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MBA students go head to head in a panel discussion about food

03 January 2019
Left to Right | Johannes Olejnik, Maya Granit, Megan Zink, Jake Kneller, MBA Students Stanford University, Professor Jayne Godfrey, Professor Brent Young, Colin Fallon, Danielle Appleton, Michele Lam, MBA Alumni 2018, Tommy Liu, MBA Student, University of Auckland Business School, Graduate School of Management
Left to Right | Johannes Olejnik, Maya Granit, Megan Zink, Jake Kneller, MBA Students Stanford University, Professor Jayne Godfrey, Professor Brent Young, Colin Fallon, Danielle Appleton, Michele Lam, MBA Alumni 2018, Tommy Liu, MBA Student, University of Auckland Business School, Graduate School of Management

The Food and Health Programme and University of Auckland Business School’s Graduate School of Management co-hosted a visiting group of 25 MBA students from Stanford University, USA in December.

The visiting students were in New Zealand to understand how government, business and non-profit organisations are contributing to our changing food and agriculture ecosystem, as it adapts to changing consumer and health trends.

A mixer event was held to give University of Auckland MBA students and the Stanford MBA cohort an opportunity to connect and establish the beginnings of what the Graduate School of Management hope will be an ongoing relationship.

After being welcomed by Professor Jayne Godfrey, Dean of Business and Economics - one of the highlights was a lively (but collegial) panel discussion chaired by Professor Brent Young, Chair of Food and Health Programme and Professor in the Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering. 

The theme? Thoughts and reflections on a changing landscape: New Zealand and the US’s changing food and agriculture ecosystems – leading the way or following the crowd?

The panel comprised of four representatives from each group (pictured right and see bios below) and attendees were entertained by the thought-provoking ideas shared by panellists, following each question.

The discussion ranged from ‘what shifts in customer behaviour have an impact on your food and agritech products and business?', through to ‘how your industry is deploying new technologies to your business practices and what these might look like in the future’, as well as ‘the barriers and opportunities for your industry over the next five years’.

Professor Young says the Auckland and Stanford panellists were all high flying MBA alumna and students that were also prime movers in several innovative companies of global reach.

"In the short hour we had a detailed examination of cutting edge business, science and technology aspects of future foods and the future of the food business," he says.

"One key take home message for me was that sustainability and multiple bottom lines are increasingly important for the success of food businesses of all scales and types."

The Food and Health Programme and the Graduate School of Management are already looking at further opportunities for collaboration during 2019.

Bios| University of Auckland MBA panel

  • Colin Fallon (MBA Alumnus 2018) is Head of Digital Products at Turner and Growers Global (T&G). T&G is New Zealand's largest fresh produce grower, distributor, marketer and exporter. Colin’s work focuses on developing and introducing new and innovative technologies to help drive efficiency and productivity throughout the supply chain from farm to plate.
  • Michele Lam (MBA Alumna 2018) is Exports Market Manager at Villa Maria Winery.  Starting there 8 years ago in the winery laboratory using her science background, Michelle has moved through the company to take on exciting export business opportunities – currently focused on growth in the Asian markets. As a family-owned business exporting to over 60 countries, Villa Maria is recognized as New Zealand’s most awarded winery and is focused on quality, sustainability and innovation.
  • Tommy Liu (MBA Student) is General Manager - IS and Communications at Open Country Dairy. Tommy has been working in the dairy industry for the past 10 years after a stint with PwC. He was part of the original team that built Open Country Dairy from as startup to the 2nd largest milk powder exporter in the world. At the moment Tommy is building an organic consumer brand targeting Chinese consumers – focusing on authenticity and traceability right through the supply chain using blockchain and big data analytics. Organic dairying is about sustainability and reducing the footprint from industrial-scale dairy farming.
  • Danielle Appleton (MBA Alumna 2018) worked in the dairy sector for a decade, before Managing the Level Two Innovation Hub. NZ’s most successful deep-tech incubator. She recently founded Evolution Meadows; a dairy alternatives R&D company harnessing science and biotech to recreate the dairy experience using plants. Prior to this Danielle worked for Fonterra, and was focused on improving processes in large-scale dairy manufacturing, quality, supply chain and global Integrated Business Planning. 

Bios | Stanford MBA panel

  • Johannes Olejnik has been working primarily in the agricultural sector: for two for profit social enterprises in Rwanda and Bhutan building mushroom and hazelnut industries. And for an investment fund focused on farmland and AgTech venture capital across the US. 
  • Maya Granit has been working throughout the cocoa and chocolate supply chain for the last seven years. She most recently cofounded Uncommon Cacao, a radically transparent supply chain company, that today supplies 150+ artisanal chocolate makers globally. Before Uncommon Cacao, Maya worked throughout the supply chain: first at an artisanal chocolate factory in San Francisco, and then at a Belizean cocoa export company working with smallholder farmers.
  • Jake Kneller has worked with food and ag startups across the value chain including Impossible Foods, Matthew Kenney Cuisine, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, and Smallhold. His work has focused on long-term strategy, pricing, and expansion, along with some projects on new product creation. 
  • Megan Zink most recently worked for Spoiler Alert, a Boston-based tech startup working to change the way that food companies handle food waste by connecting excess food with those that need it. Megan worked on the Customer Success team and helped food organizations such as Sysco and HelloFresh track, manage, and mitigate food waste across their supply chains. Prior to Spoiler Alert, Megan spent four years at Deloitte Consulting in the Supply Chain practice where she helped companies design and implement digital supply chain strategies.