The Rockefeller Foundation Cassava Innovation Challenge/

Meet the Cassava Innovation Challenge Judges

Adebayo Abass

Adebayo Abass is IITA’s Cassava Value Chain Coordinator. He obtained a BSc in 1989 and an MSc in 1993 in Food Technology from the University of Ibadan. He was a graduate assistant from April 1991 to March 1992, and assistant lecturer from April 1992 to December 1993 with the Department of Food Science and Technology, Federal University of Technology, Yola, Adamawa State. He also worked as Research Officer Grade I with the Federal Institute of Industrial Research (FIIRO), Oshodi, Lagos.

Alloysius Attah

Alloysius is the CEO/Co-founder of Farmerline. In 2013, Alloysius launched Farmerline to transform millions of farmers into successful entrepreneurs. His 15 years of experiencing the challenges small-scale farmers go through to produce food and support their families inspired this mission. Today, the company has reached over 200,000 farmers across 5 countries. He leads the vision and goals for the organization and focuses his efforts on business development and product design. He has received numerous awards for his work including winning the Echoing Green Global Fellowship in 2014 and a 2015 Cordes Fellowship. Alloysius holds a BSc in Natural Resource Management, with a focus in Fisheries and Aquaculture Management, from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.

Amanda Rose

Amanda serves as a Senior Program Officer for the Global Knowledge Initiative (GKI), where she serves as a lead designer and manager of innovation and network development programs with GKI. She currently leads GKI’s work as Innovation Partner for YieldWise, The Rockefeller Foundation’s $130 million initiative to demonstrate an integrated approach to halve post-harvest food loss in Sub-Saharan Africa. Amanda previously managed GKI’s Social Innovation Lab on post-harvest food loss, an effort supported by The Rockefeller Foundation. Prior to joining GKI, Amanda worked in the Office of the Science and Technology Adviser to the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. She previously served at the Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and as Assistant Director of the Caldwell Fellows Program at the North Carolina State University.

Bosun Tijani

Bosun Tijani is a proven innovation expert and community organizer with a keen interest in knowledge application for economic and enterprise competitiveness. He is the CEO and founder of CcHUB, Nigeria’s first technology innovation hub funded by Pierre Omidyar (Founder of eBay), Google, Sainsbury Family Trust, Eric Schmidt and Microsoft. He also founded Truppr, a social platform that connects users to people, places and events to help make active living a lifestyle. He led the development of an early stage experimentation funding scheme that supported over 30 ventures, and in 2013 designed and led a PPP that gave birth to the Nigerian Technology Cluster, Yaba. Bosun holds a Msc in Information Systems & Management from Warwick Business School.

Chelsea Barabas

Chelsea is currently the Head of Social Innovation at the Digital Currency Initiative. Prior to coming to MIT, she worked with an international development start-up called Nuru International. With Nuru, Chelsea headed up the development of co-learning and design opportunities between Western development practitioners and local social entrepreneurs. Chelsea’s research at Civic Media focuses on how alternative learning pathways translate into career opportunity for individuals who traditionally face significant obstacles to accessing higher education.

Chuka Mordi

Chuka Mordi is currently the Managing Director of Union Dicon Salt Plc (a Nigeria Stock Exchange listed company) where he is leading the company’s strategic transformation into an Agro-Industrial business. He is also the founding Partner of CBO Capital where he has been jointly responsible for servicing over 50 mandates, with a transaction value of over 2 billion USD, whilst investing over 50 million USD on a principal basis, and developing the firm’s transaction pipeline. Prior to this, Chuka was Head of Infrastructure Financing at First City Monument Bank. He began his career at SBC Warburg, and then worked as an Equities Analyst for Hardman & Co. Ltd. where he focused on UK AIM stocks. He moved to Investment Research and Advisory Services at Intersec Research Corporation and subsequently, European equities at Société Générale Asset Management (SGAM). He is a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), and has a B.A. in Philosophy from Kings College, University of London.

