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2024 agInnovation Fall Meeting

Reimagining the Land-grant University and Industry Relationship

Hosted by the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service (NCARS) at North Carolina State University

Raleigh, NC
September 22 – 25, 2024

  • Early Bird Fee: $750
  • Regular Fee: $800

Early Bird registration ends August 23

If you have any questions regarding registration, please contact the Office of Professional Development at or 919-515-2261

About the 2024 agInnovation Fall Meeting

Please join us for a stimulating and engaging experience with colleagues from around the country as we explore this year’s theme: Reimagining the Land-grant University – Industry Relationship. The goal is to engage with industry thought leaders outside of academia, providing new perspectives on societal challenges.

Our keynote speaker, Phil Taylor, Open Innovation Lead for Crop Science R&D at Bayer, will kick off our meeting followed by panels with progressive industry leaders. On day two, we will turn our focus to Ag Research Infrastructure, featuring leaders who have taken innovative steps to execute facilities projects.

A unique feature of this year’s conference will be the Research Triangle Park educational tours where we will visit the First Flight Venture Center, Syngenta Innovation Center Advanced Crop Lab, and Zoetis Animal Health Biodevices Unit. We will host a networking reception and dinner at the NC State Plant Sciences Building on Centennial Campus as well as the agInnovation annual business meetings and awards ceremony.

We look forward to welcoming you to Raleigh in the fall.

Meeting Agenda

Schedule is tentative and subject to change.

10 a.m.Registration
6 – 8 p.m.Welcome Reception
6:30 – 8 a.m.Breakfast
8 – 12 p.m.Regional Association Meetings
12 – 1 p.m.Networking Lunch
1 – 1:30 p.m.General Session Opening – Hosts Welcome
Chancellor Randy Woodson, NC State
– Provost Tonya Smith-Jackson, NC A&T
1:30 – 2 p.m.Keynote Presentation: Title TBD
– Phil Taylor, Open Innovation Lead Crop Science R&D, Bayer
2 – 3 p.m.Session 1: Stimulating Innovation with Industry Partners
– Deborah Thompson, Director of Research Partnerships, NC State
– Dan Maycock, Vice President, CropTrak
– Paula Barngrover, CEO, Alura, Iluma Alliance
– Jonathan Mueller, Lead, John Deere Intelligent Solutions Group
3 – 3:30 p.m.Networking Break
3:30 – 5 p.m.Session II: New Models for Industry Engagement
– Nandini Mendu, Senior Director, NC Biotechnology Center
– Heather Smith, Head of Regional Strategy, Novonesis
– John Gottula, Director of Crop Science, Agriculture, SAS Institute, Inc.
– Angela Records, Chief Scientific Officer, FFAR
– Neal Okarter, Investment Manager, BASF Venture Capital
6 p.m.Dinner on your own
Raleigh has plenty of dining options downtown and in the surrounding area. Explore dining options here.
6:30 – 8 a.m.Breakfast
8 – 10 a.m.Session III: Ag Research Infrastructure Vision & Engagement Workshops
8 – 9 a.m.Workshop A: Different by Design and Build (NC State Plant Sciences Building)
– Steve Lommel, Associate Dean & Director, NC State
– Chuck Mummert, Principal, Flad Architects
– Doug Morton, Associate Vice Chancellor, NC State Facilities
9 – 10 a.m.Workshop B: Are you prepared for RFA funding?
– George Smith, Senior Associate Dean & Director, Michigan State University
– Ernie Minton, Dean, Kansas State University
– Chandra Reddy, Dean, Tennessee State University
– Larry Chandler, Plains Area Director, USDA Agricultural Research Service
– Glynda Becker-Fenter, Vice President, Washington State University
10 – 10:30 a.m.Networking Break
10:30 – 11 a.m.Load buses for RTP tours
11 – 6 p.m.Research Triangle Educational Tours (lunch included)
– First Flight Venture Center
– Syngenta Innovation Center, Advanced Crop Lab
– Zoetis Animal Health, Biodevices Unit
6 – 8 p.m.Tour, Reception and Dinner
– NC State Plant Sciences Building
– NC State Centennial Campus
8 p.m.Buses depart Centennial Campus for the Sheraton Hotel
6:30 – 8 a.m.Breakfast
8 – 9:30 a.m.agInnovation Awards Ceremony
9:30 – 10:15 a.m.agInnovation Business Meeting
10:15 – 10:30 a.m.Networking Break
10:30 – 12 p.m.agInnovation Business Meeting
12:15 – 2 p.m.agInnovation Standing Committee Meetings (lunch provided)
– Budget and Legislative Committee
– Science and Technology Committee
– Finance Committee

