Our Team

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Ertharin Cousin

CEO & Founder

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Roberto Velarde

Managing Director, Financial Investments

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David Ockleshaw

Managing Director, Operations

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Shanoo Saran

Managing Director, Country Operations

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Janice Giddens

Nutrition Director

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Darshana Joshi

Rwanda Country Director

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Cedric Habiyaremye, PhD.

Rwanda Research Lead

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Sarah Franz

USA Country Director

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Ben Valk

Senior Investment Advisor

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Hamid Hamirani

Senior Investment Advisor

Nutrition Advisory Team

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Martin Bloem

Nutrition Advisor

Professor and Director, Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

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Laurette Dube

Nutrition Advisor

James McGill Chair and Professor of Consumer and Lifestyle Psychology and Marketing.

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Patrick Webb

Nutrition Advisor

Alexander McFarlane Professor of Nutrition at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

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Angela Odoms-Young

Nutrition Advisor

Associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition in the UIC College of Applied Health Sciences.

Our Board

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Ertharin Cousin

Founder, FSF

Formerly, ED of the World Food Programme, US Ambassador to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture. 30+ years of experience and relationships in national and international nonprofit, government, and corporate sectors.

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Joy Basu, J.D., MBA

Independent Consultant, Innovative Finance

Formerly, an architect of The Rise Fund and its founding Food and Ag lead.

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Ashby Monk, PhD.

Executive Director, Stanford Global Projects Center

Thought leader in institutional investing.

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Barry Adams, MBA

Founding and Managing partner, Prairie Crest Capital

Formerly, Principal at ColBridge Capital Management hedge fund and President at Grant Capital Partners.

Ertharin Cousin founded and today guides the Food Systems for the Future team as President and CEO. As a global nutrition and food systems thought leader and advocate Cousin also serves as a Distinguished Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a Visiting Scholar at the Stanford University, Center on Food Security and Environment. From 2012 until 2017, Cousin served as United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director. During her tenure, WFP operating in about 80 countries, with a budget averaging over five (5) billion dollars per year and a staff of 14,000 provided direct food assistance to more than 80 million people each year. With Cousin’s support the WFP team also identified, championed and implemented longer-term, more sustainable solutions for global food insecurity and malnutrition.

In 2009, Cousin was nominated and confirmed as the US Ambassador to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome. Prior to her global hunger work, Cousin helped lead the U.S. domestic fight to end hunger including service as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of America’s Second Harvest - now Feeding America. Cousin’s previous private sector experience includes working for Albertsons as the Senior Vice-President of Public Affairs.

Cousin is currently the nonexecutive board chair of Camelot North America, an advisory board member of the Angelena Fund, a member of the Bayer AG Supervisory Board, the Royal DSM Sustainability Board, the Heifer International Board and a trustee of Akaydemia2063.

Cousin is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago; the University of Georgia Law School and the University of Chicago Executive Management Program-Finance for Non-Financial Executives. She has been listed numerous times on the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women List, as the Fortune Most Powerful Woman in Food and Drink, on Time’s 100 Most Influential People list, and as one of the 500 Most Powerful People on the Planet by Foreign Policy magazine.

Roberto Velarde is a seasoned private equity investor with over 25 years of global private equity investment experience in a broad range of industries in Latin America, US, Europe and Asia. Roberto has proven experience building and managing private markets investment platforms as a senior leader in institutional, family office and impact investment firms. He has held senior management positions in several firms, including Klis Capital, Small Enterprise Assistance Funds, Franklin Templeton, Grupo Inder, North America Capital, J.P. Morgan Partners, and AIG Global Investment Group.

Roberto holds an MBA degree from Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, and a BA in Economics from Northwestern University.