David De Koeyer

David De Koeyer is a Project Leader for IITA’s AfricaYam Project. Before he took up this appointment, he was a Research Scientist working on potato genetics and bioinformatics at the Potato Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), Fredericton, New Brunswick. He obtained a BSc degree in Agriculture from the University of Guelph, Ontario in 1988. He obtained his MS and PhD degrees in Plant Breeding from the University of Minnesota, St Paul, Minnesota in 1992 and 1996, respectively.

David Sengeh

David Sengeh is the President and co-founder of the international NGO Global Minimum Inc. (GMin). Currently, GMin’s main project is Innovate Challenges; the first-ever competition created to foster a culture of innovation among high-school students in Sierra Leone, Kenya and South Africa. Innovate Challenges is a mentorship program and set of workshops where youth can get help in transforming their ideas into tangible solutions. David is a 2014 TED fellow, on the 2013 Forbes 30 Under 30 list in Technology, on the Wired Smart List 2013, winner of the Lemelson-MIT National Collegiate Student Prize, and recipient of other awards. He has been invited to give many talks at institutions such as United Nations as well as corporate and academic organizations on topics related to education, youth innovation, prosthetics design and more. David earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering at Harvard College and received a PhD at the MIT Media Lab where his research in the Biomechatronics Group focused on the design of comfortable prosthetic sockets and wearable interfaces.

Elizabeth Parkes

Elizabeth Parkes is HarvestPlus cassava breeder in IITA since 2012, who has been developing provitamin A cassava varieties. She provides support in breeding and mainstreaming provitamin A cassava in breeding programs of over five African countries. She also supports delivery activities led by HarvestPlus Country Manager to over 750,000 households in Nigeria, and advocacy work on provitamin A cassava by providing foundation seeds and technical support to partners in Nigeria and DR Congo. She had been a Research Scientist and Cassava Breeder with Ghana’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Crops Research Institute (1992-2012), and holds a PhD in Plant Breeding from the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa (2011) and MPhil. in Crop Science from the University of Ghana, Legon (2001).

Folusho Olaniyan

Mrs. Folusho Olaniyan is the program Director for Agra innovate West Africa. She has been an active player in Nigeria’s fast moving food industry for nearly 30 years, starting her career as a Management Trainee with A.G. Leventis Nigeria Plc where she rose to the position of Head of Sales and Marketing. In 2007, she was appointed Managing Director / CEO of UTC Nigeria Plc, a post she held until 2012. In 2013, she set up Contact Consulting Nigeria Ltd, a research, business advisory, and marketing support service company that helps organizations gain in-depth understanding of food-related value chains. She has served as a strategy consultant on several agricultural research projects in Africa, including the Bill and Melinda Gates sponsored project CAVA, Dalberg-IDH 2015 market study on commercial opportunities in cassava production in Nigeria, the Market for Development in the Niger Delta (MADE) project funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and most recently at the World Economic Forum in 2016. Folusho is the Founder and Chairperson of Cassava Advancement Initiative. She holds a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Lagos, Nigeria, and a professional postgraduate Diploma in Marketing from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, Cookham, United Kingdom. She is a Cochran fellow of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Ismail Rabbi

Ismail Yusuf Rabbi is a geneticist based in IITA Ibadan, Nigeria. His main research involves the development and application of genomic resources for crop improvement. During his postdoctoral work at IITA, he helped develop the first SNP-based genetic map of cassava and participated in uncovering the genomic regions underlying resistance to cassava brown streak disease. Currently, Dr. Rabbi is applying the latest high-throughput genotyping technology and statistical methods to find genes in cassava that are associated with several critical traits, including disease resistance, high pro-vitamin A content, dry matter, and plant architecture. He is also part of a new cassava improvement initiative, dubbed, “Next Generation Cassava Breeding” that involves Cornell University, IITA, and Nigerian and Ugandan National Breeding Programs. Dr. Rabbi did his B.Sc. and M.Sc. in Biochemistry and Biotechnology at Kenyatta University. A DAAD scholar, Dr. Rabbi graduated (magna cum laude) from the University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, Germany with a doctorate in Agricultural Sciences.

