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Meet the New Class of System Builders Reimagining the Future of Food

Join us in welcoming our second cohort of Food Systems Fellows transforming our food systems to be more equitable, nourishing and regenerative.

April 12, 2023

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Acumen and The Rockefeller Foundation are thrilled to announce the 2023 cohort of Food Systems Fellows! In today’s global climate, transforming the future of food is no longer just about tackling food nutrition, sustainability, or equity. It’s about the interconnectedness of many elements – human and animal health, land, water, climate, biodiversity, and the economy – and understanding how these converge to create the food systems we have today and want for a better tomorrow. The 2023 cohort is a global group of emerging system builders who have taken on this challenge. They are tackling a range of food systems issues – from improving farmers’ climate resilience, to bringing digital innovation to regenerative agriculture, to promoting biodiverse diets and food literacy amongst consumers. 


 Rafael Parra-Peña leads projects on food policy at the Sustainable Agriculture Network in Colombia. "Growing up in Colombia, I saw the challenges my country faces. But I also saw the potential for positive change through sustainable food systems. By understanding the economic forces that shape agriculture and food systems, we can create policies and strategies that drive sustainable growth, productivity, and reduced poverty and inequality."


Designed to create system-level impact in food over the long term, The Rockefeller Foundation-Acumen Food Systems Fellowship is a one-year program supporting these system builders — individuals who can see the complexity of food systems, and have the ability to influence them at multiple levels to drive meaningful change.


Georgina Campbell Flatter pioneers new ways to increase the climate resilience and prosperity of African farmers at TomorrowNow. "We have reached almost 500,000 farmers in Kenya with next gen weather services this year already. The opportunities for tech to make a difference to people's lives and help build climate resilience  are right in front of us, we just need to make sure the solutions benefit those most in need.”


Together, the Fellows will participate in a blend of immersive seminars, workshops, and self-directed experiments to support their food systems work. Leveraging the principles of moral leadership and systems leadership, they’ll unlock their leadership potential and reimagine ways of creating more inclusive, nourishing, and regenerative food systems. At the end of the year, the Fellows will join our global class of 40 Food Systems Fellows, and our global community of over 1300 social innovators — who have collectively made an impact on more than 8 million lives across the world — to share in a lifelong journey of solving problems of poverty and building a world based on dignity.

Join us in celebrating this year’s cohort of Food Systems Fellows, and follow Acumen Academy on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to keep up to date on these inspiring leaders and the work they’re doing to build food systems that work for everyone. 


Cheryse Kaui Sana | Hawaii, USA

Kaui is the General Farm Manager of MA'O Organic Farms, an organisation with a mission to grow organic produce and empower youth leaders in Waianae, Hawai'i. She manages a 281 acre certified organic farm while mentoring 40-50 young adults and the farm staff team in organic farming, community engagement, and leadership development. She is committed to deepening her practice and understanding of ancestral and modern knowledges to improve Hawai'i's food system.

Christine Gould | Besel, Switzerland

Christine is the CEO and Founder of Thought For Food, the world’s pioneer and leader in agri-food-tech innovation for impact. Thought For Food works with leading companies and investors in the food, agriculture and climate spaces, serving as an engine for next-gen innovation and transformation. Since 2013, Thought For Food has helped to accelerate and launch 100+ impact-focused ventures dedicated to solving the most urgent challenges facing food systems, while amassing a community of 30,000+ next-gen entrepreneurs in 180+ countries. Christine grew up on a farm and has spent her career in the agriculture industry, working all over the world. She served on the Advisory Committee for the UN Food Systems Summit, is a Swiss Digital Shaper, an author, and holds various board positions. Her work has been covered in MIT Tech Review, Forbes, Fast Company, BBC, and the Economist.

Madiha Nawaz | Washington D.C., USA

Madiha has over 10 years of experience managing smallholder inclusive, sustainable agricultural supply chain programs in the Global South focused on horticulture, cereals, and agroforestry. At the Rainforest Alliance, she leads the environmental innovations team, developing supply chain strategies focused on regenerative agriculture, climate mitigation, and adaptation for key clients such as Nestle Nespresso and Unilever. Madiha is passionate about developing agri-food systems that are regenerative, socio-ecologically sustainable, and economically viable. She holds an MSc in Organic Agriculture & Agroecology from Wageningen University and a B.A. in International Studies from American University.