Roberto brings to FSF:
• Extensive experience in private equity investments
• Experience in investment markets in Latin America, the United States, Europe and Asia
• Experience building and managing private markets investment platforms

David Ockleshaw is a successful CEO with 40+ years of experience in the food industry. Initially working in the UK and Australia, David came to the US in 1980. He founded the Bellwether Group, a consultancy concerned with change management. Clients include American Stores, Food Lion, Jewel Food Stores, Meijer, Pillsbury North America, Nestle USA and Au Bon Pain. Throughout his career, David has been President and CEO of various food companies during periods of change, typically divestitures, turnarounds or transition through bankruptcy including: The Richelieu Group, Hazelwood Farm Bakeries, Chiquita Processed Foods, and Border Foods. Recently David completed a two and a half year commitment to the World Food Programme, in Rome, and as Interim CEO for the Farm to Market Alliance, in Nairobi.

David graduated from St. Andrew’s University (Scotland), majoring in biochemistry.

David brings to FSF:
• Extensive food company operating experience focusing on growth
• Experience in acquisitions and divestments
• Development skills building strong teams

Shanoo Saran is an operations and partnerships strategist with 15 years experience in the food & agriculture and development sectors, having worked and lived across four continents. Formerly the co-founder and COO of the Farm to Market Alliance - recognized amongst Fast Company’s 2019 Most Innovative Companies in Africa, Shanoo has held senior positions in international development organizations and worked closely with the leadership of government, public and private sector. She has successfully built diverse teams across countries, setup and led new impact-focussed innovations, and advised organizations on sustainable market entry and business model design to deployment. Shanoo is currently focused on the confluence of / innovation across food & agriculture, technology and finance sectors to build responsible and inclusive businesses. She also serves on the advisory boards of two early stage tech startups as a founding member.

Shanoo holds a MBA in Social Entrepreneurship from Oxford University's Saïd Business School.

Shanoo brings to FSF:
• Operational and team building expertise ranging from early to growth stage startups to new portfolio development within large organizations
• Knowledge of food & ag supply chains, networks and opportunities presented by underserved communities in emerging markets
• Fundraising and partnership structuring experience

Janice Giddens is a Registered Dietitian who understands the role that agriculture plays in nourishing people, the planet and communities from her work on farms and with farmers across three continents. She has spent her career working at different entry points in the food system to make changes that support positive health outcomes for people in food insecure and vulnerable communities. Janice worked with refugee farmers to secure resources and started markets to improve livelihoods. Through community-based participatory research, she collaborated with stakeholders to develop programming that targeted smallholder farmers, pregnant women and children. As the nutrition program manager at a food bank, she designed and implemented its inaugural nutrition programming which included community-based programming and the rollout of a system that assessed nutritional adequacy of 70 million pounds of food annually.

Janice received a dual B.S. in Dietetics and Consumer Foods and a Certificate in International Agriculture from University of Georgia. She obtained her M.S. in Nutrition and completed her dietetic internship at Mississippi State University.

Darshana Joshi has over 15 years of experience in general management, strategic planning, product/market development and brand management in the consumer goods industry as well as impact led projects in agriculture, nutrition and financial inclusion across Europe, East Africa and Asia. Darshana worked as the Commercial Director of AIF Rwanda which is a unique private public impact driven company that manufactures high quality and nutritious complementary foods for the most vulnerable population in East Africa. Darshana’s previous work experience includes being the Internal Strategy Lead for Aryzta AG, Consumer Marketing Manager for Unilever in North and East Africa and Sony India.

Darshana holds an MBA from IMD Switzerland and an additional Master of Science in Management Studies from University of Mumbai.

Darshana brings to FSF:
• Working with and launching impact led sustainable business models
• Experience of strategic planning and execution including managing diverse cross functional teams
• On the ground sector insights and network of agricultural value chains in East Africa, specifically Rwanda

Cedric Habiyaremye is a crop scientist and agricultural entrepreneur with 10+ years of experience in international agricultural development focusing on research and development policy. He is currently a research associate at Washington State University, and a member of the United Nations Association. He also serves as the Vice-Chair of Building Bridges with Rwanda and a New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute. Previously, Cedric served as the youngest member of the Global Agriculture Task Force of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He also served as a fellow of US Borlaug in Global Food Security, the Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program, and the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development.