Martin Fregene

Dr. Martin Fregene is the Senior Advisor to the President of the African Development Bank. He is a plant geneticist and molecular breeder with 20 years of experience in genetics and breeding of cassava. Dr. Fregene developed the first molecular genetic map of cassava and started the first cassava molecular breeding program to accelerate development of improved cassava varieties for various agro-ecologies of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. He began his career at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria, in 1991 as a cassava breeder. While at IITA, he was a recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation post-doctoral fellowship on genetic mapping (1993 – 1996) that took him to the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Cali, Colombia. After CIAT he joined the BioCassava Plus project at the Danforth Center, a multi-national development program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he rose to the position of Director of the project. Dr. Fregene received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, graduating at the top of his class. His Ph.D. in plant genetics and breeding, also from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, was in collaboration with IITA, the John Innes Center, Norwich UK, and CIAT.

Nate Schaffran

Nate oversees Root Capital’s lending operations in Latin America and Africa. He previously served as Root Capital’s Vice President for Africa from 2007-2012, launching their operations on the continent, opening regional offices, and building a $20M portfolio. Nate has previously worked in value chain sustainability at Cooperative Juan Francisco Paz Silva in Nicaragua, and at Fair Trade USA. He holds an MS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and a BA in Economics and Political Science from Swarthmore College.

Nneka Eze

Nneka Eze leads Dalberg’s work in Nigeria, where she is an Associate Partner and the Lagos Office Director. She has worked with private corporations, state governments, and foundations on strategic planning, market analysis, investment planning, and performance transformation. She has focused on a range of sectors including agriculture, education and youth employment, financial services, and inclusive growth, and is a co-leader of Dalberg’s Global Agriculture and Food Security practice area. Prior to joining Dalberg in 2009, Nneka was a consultant at McKinsey & Company in Washington, D.C. Nneka holds an AB in economics cum laude from Harvard University, is a native English speaker, and is proficient in French.

Peter Oladele Kolawole

Peter Oladele Kolawole is a SARD-SC Postharvest Specialist at IITA Ibadan, Nigeria. Before joining IITA, he worked at Sugar Cane Processing Factory at Savannah Sugar Company in Numan near Yola. He obtained his master’s degree in Managerial Psychology from the University of Ibadan, an M.Eng in Agricultural Engineering (Power, Processing and machinery) from FUTA in 2006 and a PhD in Crop Processing and Storage from the Federal University of Technology Akure, Ondo State.

Pieter Ernst

Pieter Ernst is the Portfolio Manager in Johannesburg for Endeavor, a global NGO that supports high-impact entrepreneurs in 25 countries around the world with access to capital, talent, new markets and mentorship. He is responsible for identifying high-impact entrepreneurs and taking them through the rigorous Endeavor Search & Selection Process, as well as offering a range of services to selected entrepreneurs that will accelerate their international growth. Pieter holds an MBA in Entrepreneurship and post-graduate certificate in Social Entrepreneurship from GIBS University, Johannesburg.

Richardson Okechukwu

Dr. Richardson Okechukwu is a Senior Scientist at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and currently the Project Coordinator of Cassava Transformation Agenda Project, funded by the Federal Government of Nigeria under its Agricultural Transformation Agenda. Under this platform, he is coordinating farmers at different scales cropping about 2000 ha of cassava in 30 states of Nigeria. With his expertise in plant pathology, agronomy, and biometrics, he has been part of most results from IITA Root and Tuber System since 1991. He is the frontline person at IITA that meets with potential cassava investors who seek for information and guidance on how to grow cassava, process it into a value added product, and estimate profitability. Dr Okechukwu holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Plant Pathology, from University of Ibadan, and a Bachelor of Agriculture in Crop Production from University of Nigeria Nsukka.

Robert Fabricant

Robert Fabricant is Co-Founder and Partner of Dalberg’s Design Impact Group (DIG), where he brings human-centered design and innovation services to clients looking for new, creative approaches to breakthrough innovation and expanded collaborations in the field of social impact and international development. Before Dalberg, Robert Fabricant was the Vice President of Creative for frog design where he managed frog’s global leadership across Design Research, Product Design, Software Design, and Experience Strategy. He also led frog’s efforts to grow and extend its creative capabilities into new markets and offerings. Robert writes about Design and Social Impact for publications like HBR, SSIR, Fast Company, Rotman Business Journal, MIT Tech Review, ChangeObserver, and Core77. He is a sought-after speaker on topics ranging from design to healthcare and mobility. Recent speaking engagements include Poptech, SXSW, IxDA, Mayo Transform, Harvard Business School, and others. He has won numerous design awards including 2009 & 2011 IDEA Gold and 2009 Index Award Finalist. Robert has an MPS in Design and Technology from NYU and a BA from Yale University.

