Green Goodness

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FoodCon is an annual conference that celebrates the food and agri-business community. The business schools of UNC, NC State University, and Duke University co-sponsor this one-day conference each year. UNC Kenan-Flagler's Net Impact Chapter will host the 7th annual MBA FoodCon virtually on Friday, February 12th, 2021. Our goal is to bring together a diverse audience of students, community members, and business professionals who have a shared interest in the sustainable food industry. We aim to increase the awareness and understanding of the sustainable food industry as well as support and grow the industry here in North Carolina and throughout the country.


Resilience, Creativity, and the Future of Food

This year’s conference will focus on stories of how the food industry has thrived and adapted in the current COVID environment, as well as innovations that will lead the food and agribusiness industry into the future as we enter this new decade.


Each year more than 200 students and community members attend FoodCon. While the event is hosted by professional clubs of their respective business schools, the event is open to environmental, engineering, and policy students as well as food business professionals.


FoodCon began at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler Business School in 2014. The conference brought together a diverse range of speakers to discuss current trends and issues in the sustainable food industry. In 2015, the conference moved to Duke’s Fuqua School of Business and became a partnership between UNC, Duke and NC State. For the 2016-17 academic year, the event was held at NC State University, and has since rotated between the three business schools each year.

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FoodCon 2020-2021 is hosted by UNC Kenan-Flagler's Net Impact Club in collaboration with Duke Fuqua’s MBA Food and Agriculture Club and the NC State Net Impact Club.



Thursday, February 11th - Friday, February 12th 2021

Virtual Event

Thursday, February 11th

7:00-8:00 PM: FoodCon Kickoff Event - "Hearts of Glass" Panel Discussion

Join us for a free FoodCon kickoff event on Thursday, February 11th from 7-8pm! Hear from the teams behind the documentary film “Hearts of Glass,” Wyoming vertical farm Vertical Harvest, and local business/disability advocate Part & Parcel Durham! “Hearts of Glass” follows the tumultuous first 15 months of operation of Vertical Harvest (VH) of Jackson, Wyoming, a state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse that provides meaningful employment for people with disabilities. The film weaves the story of VH’s launch with the personal journeys of employees with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Plants and people grow together in this intimate portrait of innovation, inclusion and impact. Film is available to view now from 2/5-2/12!

View the film for free here from 2/5-2/12:

Join the panel discussion on Thursday, 2/11, 7-8pm:


Friday, February 12th

9:45 AM-10:45 AM: Morning Keynote Address

Leah Lizarondo, CEO & Co-Founder of Food Rescue Hero & 412 Food Rescue (watch her Ted Talk here!)


11:00 AM-12:00 PM: Morning Panel Breakout

  • Success Through Crises

    • The Triangle area has been impacted by a number of unexpected events in recent years, from Hurricane Florence to the COVID-19 pandemic. This panel explores how local nonprofits, restaurants, and national food chains have found ways to collaborate and form unexpected partnerships to get food to people in need during times of crisis.

      • Moderator – Tracy Triggs-Matthews, Associate Director, UNC Center for Sustainable Enterprise

      • Christine Cotton, Founder/Director, PORCH Communities

      • Mike Shumake, Founder/Director, Produce Project

      • Kevin Callaghan, Owner/Chef, Acme Food & Beverage Co., Founder, Carrboro United

      • Randi Weinstein, Founder, FAB

  • Reimagining the Restaurant

    • Reimagining the Restaurant will highlight how restaurants are transforming the way they work to benefit the customer through innovative business models. Change makers from our own North Carolina community will speak more to this growing trend and how and why they themselves embraced these new ideas.

      • Moderator – Olga Hawn, Faculty Director, UNC Center for Sustainable Enterprise

      • Seth Gross, Business Owner, Pie Pan Inc. (Bull City Burger and Brewery, Pompieri Pizza, Bull City Solera and Taproom)

      •  Jacob Boehm, Executive Chef & Owner, Snap Pea Creative Dining

      • Simone Saleh Lawson, Restaurant Manager, Sassool Mediterranean Cafe

      • Moira Sedgwick, Director, James Beard Awards


12:00 PM-1:15 PM: Virtual Lunch Cook-Along with Chef Jacob Boehm of Snap Pea Creative Dining

        *Ingredient list to be sent out prior to event, with option to order fresh ingredients with your ticket to be picked up in Chapel Hill


1:15 PM-2:15 PM: Afternoon Panel Breakout

  • Brave New Foods

    • What are some of the new startups in food-growing doing and how are they pursuing sustainability? From Iowa-raised seafood to cell-based protein, new types of agriculture are revolutionizing the food industry. We’ll hear from entrepreneurs about the journeys they’ve been on to bring these ideas to life and to shake up how we get our lunch!

      • Moderator – Jessica Thomas, Director, NC State Poole College of Management Business Sustainability Collaborative

      • Linden Thayer, Director of Research & Innovation, Food Insight Group

      • Mariliis Holm, Co-Founder & Partner, Sustainable Food Ventures

      • Joe Sweeney, CEO & Co-Founder, Eagle’s Catch

  • Sustainable Food Systems, Sustainable Companies

    • Today’s business innovators are finding exciting new ways to meet the “triple bottom line”—people, profit, and planet. From helping improve the sustainability of food supply chains to making food systems more profitable for smallholder farmers and tackling the climate-intensive problem of food waste, these panelists bring fresh perspectives on what it means to be a sustainable company as well as a contributor to making our food systems more resilient and inclusive.

      • Moderator – Katie Kross, Managing Director, Duke University Fuqua School of Business Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment (EDGE)

      • Jennifer Curtis, Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Firsthand Foods

      • Kat Nigro, VP of Experience, CompostNow

      • Ben Tacka, Sustainability Programs Leader, Trane Technologies

      • Pavi Ram, Impact Navigator, Tony’s Chocolonely

2:30 PM-3:30 PM: Afternoon Keynote Address and Panel

                Zoe Feldman, Head of Corporate Development and New Ventures and Director of the Incubator program at Chobani. Featuring founders from the Incubator:

                                Ayeshah Abuelhiga, Mason Dixie Foods

                                Patrick Mateer and Alex Piasecki, Seal the Seasons

                                Denise Woodard, Partake Foods


2021 Sponsors


If you are interested in sponsoring MBA FoodCon 2021, please contact

Megan Ramage at


Net Impact Chapter - UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

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