Cedric holds an MS and Ph.D. degrees in Agronomy and Crop Science from Washington State University, a BS in Agricultural Science with Honors in Irrigation and Drainage, and an Advanced Diploma in Soil and Water Management from the University of Rwanda. In 2018, Cedric was awarded the World Hunger Leadership Award for his major contributions to agricultural development and the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

Cedric brings to FSF:
• Extensive experience in agricultural research and development policy
• Deep understanding of African food system industry and culture
• Experience in strategic planning, execution, and advocacy

Sarah Franz is a seasoned project manager and outreach director with experience spanning multiple sectors. Most recently, Sarah has focused her work at the intersection of public health and public policy. Sarah spent two years as the Outreach Director for Healthcare in Senator Klobuchar’s state office. In this role, she focused on understanding institutional barriers to improving overall population health in Minnesota and translating this into legislative policy. In this role, Sarah worked extensively with state and federal agencies, advocacy organizations, corporations and directly with constituents. Prior to her time in public policy, Sarah worked as a project manager for multiple management consulting firms. She worked on numerous teams for companies in manufacturing and health insurance. Her work brought her to Europe on numerous occasions to assist in coordinating cross functional product testing efforts.

Sarah holds a MSc in International Development from the London School of Economics and a BA in Political Science from DePaul University.

Sarah brings to FSF:
• Public policy and legislative experience
• Stakeholder engagement and outreach
• Project management and public health experience

Ben Valk is Global Head Food and Agri Partnerships for Rabobank. Rabobank’s international mission is to be the globally leading Food and Agri bank. Based on his previous roles in domestic and international banking and development of the agricultural sector, Ben maintains high level networks from which partnerships, aiming at Food System Transformation, are derived. As an example, Rabobank launched the AGRI3 Fund, a US$ 1 billion initiative for forest conservation and sustainable agriculture. Ben managed the AGRI3 investor relations and realized the first 60% of investment in the Fund. Other recent initiatives concern the Food Action Alliance, participation in the road to the UN Food Systems Summit 2021 and COVID19 response. Before assuming this position, Ben was CFRO of the Farm to Market Alliance (2015 – 2018) and headed Rabobank’s Multilateral Development Banking team. From 2006 to 2011 he was Regional Manager for Rabo Development in Asia and South America and served earlier in various senior management functions in the domestic banking network of Rabobank.

Ben brings to FSF:
• Over 15 years of experience in food and agribusiness development in emerging markets
• An extensive international network in food and agribusiness and finance
• An entrepreneurial and pioneering spirit and passion for sustainable food systems

Hamid Hamirani, a FCCA is the Advisor to the Minister of Finance in Oman. He is also the:
• Board Finance Committee member for the largest Oil operator in Oman
• Chairman of the Baraka Seawater Facilities Company SAOC jointly owned by two of the largest independent power producers in Oman
• Director of the Musandam Power Company one of the Independent Power Producers in Oman

Hamid is recognized for his macroeconomic insights. He presents and contributes through his writing on several platforms including Institutional Investors Network which is part of Euro money with readership of over 4000 Institutional Investors in Europe. He recently co-authored a chapter on Sovereign Wealth Fund Investing in Innovation in the Global Innovation Index 2020 report.

Hamid brings to FSF:
• Executive Experience of Dairy and Poultry Business
• Independent Investment Committee Member of one the largest Sovereign Wealth Funds in Oman.

Ertharin Cousin founded and today guides the Food Systems for the Future team as President and CEO. As a global nutrition and food systems thought leader and advocate Cousin also serves as a Distinguished Fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and a Visiting Scholar at the Stanford University, Center on Food Security and Environment. From 2012 until 2017, Cousin served as United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director. During her tenure, WFP operating in about 80 countries, with a budget averaging over five (5) billion dollars per year and a staff of 14,000 provided direct food assistance to more than 80 million people each year. With Cousin’s support the WFP team also identified, championed and implemented longer-term, more sustainable solutions for global food insecurity and malnutrition.