Melinda Hou | Beijing, China

Melinda is the Executive Director of Good Food Fund (GFF). GFF promotes a nationwide food system transformation through a series of groundbreaking initiatives. Melinda and her team have been driving the food system transformation from the consumer side. She led the team working on projects which focus on plant-forward, animal welfare, healthy eating, and the promotion of "food literacy" to guide consumers to a low-carbon, healthy, and sustainable diet that replaces animal proteins, particularly those of which produced in factory farming in people’s daily diets with a high-quality, bio-diverse plant-based diets.

Peter Battisti | Seattle, USA

Peter is the Executive Director of Future of Fish, an organization that supports innovative solutions that unlock the resources necessary to support thriving, resilient coastal communities. For the past five years, Peter has led the expansion of the organization into international fisheries, developing programs in Latin America and Asia including the launch of two active affiliate offices in Peru and Chile. His day-to-day work focuses on cultivating collaborations with resource providers and developing expert teams to execute their work. Prior to joining Future of Fish, Peter was a partner in entrepreneurial ventures as a developer of renewables and real estate and also served as an independent advisor to start up companies and early stage investors.

Sanjoo Malhotra | Stockholm, Sweden

Sanjoo is Platform Manager for WWF's Global Action Platform on Sustainable Consumption and Diets. The platform convenes global NGOs, coalitions, initiatives to- raise the agenda of food, consumption and diets in global multi-lateral processes as its been missing. He is also curating a series of Sustainable dinners called Eat4Change dinners at UN meetings to showcase sustainable foods in action, power of collaboration and catalysing change. Previously, Sanjoo founded a food movement in India called Tasting India Symposium, convening a 360 degree discussion from Food History, Culture, Culinary Tourism, Young Chefs to the Future of Food, Food Smart Cities and Sustainability. He has Bachelors degree from Welcomgroup School of Hotel Administration and a Master's degree in International Business from Stockholm University.



Claire Rhodes | London, UK

Claire is CEO and Founder of Producers Direct, an international non-profit championing smallholder farmers’ leadership. Producers Direct leverages farmer-centered design with digital innovation to reach +1 million smallholders, supporting farmers to share knowledge, take data-driven decisions and have more power in food value chains. Graduating with a Biological Sciences Masters from Oxford University, Claire’s early career involved counting Costa Rican caterpillars before realising that smallholders manage much of the earth’s natural resources and there is a lot to learn from them. This inspired Claire’s focus on promoting smallholders' expertise and farmer-centred design to transform smallholder livelihoods and resilience at scale.

Eva Bachtiar | Surabaya, Indonesia

Eva is CEO and Co-Founder of Garda Pangan, a socio-eco-enterprise in Indonesia that offers one-stop food loss and waste solution, where edible surplus foods are redistributed to underprivileged communities and food scrap processed into animal feeds. She is also a practitioner and consultant of food loss and waste issues, and is currently advocating new policies for food loss and waste reduction in Indonesia. She also has experience working as engineer, teacher, and development consultant for the agriculture sector in East Indonesia.

Georgina Campbell Flatter | Oxford, UK

Georgina leads TomorrowNow.org, a global non-profit that connects next-gen tech with communities in need for local climate adaptation. Georgina is working together with her team and partners to pioneer new ways to increase the climate resilience and prosperity of African farmers NOW. Georgina’s passion for tech and impact builds on a decade of experience and inspiration nurtured at MIT where she was a senior lecturer and led global innovation initiatives. Georgina is a mother, kitchen gardener, and active local community member. She read Material Science at Oxford and Technology and Policy at MIT.

Jamil Akbar | Dhaka, Bangladesh

Jamil Akbar is one of the Co-Founders and the COO at iFarmer. iFarmer is an Agri Fin-tech platform which provides access to finance, access to agriculture input and access to market for farmers. Established in 2019, iFarmer currently has over 80,000 farmers on their platform. Jamil is a tech enthusiast, an entrepreneur and a problem solver, who sincerely manages and constantly feeds his hunger for doing something new. With more than 8 years of experience in the industry of Information Technology, he specialises in managing complex operations and large teams in challenging and mission-critical scenarios.

Oumar-Barou Togola | Kelowna, Canada

Oumar is a game-changer in the world of agriculture. His company, Savanna Foods, is focused on empowering small-scale farmers in Africa and helping them achieve food security and sovereignty. Using short value chains, Oumar has substantially reduced post-harvest losses and enabled farmers to adopt small-scale regenerative, sustainable, and agroecological principles. Oumar is now re-imagining equitable and continent-focused food systems that disengage from European food exports.