Keynote Presentation

Phil Taylor headshot

Phil Taylor

Director of Open Innovation & Outreach for Crop Science R&D at Bayer
St. Louis, MO

With almost 20 years of AgTech experience, he plays a central role in supporting external innovation ecosystems, fostering strategic relationships, and developing novel programs to accelerate innovation throughout Bayer’s R&D pipeline. A constant champion for both external and pre-competitive partnering as a driving force for innovation and change, Phil has held multiple leadership roles at Bayer focused on delivering collaborative approaches to enable R&D and enhance the company’s position as a thought leader and partner of choice in agriculture. Phil trained as a Plant Cell Biologist, receiving his Ph.D. from the John Innes Centre in Norwich, U.K., and held post-doctoral positions at The University of Leeds and The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, as well as a British Council Fellowship at the University of Heidelberg, Germany.

Session Details and Speaker Bios

Session I: Stimulating Innovation with Industry Partners

Monday, September 23
2 – 3 p.m.

Innovation is essential for addressing the challenges of feeding a growing population. The pharmaceutical industry has a long history of looking outside their walls to academia for innovation, while the agriculture sector has been slower to adopt this collaborative model. Join this panel to explore unique ways that industry and academia can partner to drive agricultural innovation, highlighting the mutual benefits and addressing the challenges involved.

Panel Moderator

Deborah Thompson

Deborah M. Thompson is Director of Research Partnerships for North Carolina State University’s College of Agriculture & Life Sciences (CALS). She is also Associated Faculty in the department of Agriculture and Resource Economics. In that role, Deborah works as the key liaison between university faculty and industry scientists. She develops and manages corporate partnerships among CALS faculty and corporations around the world, with an emphasis on North Carolina and the Research Triangle Park (RTP) area matching college assets to industry needs. Deborah received her B.S. degree in Biology from Rutgers University and her Ph.D. degree in Molecular and Population Genetics from the University of Georgia at Athens.


Dan Maycock serves as the Vice President for Professional Services at CropTrak. He is passionate about driving economic growth and fostering innovation, thriving on collaborating with forward-thinking companies. As an accomplished executive, co-founder, and consultant, he has dedicated his career to partnering with organizations of all sizes to drive efficiency around modern technology strategy and data-driven solutions. Dan is a seasoned agriculture and technology leader. His leadership experience includes roles at Boeing and Amazon and consulting appointments with Slalom and Capgemini. Dan has significant entrepreneurial experience having served as both a technology leader and co-founder in three successful ventures. Dan holds a bachelor’s degree in MIS from Washington State University, and a master’s degree in software management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Paula Barngrover is the CEO of Alura USA located in Durham, NC. Paula is an M.B.A. business administrator. Within Iluma Alliance, she leads the development, manufacturing and commercialization of Iluma’s proprietary products for USA, and South East Asia territories. Iluma Alliance is the endeavor of more than 800 people that have decided to invest their time, intellect, capabilities, energy and existence to the development of an organization that contributes in a meaningful way to a better-nourished world. Illuma Alliance includes 4 businesses: Animal Nutrition with Premex, Animal Health and Nutrition with Alura, Human Nutrition with Nutreo, and Data and Computer Science with Asimetrix.