In 2009, Cousin was nominated and confirmed as the US Ambassador to the UN Agencies for Food and Agriculture in Rome. Prior to her global hunger work, Cousin helped lead the U.S. domestic fight to end hunger including service as the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of America’s Second Harvest - now Feeding America. Cousin’s previous private sector experience includes working for Albertsons as the Senior Vice-President of Public Affairs.

Cousin is currently the nonexecutive board chair of Camelot North America, an advisory board member of the Angelena Fund, a member of the Bayer AG Supervisory Board, the Royal DSM Sustainability Board, the Heifer International Board and a trustee of Akaydemia2063.

Cousin is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago; the University of Georgia Law School and the University of Chicago Executive Management Program-Finance for Non-Financial Executives. She has been listed numerous times on the Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women List, as the Fortune Most Powerful Woman in Food and Drink, on Time’s 100 Most Influential People list, and as one of the 500 Most Powerful People on the Planet by Foreign Policy magazine.

Roberto Velarde is a seasoned private equity investor with over 25 years of global private equity investment experience in a broad range of industries in Latin America, US, Europe and Asia. Roberto has proven experience building and managing private markets investment platforms as a senior leader in institutional, family office and impact investment firms. He has held senior management positions in several firms, including Klis Capital, Small Enterprise Assistance Funds, Franklin Templeton, Grupo Inder, North America Capital, J.P. Morgan Partners, and AIG Global Investment Group.

Roberto holds an MBA degree from Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, and a BA in Economics from Northwestern University.

Roberto brings to FSF:
• Extensive experience in private equity investments
• Experience in investment markets in Latin America, the United States, Europe and Asia
• Experience building and managing private markets investment platforms

David Ockleshaw is a successful CEO with 40+ years of experience in the food industry. Initially working in the UK and Australia, David came to the US in 1980. He founded the Bellwether Group, a consultancy concerned with change management. Clients include American Stores, Food Lion, Jewel Food Stores, Meijer, Pillsbury North America, Nestle USA and Au Bon Pain. Throughout his career, David has been President and CEO of various food companies during periods of change, typically divestitures, turnarounds or transition through bankruptcy including: The Richelieu Group, Hazelwood Farm Bakeries, Chiquita Processed Foods, and Border Foods. Recently David completed a two and a half year commitment to the World Food Programme, in Rome, and as Interim CEO for the Farm to Market Alliance, in Nairobi.

David graduated from St. Andrew’s University (Scotland), majoring in biochemistry.

David brings to FSF:
• Extensive food company operating experience focusing on growth
• Experience in acquisitions and divestments
• Development skills building strong teams

Shanoo Saran is an operations and partnerships strategist with 15 years experience in the food & agriculture and development sectors, having worked and lived across four continents. Formerly the co-founder and COO of the Farm to Market Alliance - recognized amongst Fast Company’s 2019 Most Innovative Companies in Africa, Shanoo has held senior positions in international development organizations and worked closely with the leadership of government, public and private sector. She has successfully built diverse teams across countries, setup and led new impact-focussed innovations, and advised organizations on sustainable market entry and business model design to deployment. Shanoo is currently focused on the confluence of / innovation across food & agriculture, technology and finance sectors to build responsible and inclusive businesses. She also serves on the advisory boards of two early stage tech startups as a founding member.

Shanoo holds a MBA in Social Entrepreneurship from Oxford University's Saïd Business School.

Shanoo brings to FSF:
• Operational and team building expertise ranging from early to growth stage startups to new portfolio development within large organizations
• Knowledge of food & ag supply chains, networks and opportunities presented by underserved communities in emerging markets
• Fundraising and partnership structuring experience

Janice Giddens is a Registered Dietitian who understands the role that agriculture plays in nourishing people, the planet and communities from her work on farms and with farmers across three continents. She has spent her career working at different entry points in the food system to make changes that support positive health outcomes for people in food insecure and vulnerable communities. Janice worked with refugee farmers to secure resources and started markets to improve livelihoods. Through community-based participatory research, she collaborated with stakeholders to develop programming that targeted smallholder farmers, pregnant women and children. As the nutrition program manager at a food bank, she designed and implemented its inaugural nutrition programming which included community-based programming and the rollout of a system that assessed nutritional adequacy of 70 million pounds of food annually.

