event recording

Inventing Food Systems for Tomorrow

Three experts share innovations in food system sustainability happening in Chicago today.

About the Panel

Amy Francetic [Moderator] is founder and Managing General Partner of Buoyant Ventures, a new venture fund in Chicago that aims to invest in digital climate solutions for energy, transportation, agriculture, and the built environment. Her career spans over 20 years of high technology entrepreneurship, private equity, and research. Amy previously founded and led Energize Ventures, a $165mm venture fund that invests in digital technologies that optimize energy equipment and infrastructure. She oversaw the Fund’s investment activities and operations. She also co-founded and served as CEO of technology accelerator Clean Energy Trust, which has invested in dozens of early-stage clean energy companies across the Midwestern US. She remains involved and now serves as Chair of its Board of Directors. Amy also held roles at private equity firm MVC Capital, helping to open the Chicago office, and at Stanford Research Institute where she worked on an early version of the voice recognition technology that became Siri. Earlier in her career, she was co-founder and CEO of a consumer technology company that was funded by Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, and that she sold to the Danish toy company, Lego Systems. Amy also helped fundraise for mobile gaming company, GluMobile, on whose board she served until it went public on the NASDAQ.

In addition to the Clean Energy Trust board, Amy serves on the Advisory Board for the WISER Institute at the Illinois Institute of Technology. In 2020 Crain’s recognized her for the third time as one of Chicago’s Top 50 Technology Leaders. In 2019 she was honored by Streetwise as one of the “20 Most Inspiring Chicagoans.” In 2015 she was an Emerging Leader at the Chicago Council for Global Affairs. In 2014 she was awarded the Corporate Citizen of the Year Award from the Executives’ Club of Chicago, and Leading Woman in Technology from the Illinois Technology Association. Amy is a regular lecturer in energy and entrepreneurship at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago’s Law School. She has a BA from Stanford University. Amy lives in Lake Forest, IL with her husband and two teenage daughters.

Jason Feldman is an entrepreneur and environmentalist committed to working on solutions to address today’s most pressing environmental, economic and healthcare issues. He is co-founder of Green Era Sustainability. Green Era develops facilities that provide communities with a sustainable waste management solution by converting inedible food waste into renewable energy and nutrient-rich compost and fertilizer products to support urban agriculture expansion. He was awarded the Keep Chicago Beautiful Urban Agriculture Vision Award and the American Institute of Architecture Chicago SustainABILITY Leadership Award. Mr. Feldman is a frequent speaker on sustainability and has spoken at venues such as the University of Chicago Booth School, Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago, the EPA Brownfields Conference, and the Institute for Regulatory Policy Studies Conference regarding Energy Policy Design: How Energy Policies are Creating New Ideas & Alternative Products. In addition to co-founding Green Era, Mr. Feldman has over 20 years of industry experience, having help found and led a number of successful entrepreneurial companies.

Thomas Jonas is Co-Founder and CEO of Nature’s Fynd. Nature's Fynd is a groundbreaking food tech company born out of NASA-supported research on extremophiles from Yellowstone National Park. The company’s novel fermentation technology produces a sustainable source of complete protein using only a fraction of the resources required by traditional agriculture. Thomas was previously president of two business units of MeadWestvaco, overseeing 15 operating plants around the world with annual sales over $700 million. A French-born global executive, he’s held senior leadership positions at Rio Tinto, Alcan, and Pechiney. Thomas graduated from the prestigious international business school HEC Paris and also served as an officer in the French Air Force.

Neema Pourian is Director of Engineering at Marks Design. He collaborates daily with his team of engineers and the design team at Marks to create beautiful, on-brand and sustainable packaging solutions for the agency’s global brand partners, such as CVS Health, Target, Motorola, 3M, PepsiCo, Chevron, and Reynolds. Neema values relationships with manufacturing partners, seeking to understand what is possible today and where opportunity lies for something better. He achieves this through applying creative problem solving to ensure design intent is carried through implementation.

With a background in Mechanical Engineering, Neema has a BS from Louisiana State University and a Masters from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Before joining Marks, he was a Principal Development Engineer at Mars Wrigley creating global packaging solutions and new business platforms for the Innovation Design Team. He also served as a Development Engineer at Pactiv, working on the Hefty Brand and sustainable foodservice packaging for clients including Starbucks and McDonalds.