Jonathan Mueller is the Lead for Advanced Embedded and External Research with the John Deere Intelligent Solutions Group. He has been with John Deere for 17 years in a variety of roles, starting his career in Waterloo, Iowa performing emissions and performance testing on engines. In 2011 Jon moved to the Des Moines area where he joined John Deere’s Intelligent solutions group where he has primarily developed “Precision Ag” products and software applications in a variety of Individual and Leadership roles. In 2020 Jon was named Manager of Crop Care software. In this position, he had the privilege of leading the teams that were instrumental in delivering new technologies like See & Spray and Exact Shot. These products are working to save growers money by reducing input costs while providing more sustainable environmental practices. In July 2023, Jon was selected to be the “Lead of Advanced Engineering for Embedded Software and External Research”. While this is a very different role than previous roles, Jon has enjoyed getting to know how Deere leverages universities to better achieve its business objectives.

Session II: New Models for Industry Engagement

Monday, September 23
3:30 – 5 p.m.

Industry engagement with academia can take many forms. Traditionally, this relationship has been philanthropic, with companies providing gifts to support initiatives, research programs, or workforce development. However, as we will discuss in Session I, engagement can also be more collaborative, with companies supporting research that yields results beneficial to their commercialization pipeline. This panel will explore less traditional collaboration models, including foundations, joint research development, co-funding, and venture capital.

Panel Moderator

Nandini Mendu

Nandini Mendu serves as the senior director on the North Carolina Biotechnology Center’s Focused Initiative Team. She looks for opportunities and solutions in the growing bioeconomy sectors which include agtech (crops, animal ag and food tech) as well as the bioindustrial areas like bio-based chemicals, bio-materials etc. Nandini has strong experience in R&D leadership, including senior roles at Embrex, Pfizer and Zoetis. Her background also includes launching innovation programs, obtaining non-dilutive and cost-sharing funding, technology and IP assessment, business development and alliance management. Additionally, she has been a consultant at Blue Pine Consulting, LLC where she advised small and mid-sized companies on research planning, business plan development and strategy. Nandini holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in plant biology from the University of Delhi, India, and a Ph.D. in genetics from the University of Minnesota.


Heather Smith

Heather Smith is Head of Regional Strategy North America at Novonesis. She is a results-focused commercial professional with 10+ years in biotech, including expat experience in Asia. She has been called a ‘Renaissance woman’ for her ability to lead, collaborate, and drive value creation through empowerment & focus on actions that drive impact. Desire to drive strategy, build impactful pipelines, and empower to build a positive culture. She earned a Master of Business Administration from North Carolina State University and a B.S. Biological Sciences & B.S. Business Marketing Management from Virginia Tech. Heather also serves on advisory boards for NCSU CALS Research Board, NC LifeSci Executive board, and NC Ag Tech Advisory Council to support driving growth in both life sciences & agriculture in North Carolina.

John Gottula

John Gottula is a farmer, data scientist and professor whose technical interests include biostatistics, composite AI and synthetic data. Dr. Gottula cultivates strategic public and private sector partnerships focusing on food, health and the environment, while leading analytics and digital change management projects as an Agile Scrum Product Owner. Additionally, Dr. Gottula stars in the SAS Users Mixed Models YouTube video, leads a network advance agile analytics for agriculture (#AgileAg), and supports analytics-for-research at NC A&T State University, the United States’ oldest and largest Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Land Grant. When not working, John enjoys forestry, gardening and being a girldad.

Angela Records

Angela Records joined the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) as the chief scientific officer in May 2023. Records has spent more than 20 years pursuing transformational impact, from her work as a plant pathologist to her role at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where she co-founded and led the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security’s Research Community of Practice. She further played leading roles in collaborations across U.S. governmental agencies. Records holds a bachelor’s of science in biology from Baylor University, a master’s of science in biological sciences from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and she earned her doctorate in plant pathology from Texas A&M University, where she studied molecular plant-microbe interactions.

Neal Okarter

Neal Okarter is a member of the BASF Venture Capital based in Los Angeles, CA. Neal serves on the Boards of four different startups, as a Board Observer or as a Member of the Board of Directors.  Prior to BASF Venture Capital, Neal spent more than six years with BASF Management Consulting, the internal management consultancy of the BASF Group. Neal earned his BS in Nutrition, Food, and Agriculture, and PhD in Molecular Nutrition and Cell Biology from Cornell University, and his MBA from Rutgers Business School.

