Website created by A-Marek-N Made | 2017

Executive Breakfast Forum

The Young Professionals in Agriculture (YPiA) Executive Breakfast Forum connects young professionals with today's agriculture executive leaders. Each year, the topic of the educational aspect of the Executive Breakfast Forum is selected based on activity within the agriculture industry. 


Our 2020 Executive Breakfast Forum will take place on Friday, March 6, 2020,

at the FFA Enrichment Center in Ankeny, Iowa. 

The 2019 event is complete. Archived information is listed below for reference only. 


A special thank you goes to the 2019 breakfast planning committee, consisting of the following members:  

Rachel Lium, Kylee Deniz, Mackenzie Dierks, Katie Mayo, Haley Cook, Kitt Tovar, and Kelly Visser. 


Friday, March 8, 2019

7:30 - 10:00 a.m. 

CPMI Event Center, 2321 N Loop Dr, Ames, IA 50010 





Confirmed Executive + Farmer Leaders Attendance


Each year, we invite industry executives and farmer leaders to join us from all over the state of Iowa and beyond. To see the current list of 2019 confirmed attendees, please click here. We will continue to update the list leading up to the Breakfast.



Innovation in Agriculture Panel


Innovation and technology have critical roles to play in developing a more productive and sustainable agricultural landscape. This year’s Young Professionals in Agriculture Executive Breakfast Forum brings together innovators, business leaders, young professionals, and farmers to discuss how we can foster and inspire innovation within companies. Join us in Ames, Iowa to hear perspectives from a panel of startups, accelerators, and established agriculture companies. 


Billi Hunt was named the Executive Director of the Cultivation Corridor in February 2018. She brings 20 years of experience in agriculture and the Iowa business community to the Corridor’s efforts to enhance agricultural sustainability and accelerate business development by attracting new companies, talent, and capital to central Iowa.  She works with Cultivation Corridor investors, partners and other organizations to build the Corridor brand and broaden opportunities within the region.


Prior to joining Cultivation Corridor, Hunt served as government affairs manager for DuPont, leading state-level advocacy, public-policy initiatives and government-related business collaborations for the U.S. Central region, and throughout the United States.  She also worked for Optimum Quality Grains, LLC, and Greater Des Moines Chamber of Commerce.


She is active in a number of community organizations, including the Des Moines Christian School Foundation, Iowa State University, Lutheran Church of Hope and United Way of Central Iowa.


An Iowa native, Hunt received her Bachelor of Science from Iowa State University and her Master of Public Administration from Drake University. She and her husband Mike Elam and children live in Urbandale, Iowa.



Executive Director, Cultivation Corridor


Joel is the President of Charter Oak Creative, a consulting practice focusing on helping startups and entrepreneurs solve problems.

Formally Director of Product at GlobalVetLINK (GVL) - a Software as a Service SaaS company digitizing animal health records

Formally Vice President of Harrisvaccines (an Iowa State Spun-out company with a disruptive animal health customized vaccine platform) which was acquired by Merck Animal Health in November of 2015. Joel spent a year within Merck participating in technology transfer, business integration, and Geo-expanding marketing efforts for the Harrisvaccines vaccine technology.

Along with coordinating investor relations and mentoring at the Ag Startup Engine, he participates in several advisory and mentoring roles to entrepreneurs and startups in the SaaS, Agtech, Biotech, and Healthcare industries. Joel holds a degree in economics from the University of Iowa and a professional certificate in public relations, marketing, and non-fiction writing from Northwestern University.



President, Charter Oak Creative & Co-Director, Ag Startup Engine


Colin Hurd is a serial entrepreneur and founder in the ag equipment industry. Named to Forbes 30 under 30 in 2019. Colin’s last company commercialized a product to address a $2.5Bn market and reached $1.5M in sales before successfully licensing it to Yetter MFG.


Smart Ag is an agriculture technology company leading the disruption of the farm machinery industry with driverless technology. To date they are the only company in North America to have sold driverless tractor systems and will commercially launch an autonomous system for grain carts this year.




Founder & CEO, SmartAg

Pushpa Manukonda is the Director John Deere Technology Innovation Center at Ames, a position she has held since Nov 2017. She is responsible for the management of the operations of the center, including building relationships with key partners at the Iowa State University, recruitment of students, and engagement with Deere stakeholders that leverage the center to support their business goals in addition to focusing on building Advanced technology capabilities.


Manukonda joined John Deere in 1999 as a product modeling coordinator. In 2001 she was appointed Project Manager for Product Delivery Systems. In 2003, she became Project Manager for Customer Support Systems and in 2006 was made a Supervisor for Engineering. Manukonda was appointed Senior Engineer and Engineering Integration Lead for the XCG-John Deere Joint Venture in China in 2008, and the following year was named Product Development Manager. In 2010, she was made Vice President of Engineering for the Ashok Leyland John Deere Construction Equipment Co. joint venture. In 2012 she joined the John Deere Advanced Technology and Engineering team as the Manager of Technology Innovation Strategy and in 2015 she became the global lead for technology innovation strategy and product engineering technologies at John Deere


Manukonda won the National Emerging Leader award through the SWE in 2013. She serves as a reviewer for Small Business Innovation Research/Strategic Technology Transfer programs. Manukonda supports and volunteers for a number of organizations. She actively participates in Minority development events and supports various STEM activities.



Director, John Deere Technology Innovation Center at Ames

Martin is the President and one of the co-founders at GWT. During his role as President at GWT, he raised over $3M in Angel and Series A investments, served as Principal Investigator on over $1M in non-diluting SBIR grant funding, applied for and been granted numerous patents, and orchestrated the first commercial sale of core technology. Prior to founding GWT, he attained dual doctoral degrees from Iowa State University. 


GWT is a next generation wastewater treatment company that utilized microalgae to cost effectively and sustainably recover nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater. The byproducts from our process are clean water, clean air, and algae biomass, which can be used to create products ranging from fertilizers to nutraceuticals.



President, Gross-Wen Technologies

2019 YPiA Executive Breakfast Forum Sponsors