.

Judge at Tenerife InTech, UNWTO, Sonar + D, Menorca Millenials, IoT Week, IBM, CaixaBank…

Taryn Andersen has a PLD graduation from IESE Business School.

EASME (Executive Agency for SMEs) European Commission
Business Adviser SMEs internationalisation for the Enterprise Europe Network EEN

Rebeca brings more than 17 years of experience managing EU international projects and building partnerships.

Passionate advocate for women closing investment and funding gender gaps, in particular women entrepreneurship.
Board member of “Impulse4women” non-for-profit connecting female Tech entrepreneurs to investors.
Alumnae “Women on Boards Leadership and Management Programme – W50”, at the UCLA Anderson School Business.

Becton Dickinson, BD Biosciences
Head of Marketing and Product Management, EMEA

Helen Yuanyuan Cao is an executive in the life sciences industry, currently the Head of Marketing Europe, Middle East and Africa at BD Biosciences/Becton Dickinson where she is responsible for all research and clinical product and marketing. Previously Helen was the Head of Global Solution Marketing at Qiagen and in charge of the strategic integration of Qiagen business with bioinformatics.

Helen has been named Germany’s „40 under 40“ and „GenerationCEO Manager of the Year“ and been awarded by the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society as a „Rising Talent“, among a group of female leaders under 40.

Helen has been a mentor of several startup accelerator programs including Startupbootcamp, Indiebio and Vodafone F-LANE and was on the advisory board of a Y Combinator digital health company. Currently, Helen serves on the advisory board of the Digital Management & Marketing MBA Program of the Nurertingen-Geislingen University and is the honorary member of the executive board of Future, a cooperative with the mission to ensure a lieable future for all through local communities and digital technologies. Previously, Helen has been the Vice Chair of the Board of Make-A-Wish Foundation Germany.

Helen started her career at Bain & Company. She holds an M.A. in Neurobiology from Washington University in St. Louis, a Master of Public Administration from Columbia University and an MBA from European Business School.

Rustic Canyon Family
Founder & Co-Owner

With his wife Zoe Nathan, an acclaimed baker, Josh is the founder and co-owner behind a variety of neighborhood dining destinations that make up the Rustic Canyon Family. They include Rustic Canyon, Huckleberry Bakery & Café, Sweet Rose Creamery, Milo & Olive, Cassia, Esters Wine Shop & Bar, Tallula’s, Milo SRO and Birdie G’s—all located in Santa Monica, CA where the couple both grew up.

Prior to owning some of the city’s most well-received restaurants, Josh worked his way through the front-of-house ranks at the L.A. dining institutions of Chef/Owner Bruce Marder, including the famous Broadway Deli. Before venturing out on his own, Josh was wine director of the 1,200-bottle collection at Marder’s Capo in Santa Monica. The idea for Josh’s first restaurant grew from a series of intimate dinners at his tree house-like home nestled in Rustic Canyon, eventually opening the flagship, Michelin-starred restaurant in December 2006. Soon after, Zoe joined the team as pastry chef. She and Josh fell in love, and with their friend, Colby Goff, they began opening more restaurants in the neighborhood. Josh also co-authored Zoe’s first, best-selling cookbook, Huckleberry: Stories, Secrets, and Recipes from Our Kitchen (Chronicle Books, 2014), which features 115 recipes for her now legendary brunch dishes, sweets, sides and pastries.

All the restaurants are in partnership with incredibly talented people, which include Chefs Erin Eastland, Shiho Yoshikawa, James Beard-nominated Jeremy Fox and Bryant Ng, and award-winning Wine Director Kathryn Coker. Everyone embraces seasonality, making as much as possible in-house, while sourcing high-quality ingredients from local farmers and vendors with sustainable or regenerative practices. He, Zoe and the entire Rustic Canyon Family are big advocates for their community and well- being of their staff. They offer fully-covered healthcare for their employees, and continue to work on more equitable compensation for the front and back of house staff, which they feel is one of the most important issues currently facing the restaurant industry. Additionally, they’ve raised over $565,000 since 2013 in support of Upward Bound House, a local non-profit organization that seeks to eliminate homelessness amongst families with children by providing housing, supportive services and advocacy.


Atlantic Council GeoTech Center

Dr. David A. Bray has served in a variety of leadership roles in turbulent environments, including bioterrorism preparedness and response from 2000-2005, time on the ground in Afghanistan in 2009, serving as the non-partisan Executive Director for a bipartisan National Commission on R&D, and providing leadership as a non-partisan federal agency Senior Executive. He accepted a leadership role in December 2019 to incubate a new global Center with the Atlantic Council.

He also provides strategy to both Boards and start-ups espousing human-centric principles to technology-enabled decision making in complex environments. He was also named a Senior Fellow with the Institute for Human-Machine Cognition in starting in 2018. Business Insider named him one of the top “24 Americans Who Are Changing the World” under 40 and he was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum for 2016-2021. From 2017 to the start of 2020, David served as Executive Director for the People-Centered Internet coalition Chaired by Internet co-originator Vint Cerf, focused on providing support and expertise for community-focused projects that measurably improve people’s lives using the internet.

He also was named a Marshall Memorial Fellow and traveled to Europe in 2018 to discuss Trans-Atlantic issues of common concern including exponential technologies and the global future ahead. Later in 2018, he was invited to work with the U.S. Navy and Marines on improving organizational adaptability and to work with U.S. Special Operation Command’s J5 Directorate on the challenges of countering misinformation and disinformation online.