Session III: Ag Research Infrastructure Vision and Engagement Workshops

Tuesday, September 24
8 – 10 a.m.

Workshop A – Different by Design and Build: NC State Plant Science Building

8 – 9 a.m.

The NC State Plant Sciences Building (PSB) represents the latest thinking in design and construction to meet the complex needs of team-based plant science. Evolving technology requires an evolving space. This unique facility provides maximum potential for collaboration, interdisciplinary activities, and innovation. Positioned in the heart of NC State’s Centennial Campus, scientists and staff can seamlessly integrate research and talent with other NC State colleges. This facility also attracts exceptional faculty and students from around the world and helps better connect off-campus assets and research stations to deliver the science, technologies, and outcomes our stakeholders need.

Panel Moderator

Steven Lommel serves as the Associate Dean for Research and CALS Director of North Carolina Agricultural Research Service. Dr. Lommel obtained his bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of San Francisco in 1978 and his doctoral degree at the University of California, Berkeley in 1983. He was an Assistant Professor at Kansas State University. Dr. Lommel joined the faculty at North Carolina State University in 1988 where he is currently William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor of Plant Pathology and Genetics. Dr. Lommel conducts research on plant virus pathogenesis, evolution, and taxonomy. His research on virion structure and assembly at the molecular and atomic level is leading towards using small RNA plant viruses as nano-cargo vessels for the targeted delivery of therapeutics to cancer cells. He is a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Chuck Mummert is a Principal at Flad Architects who specializes in higher education and science and technology with a focus on architecture, planning and design. Chuck sees design as a tool to encourage the kinds of social interactions that lead to scientific collaboration. He thinks about how people do their work, whether singly or in groups, and how design can have a positive impact on the daily experience of the people using the building. Whether in a corporate setting, where oftentimes the goals are to reinforce the corporate culture and speed research and new product delivery, or in an academic setting where the focus is on the student and faculty connection, his attention to social ecology of buildings emphasizes communication and collaboration.

Doug Morton, NC State alumnus and associate vice chancellor for facilities at North Carolina State University, directs facilities planning and development, design and construction, and operations and maintenance for the university. He leads a 900-employee workforce supporting a campus with more than 5,000 acres of land and seven million gross square feet under roof. The division’s wide area of responsibility includes facilities services, energy systems, sustainability, fleet management, architectural and design services, infrastructure planning, construction management, mail, and ground services. Prior to returning to campus, Morton served more than 30 years as a U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps officer, retiring from active naval service in 2016 with the rank of Rear Admiral. The Salisbury, N.C. native holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering-construction from NC State, a master’s degree in civil engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a master’s degree in national resource strategy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. He is a registered professional engineer in Georgia, and a member of the National Academy of Construction.

Workshop B: Are you prepared for RFA funding?

9 – 10 a.m.

This workshop will facilitate a dialogue among leaders from Colleges of Agriculture who have implemented innovative and essential strategies to plan and prioritize facilities projects. These strategies encompass fostering a compelling vision and generating excitement among university stakeholders and other influential communities. Leaders were well-prepared to present their case to university administrators when facilities funding became available or when opportunities arose for fundraising to support renovations or new construction. Discussion topics will focus on prioritizing facility needs, exploring planning opportunities, cultivating champions, and strategies for advocacy and fundraising.

Discussion Moderator

Dr. George Smith is the Director of AgBioResearch and Senior Associate Dean for Research in the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources at Michigan State University. He is responsible for strategic direction and administrative oversight for the organization, whose university-wide research mission is linked directly to promoting dynamic solutions for food systems and the environment in Michigan and beyond. AgBioResearch supports scientists from seven MSU colleges, 15 outlying centers throughout Michigan reflective of the diversity of its research portfolio in agriculture and natural resources, as well as numerous on-campus facilities and key research infrastructure. Smith obtained his doctoral and master’s degrees in animal science from the University of Missouri-Columbia in reproductive physiology, and his Bachelor of Science in animal science from the University of Idaho. He joined the faculty at MSU in 1997. His research efforts at MSU focused primarily on dairy cattle reproduction.