Ryan Shelby

Ryan Shelby is a senior energy engineering advisor within USAID who works on the design, implementation, evaluation, and grid integration of decentralized energy projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and other emerging regions. Within the Office of Energy & Infrastructure, he worked as the Program Manager for the Powering Agriculture: An Energy Grand Challenge for Development (PAEGC) Initiative. He is a former MCC Science, Technology & Innovation Fellow and focused on the expansion of modern energy services in six Sub-Saharan African countries. He holds a PhD and MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California Berkeley and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University.

Sangu Delle

Sangu Delle is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Golden Palm Investments (GPI). Convinced that community needs can best be met through entrepreneurship, he founded GPI to fund promising startups that can have social impact and generate jobs. GPI has backed startups throughout the continent, such as Solo Mobile, mPharma, and Stawi Foods, building a portfolio of greenfield companies in healthcare, real estate, and financial services. Sangu has received several international accolades including being named Africa’s “Young Person of the Year” 2014, a 2014 TED Global Fellow, one of Forbes’ top 30 most promising entrepreneurs in Africa in 2015, and Euromoney’s “Africa’s Rising Stars” award. Sangu graduated from Harvard College with highest honors in African Studies and Economics.

Seth Silverman

Seth Silverman is the Africa Operations Director with FACTOR[e] Ventures, where he is responsible for building and deepening FACTOR[e]’s presence in sub-Saharan Africa. Previously, he managed Kenya operations for the One Acre Fund, a social enterprise that supplies smallholder farmers with the financing, inputs, and training they need to grow their own way out of hunger and poverty. Seth seeks tractable solutions to knotty problems and is passionate about innovative and scalable approaches to big challenges. In pursuing such opportunities, he has built leadership experience in climate change policy and as an international development practitioner and impact investor in energy access and agriculture development in East Africa, South Asia, and Central America. Seth has a J.D. from NYU School of Law, M.Sc. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Stanford University, and B.A. from Stanford University.

Shashi Buluswar

Shashi Buluswar is the CEO of the Institute for Transformative Technologies (ITT). ITT aims to bring to life breakthrough technological solutions for addressing global poverty and related social ills through advanced research, user-centric product engineering, innovative business models, and a global network of partnerships. Previously, Shashi led Dalberg’s Conflict, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Aid practice and directed the firm’s San Francisco office. Prior to joining Dalberg, Shashi was an Associate Partner at McKinsey & Company, a Senior Vice President at Zurich Financial Services, and a Visiting Professor at Northwestern University. He holds a PhD from the University of Massachusetts in Robotics, and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Soji Apampa

Soji Apampa is co-founder of the Integrity Organisation, a Nigeria-based institution that aims to empower people, their transactions, systems and institutions against corruption. At Integrity, he was one of the initiators of the Convention on Business Integrity (CBI), a project launched in Lagos to promote ethical business practices, transparency, and fair competition in both the private and the public sectors. Soji has over a decade of experience serving on global governance bodies including the UN Global Compact, Transparency International, the World Bank and the Aspen Institute. His working experience covers training, research, consulting and management in the private and public sectors and civil society. He is a shareholder and director at Prominent Securities Ltd, a stockbroking firm in Lagos, and also a consultant to the Governance and Institutions Policy Commission of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group.

Steven Sonka

Steve Sonka is Emeritus Chaired Professor of Agricultural Strategy at the University of Illinois and Senior Fellow at the Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets at the University of Maryland. At Illinois, he was the first faculty member to hold the Soybean Industry Chair in Agricultural Strategy. His administrative responsibilities included serving as the Vice Chancellor for Public Engagement as well as being the Founding Director of both the National Soybean Research Laboratory and the ADM Institute for the Preventions of Postharvest Loss.

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