As we gear up for our tenth FoodBytes! in Austin on September 26, we’re over the moon to announce our rockstar judging panel. Featuring experts in funding, distribution, business development, agriculture policy and more, our lineup of judges brings an array of expertise to the FoodBytes! table.
At FoodBytes! Austin ten startups will give 3.5-minute pitches and ten startups will give 60-second pitches to the judges and the audience. The day before the event, the pitch companies will take part in a unique Mentor & Rehearsal day and will have the chance to practice their pitches in front of the judges and receive feedback. They will also take part in mentorship sessions with industry-leading experts – learn more about the FoodBytes! Austin mentors here.
On event day, the judges will ask one question to each company before opening it up for audience Q&A. Following the pitches, the judges will convene briefly and then present the Judges’ Choice Award to the 3.5-minute company that has the most scalable business model, innovative product, demonstrated traction and a game-changing social impact. The panel of judges will also present the Highly Commended Award to the 60-second company that has the most potential to excel at the areas listed above. Learn more about the judging criteria here.
Check out our judges’ bios below to learn more about their important work below. Want to attend and meet them in person on September 26? Snag your ticket here. Plus, follow FoodBytes! on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more updates!
Senior Director of Sales – Whole Foods Market, The Hain Celestial Group, Inc.
Jamie Brent has over 30 years’ experience in the Natural and Organic products Industry. In his current role, Jamie leads the Hain Celestial sales team at Whole Foods Markets, having joined Hain Celestial 10 years ago.
Previously, Jamie spent 12 years at Wild Oats Markets–7 years as a Store Director and 5 years as a National Buyer and Category Manager. In this role, Jamie led the launch of many small brands that now are distributed broadly across channels.
He taught cooking classes, presented Natural and Organic educational assemblies in public schools for K- 12 students and school administrators and was a guest speaker at Natural Products Expo West, the world's largest and premier tradeshow for the natural, organic and healthy products industry.
Jamie has been a Product Award Judge for the Summer Fancy Food Show in NYC and served as Chairman on the Natural & Organic Advisory Council for the Specialty Food Association. Prior to that, Jamie was Grocery Manager for the original Alfalfa’s Markets at Alfalfa’s flagship store in Boulder, Colorado.
Jamie now lives in Austin, TX having spent 24 years in Boulder.
Colonel, United States Air Force, retired. Farmer and champion of sustainable food production, candidate for Texas Commissioner of Agriculture
Kim Olson, U.S. Air Force retired Colonel, holds a Natural-Organic Certification from the Texas Organic Research Center and is a Texas Master Gardener, beekeeper, and Community Supported Agriculture provider at her 4K River Ranch near Mineral Wells, Texas. She is a frequent lecturer on sustainable food production and small-scale farming. And she is now the Democratic candidate for Texas Commissioner of Agriculture.
During Kim’s 25-year service to the Air Force, she was part of the first generation of female military pilots, with 4,000 hours of flying time. As one of the first women to command an operational flying squadron, Kim rose to the rank of Colonel. She served in the Pentagon, and commanded troops in several combat zones, including Iraq. After her retirement from the U.S. Air Force, she served as Director of Human Resources for Dallas ISD, overseeing 22,000 employees and a billion dollar budget. Kim also served as Director of IT and Personnel for the Texas State Guard for three years, and as the retired CEO/President of Grace After Fire, a Texas- based nonprofit dedicated to helping women veterans help themselves, she reshaped how care was delivered to thousands of women veterans. She is an inductee in the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame.
Co-Founder and Chief of EPIC Provisions
Katie is the Co-Founder and Chief of EPIC Provisions, a company specializing in creating nutrient dense meat based superfoods. EPIC is the first consumer packaged goods company to successfully scale a “nose to tail” approach to optimizing the use of the whole animal. The brand creates protein bars made from high quality meat, ready to drink bone broth, organ meat jerky, traditional animal based cooking oils, and most recently pork rinds. Since inception EPIC has partnered with The Savory Institute to help spread awareness of holistic land management and worked actively to grow supply chains of regenerative protein. Katie drives marketing strategy, supply chain strategy, brand design, and is a master of doing EPIC stuff.
Co-founder & CEO, AgFunder
Rob is the cofounder of AgFunder, an online venture capital platform investing in food and agriculture technology companies. Rob is a Forbes contributor and has also been published in TechCrunch, Harvard Business Review, Financial Post, and twice in Nature journals with over 300 citations across both publications. Rob has been invited to Chair, speak, and keynote at dozens of global conferences on food & agriculture, technology, and fintech.
Global Growth & Business Development, Whole Foods Market
Scott is a manager of Global Growth and Business Development team at Whole Foods Market. Our team oversees the Whole Foods Local Producer Loan Program as well as structuring win-win equity investments and partnerships with suppliers and operating partners of Whole Foods Market. Scott’s prior experience includes over 25 years of negotiating deals and growing companies in technology, retail and consumer product sectors as a venture capital Managing Director at Capital Southwest Corporation in Dallas and Triton Ventures in Austin, and as a corporate development manager at Vignette Software, The Hearst Corporation and organic superfoods company Nutiva. The journey has provided Scott the privilege of working with dozens of passionate and creative entrepreneurs.
FoodBytes! Judges' Team Captain / Managing Director at Rabobank North America
Manuel Gonzalez is Managing Director at Rabobank North America and FoodBytes! Judges Team Captain. Previously, he was Managing Director of the San Francisco office and Head of the Western Region Corporate Clients after moving from Mexico City, where he served as the country head for Rabobank Mexico for four years. In the spirit of Rabobank's mission of Banking4Food, Manuel created FoodBytes! in 2015 in an effort to support the search for new ways to increase impact in the Food and Ag innovation space.
Manuel joined Rabobank in 1996 as a project manager in the Project Finance business in Mexico. In 2003, he was named Head of Credit and a year later became the Head of Credit and Legal. Prior to Rabobank, Manuel was the General Manager for six years at Gonzalez Guzman Alimentos, a diary and food distribution company. Manuel holds an MBA from Georgetown University.