Agricultural innovation, impact of climate change on food industry to be explored at Feb. 25 conference

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An executive of a company called one of the most innovative in the world highlights a morning full of insights in marketing and sustainability at the Feb. 25 North Coast Specialty Food & Beverage Conference.

Guy Blanchard is chief financial officer of Aerofarms, an indoor vertical farm company twice named one of the “World’s Most Innovative Companies” by Fast Company. Food produced in its buildings under controlled conditions matures in up to a third the time as in the field.

The balance of the conference will explore two themes: the impact of climate change on industry practices and finance and key market trends.

Those speakers include the following:

Marcus Benedetti, CEO of Clover Sonoma, a longtime leader in the dairy industry.

Anubhav S. Goel is president of client growth solutions for SPINS LLC, a consulting firm for the natural, organic and specialty product firms. Prior to 2018, he had previously served as executive vice president for the firm and has worked in consulting for more than 20 years.

Mike Scheu is vice president of sales and marketing for Straus Family Creamery and on the board of the Food Industry Group, a trade group of North Bay food producers, which includes companies such as Traditional Medicinals and Amy’s Kitchen.

Robert Steele, managing director of investment banking middle markets for Bank of America, will offer insights on how the capital markets view emerging food trends such as plant-based meat and sustainability initiatives.

With the industry racing to meet consumer demand that the environment be a part of any strategic plan, Lara Dickinson, co-founder and executive director of the Climate Collaborative, will focus on natural foods’ role in reversing climate change.

The conference, which is co-hosted by the Business Journal and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, will be held at the Doubletree by Hilton Sonoma Wine Country hotel in Rohnert Park from 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tickets are $75 per person or $775 for a table of 10. Visit to register.

The event is sponsored by BPM and Carle Mackie Power & Ross.

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