Discussion Panelists

Ernie Minton serves as the Eldon Gideon Dean, College of Agriculture and Director, K-State Research and Extension. In this role, he is focused on advancing the college’s agriculture legacy as one of the nation’s top academic programs, and K-State’s Research and Extension’s mission through research, outreach, engagement, and economic development. Prior to being named dean in 2019, Minton spent 25 years as a faculty member for the Department of Animal Sciences and Industry at K-State. Starting in 2008, Minton began serving in administrative roles, including as associate dean for research and graduate programs and associate director for the Kansas Agricultural Experiment Station. Minton is actively involved in the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, which reflects his deep personal belief in the mission of the land-grant university system and the opportunity it offers for advancing the public good.

Glynda Becker Fenter was appointed Vice President for External Affairs and Government Relations for Washington State University in January 2024. Prior to that, she served as the Assistant Vice President for Federal Engagement and Advocacy and Director of WSU DC since 2019, and as Federal Relations Director since 2012, where she has served as a liaison for WSU with Congressional Offices and executive branch agencies. Her leadership in the Federal Relations office promoted awareness and support of WSU research, education and outreach activities and brought institutional alignment between the university and key issues important to the delegation and administration. Glynda has diverse experience in policy work serving multiple clients based in the Pacific Northwest. Prior to joining WSU, Glynda worked at McBee Strategic, a consulting firm based in D.C., for six years where she offered policy and strategic communications counsel. Glynda began her career in Washington, D.C., working in the House of Representatives where she served three members over a span of more than seven years.

Chandra Reddy is Dean of the College of Agriculture and Director of Research /Administrator of Extension at Tennessee State University. Dr. Reddy earned his B.S. and M.S degrees from India and his Ph.D. degree in Agronomy from the University of Florida. He served Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, AL, as Professor of Agronomy and Dean of Graduate Studies. Dr. Reddy has focused much of his research work on soil quality, crop production and environmental sustainability issues. He is a Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy and a Fellow of the Soil Science Society of America. Dr. Reddy is recognized both nationally and internationally and is the recipient of prestigious honors and awards. Dr. Reddy currently serves on the Emerging Technologies Life Sciences Advisory Board, Ag Launch Technical Advisory Board, and the Tennessee State Fair and Exposition Commission.

Larry Chandler serves as Director of the USDA ARS Plains Area in Ft. Collins, CO (2012-present).  He received his Ph.D. in entomology from Texas A&M Univ. He joined the USDA-Agricultural Research Service in 1982 and has served in several positions including Research Entomologist in Weslaco, TX and Tifton, GA, Research Leader of the Northern Grain Insects Research Lab in Brookings, SD, Director of the Red River Valley Agricultural Research Center in Fargo, ND, Associate Director of the Northern Plains Area, Director of the Midwest Area, and Acting Administrator of ARS Research Operations.  During his research career he focused on IPM of horticultural and field crop insect pests. He also served as the ARS Technical Coordinator for the Corn Rootworm Areawide Pest Management Program, the ARS Coordinator for the National Sclerotinia Initiative, and the chair/co-chair of the ARS Information Technology Steering Committee. He received an ARS Technology Transfer Award in 1999, the USDA Secretary’s Award for Superior Service in 2002, 2012, 2014, & 2023, and the Presidential Rank Award for Meritorious Service (2023).

Lodging and Transportation

Sheraton Raleigh Hotel

421 S Salisbury Steet
Raleigh, NC 27601

Book your group rate for the 2024 Annual Meeting via the link below:

Or call the central reservations center at 1-800-325-3535 and use code “ESS”

Reservations close August 22, 2024


Airport: Raleigh-Durham International Airport, 14.9 miles
Transportation to and from the airport is not provided, but taking a taxi or ride-share during your visit is an easy and affordable way to get around.


Contact Us

Please contact the NCARS office at NC State if you have any questions about this event

Laina Stensvold

University Program Specialist, NCARS