Vincent Lagace | Mexico City, Mexico

Vincent is Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Nuup, a Mexican non-profit committed to enabling and accelerating the transition to a more sustainable and inclusive food system. Nuup works directly with farmers, their organizations, agri-food buyers and financial institutions to create lasting change at both the farm and ecosystem-level, incubating and scaling new collaborations and innovations, leveraging the power of data and finance. Vincent previously worked in Fair Trade, agricultural financing and holds a BS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a Masters from the University of Ottawa. Vincent was elected an Ashoka Fellow in 2019.



Dan Zook | New York, USA

Dan is the Executive Director of ISF Advisors and has a passion for how we finance the transformation of our global food system towards a more sustainable, resilient, and inclusive model. Based in New York, Dan co-founded ISF Advisors to provide research, strategic, and financial advisory support towards the mobilization of capital for the food and agriculture sector. To date, his team has mobilized over $250 million of investment in agriculture and food systems. Dan has an MBA from Cornell and BA from Princeton University.

Mulia Nurhasan | Bogor, Indonesia

Mulia is a Food and Nutrition Scientist at CIFOR-ICRAF, based in Indonesia. Her research focuses on the significance of the environment, particularly forests and wetlands, in food systems. Through research, Mulia generates scientific evidence and writes publications on the interconnections between food, nutrition, and the environment. She also promotes the information through articles, podcasts, and videos to raise awareness of these interrelationships for general public and policy engagement. Additionally, she collaborates with other organizations to promote sustainable food systems in Indonesia. Mulia holds a PhD in nutrition from the University of Copenhagen, a Master's and Bachelor's degree in Fisheries.

Natalia Bellostas Muguerza | Pamplona, Spain

Natalia is Managing Director at INTIA, a public company providing a range of services to +8000 farmers, cooperatives and agri-food industry in Navarra, Spain. She leads a team of 200 professionals that conduct +30 R&D&i projects, +200 applied research trials and +150 training courses yearly, also providing farmers with specialized technical and economic advice for the sustainability transition of the regional food system. Natalia holds an MSc in Agronomy from the Public University of Navarra (Spain) and a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Copenhagen (Denmark).

Peter Mwangi | Nairobi, Kenya

Peter is a Co-Founder and the Managing Director for the Farming Business Unit at Farmworks based in Kenya. Farmworks aims is to unlock Africa's agriculture potential by creating clusters of mid sized farms, smallholder outgrowers programs and robust food distribution platforms across Africa. In its third year Farmworks is operating 3 farms, an outgrowers program with over 2,000 farmers and a food distribution platform serving over 2,000 market vendors in key markets in Kenya. Peter is a passionate agroecologist with over 25 years experience leading food production, processing and distribution in several countries in Africa. He is a strong proponent of agriculture apprenticeships and other practical training approaches that can produce a new generation of farmers with the right knowledge, skills and mindset to kickstart a real agriculture revolution in Africa.

Rafael Isidro Parra-Peña Somoza | Bogota, Colombia

Rafael is a visionary leader with around 20 years of experience in development economics, agriculture, and food systems. He has held executive positions in the Colombian Government (DNP, Colombia Productiva), and worked for research centers (Fedesarrollo, CRECE-FNC), NGOs, and multilateral organizations such as the World Bank, ECLAC, UNDP, and BiovIntCIAT-CGIAR. With a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Sussex U.K, Rafael has played a vital role in shaping policy and understanding the impact of food policy, climate change, and post-conflict on agriculture in Colombia. Currently, Rafael leads projects aimed at addressing global challenges such as poverty, malnutrition, climate change, and biodiversity loss.

Rebekah Carlson | Seattle, USA

Rebekah is the Director of Program Management at CIBO Technologies, a company accelerating the adoption of regenerative agriculture through scientific tools measuring the environmental impact of agriculture. At CIBO, she implements technology to connect farmers with companies who provide payment for regenerative agriculture. With a background in agroecology, agricultural technology, and walking countless fields as an agronomist, she includes the voice of the farmer with scientific approaches to design food systems that financially support farmers. Her favorite job, to date, was helping on her extended family’s farm and ranch in Nebraska where she chased (and was chased by) plenty of cattle.

Wanjeri Mbugua-Gichuru | Nairobi, Kenya


Wanjeri is a regional trade and partnerships specialist, currently working at USAID Kenya and East Africa Mission. Wanjeri's drive to facilitate trade and build meaningful collaborations and partnerships is built from over a decade of experience, interactions and learnings cultivated from her work on leading market development, trade interventions and supporting multiple players and partners in several value chains. In her current role she's focused on increasing trade and investment as well as accelerating growth, increasing incomes for smallholder farmers and job creation especially for women and youth. Wanjeri has an MBA in Finance from Oklahoma City University and Bachelors in Marketing from Catholic University of Eastern Africa.