Co-Founder / Co-CEO

Conny is an entrepreneur and executive in the personal care industry. She started her career as a management consultant with McKinsey & Company in Germany before joining the Zwilling Beauty Group and Tweezerman International in NY which she lead as CEO and President for over 10 years. She since started her own business incubating personal care brands and is currently preparing the launch of a plastic-free, waste-free, high performance beauty brand named superzero.

Fordham University
Sustainability Marketing Faculty

Ergem Senyuva Tohumcu is a sustainability expert, environmentalist, faculty member and entrepreneur. She founded and grew Turkey’s award-winning sustainable living platform, which today reaches millions of people. Ergem is a sustainable supply chain and sustainability marketing consultant. She is a climate leader with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project, member of BMW Foundation’s Responsible Leaders network and is a fellow at Royal Society of Arts and Commerce. She recently co-founded Turkey Mozaik Foundation, a UK based grant-giving institution to charities working in the domain of gender equality, children, education, women and environment. She is a faculty member at Fordham University’s London Centre, where she lectures on sustainability marketing and strategy at Gabelli School of Business.

Bob Castro Strategies

Former USAID Senior Advisor and State Dept, Office of Global Partnerships, and a decade on Capitol Hill including professional staff of the U.S. Congress’s former Office of Technology Assessment (OTA), Mr. Castro has spent half his career in the private sector, leading corporate business operations, incubating startups, and advising innovators as a consultant on both strategy and new market development. A public opinion/market research company he ran was eventually sold to a global conglomerate, and he was involved in a Fortune 50’s divestiture of a subsidiary portfolio to private equity ownership. He has lived overseas in Latin America, Europe, and the Middle East/North Africa and advised executives of the Corporate Council on Africa and the US-ASEAN Business Council, as well as AmChams in three regions. He has been a member of (formerly the Kellogg Innovation Network at Northwestern University) since 2012.


Jean-Philippe is a strategy consultant, coach and mentor for social and environmental projects. By mentoring and advising them, his goal is to spread and scale their impact.

He wants to develop attractiveness and value of environmental projects in order to attract people and investments. He works with for-profits, non-profits and institutions setting up policies and systemic change.

Also involved for several years within local initiatives in France and Europe, he is developing alternative solutions to achieve these systemic changes. He launched and developed several non-profit structures dealing with social inequalities, social inclusion, waste management, local currencies.

Impact Strategies

Dr. Lopez has more than 20 years of experience in government, philanthropy and academia. More recently, she worked as the head of CA policy for presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg. She has her consultancy agency Impact Strategies and consults with foundations on strategy and program implementation. Previously, she served as the Chief of the Office of Immigrant Affairs for LA Mayor Eric Garcetti in his senior leadership team. She was an Associate Dean at University of Southern California, Strategy and Diversity and a professor of Political Science at Chapman University and former Program Office for the National Science Foundation. She is the co-founder of the CA Food Policy Council and serves on the board of the Red Cross LA, Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking and Social Impact Fund. She received her PhD in Policy and Political Science at the University of Southern California.


Rosario is a systems innovator, executive advisor, and neurobiology leadership and innovation coach. She is the Founder of the 4Dimensional Quotient; Co-Founder of both the Global Movement League of Intrapreneurs and The Finance, Mindfulness, and Technology Lab, as well as the Founder of the Personal  & Team Accelerator Online Workshops. She’s an Adjunct Professor at American University, where she teaches Intrapreneurship to Graduate students. She acts as an advisor to organizations like Project X Global, The Assemblage, Foundation for Commercializing Innovation, The World Summit on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and CNS Global Advisors. Rosario has worked with corporations like Accenture, Citibank, and ITI to help them prepare their workforce for the digital economy. She recently joined the Board of the Imperative Fund and Musas Invest- both are Impact Investment Funds.  Her first part of her career was at the Inter-American Development Bank, where she worked as a Private and Public Sector Senior Social Impact and Innovation Specialist for nearly 18 years, primarily focused on impact investments and systems innovations. Rosario lives with her family in Washington, DC.

Founder and CEO

John is a Scale Up Expert who partners with Founders, CEOs, and Entrepreneurs to execute next stage growth across SaaS, DTC, B2B business models.

With more than a decade of experience in Operations, Finance, FP&A and Investor Relations John has been trusted in the inner most workings for companies and boards ranging in revenue of $2M to $450M in both public and private companies. This depth of experience allows John a unique understanding of what levers to pull to drive scalability across different growth stages, revenue sizes, and business models.

In addition to being Founder and CEO of KnickleKick, John runs the website, a website dedicated to helping entrepreneurs understand scalable business models. John’s insightful content have been featured in print outlets and online around the world, including in Entrepreneurship magazine and the Wall Street Journal.

In April 2020, John was awarded the Mentor Excellence Award by SEED SPOT, one of the world’s Top 5 private business accelerator programs and one of the three most promising social innovation programs globally.

Arbre Group Holding Corp.

Arbre Group Holding (AGH) is a third generation family business with six companies operating in the frozen fruit and vegetable sector. AGH companies import, process, pack and distribute into retail, foodservice and industrial sectors of the United States domestic marketplace.

Scroll to Top

Nominations for Food Tech Innovators