Janice received a dual B.S. in Dietetics and Consumer Foods and a Certificate in International Agriculture from University of Georgia. She obtained her M.S. in Nutrition and completed her dietetic internship at Mississippi State University.

Darshana Joshi has over 15 years of experience in general management, strategic planning, product/market development and brand management in the consumer goods industry as well as impact led projects in agriculture, nutrition and financial inclusion across Europe, East Africa and Asia. Darshana worked as the Commercial Director of AIF Rwanda which is a unique private public impact driven company that manufactures high quality and nutritious complementary foods for the most vulnerable population in East Africa. Darshana’s previous work experience includes being the Internal Strategy Lead for Aryzta AG, Consumer Marketing Manager for Unilever in North and East Africa and Sony India.

Darshana holds an MBA from IMD Switzerland and an additional Master of Science in Management Studies from University of Mumbai.

Darshana brings to FSF:
• Working with and launching impact led sustainable business models
• Experience of strategic planning and execution including managing diverse cross functional teams
• On the ground sector insights and network of agricultural value chains in East Africa, specifically Rwanda

Cedric Habiyaremye is a crop scientist and agricultural entrepreneur with 10+ years of experience in international agricultural development focusing on research and development policy. He is currently a research associate at Washington State University, and a member of the United Nations Association. He also serves as the Vice-Chair of Building Bridges with Rwanda and a New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute. Previously, Cedric served as the youngest member of the Global Agriculture Task Force of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. He also served as a fellow of US Borlaug in Global Food Security, the Borlaug Leadership Enhancement in Agriculture Program, and the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development.

Cedric holds an MS and Ph.D. degrees in Agronomy and Crop Science from Washington State University, a BS in Agricultural Science with Honors in Irrigation and Drainage, and an Advanced Diploma in Soil and Water Management from the University of Rwanda. In 2018, Cedric was awarded the World Hunger Leadership Award for his major contributions to agricultural development and the fight against hunger and malnutrition.

Cedric brings to FSF:
• Extensive experience in agricultural research and development policy
• Deep understanding of African food system industry and culture
• Experience in strategic planning, execution, and advocacy

Sarah Franz is a seasoned project manager and outreach director with experience spanning multiple sectors. Most recently, Sarah has focused her work at the intersection of public health and public policy. Sarah spent two years as the Outreach Director for Healthcare in Senator Klobuchar’s state office. In this role, she focused on understanding institutional barriers to improving overall population health in Minnesota and translating this into legislative policy. In this role, Sarah worked extensively with state and federal agencies, advocacy organizations, corporations and directly with constituents. Prior to her time in public policy, Sarah worked as a project manager for multiple management consulting firms. She worked on numerous teams for companies in manufacturing and health insurance. Her work brought her to Europe on numerous occasions to assist in coordinating cross functional product testing efforts.

Sarah holds a MSc in International Development from the London School of Economics and a BA in Political Science from DePaul University.

Sarah brings to FSF:
• Public policy and legislative experience
• Stakeholder engagement and outreach
• Project management and public health experience

Ben Valk is Global Head Food and Agri Partnerships for Rabobank. Rabobank’s international mission is to be the globally leading Food and Agri bank. Based on his previous roles in domestic and international banking and development of the agricultural sector, Ben maintains high level networks from which partnerships, aiming at Food System Transformation, are derived. As an example, Rabobank launched the AGRI3 Fund, a US$ 1 billion initiative for forest conservation and sustainable agriculture. Ben managed the AGRI3 investor relations and realized the first 60% of investment in the Fund. Other recent initiatives concern the Food Action Alliance, participation in the road to the UN Food Systems Summit 2021 and COVID19 response. Before assuming this position, Ben was CFRO of the Farm to Market Alliance (2015 – 2018) and headed Rabobank’s Multilateral Development Banking team. From 2006 to 2011 he was Regional Manager for Rabo Development in Asia and South America and served earlier in various senior management functions in the domestic banking network of Rabobank.

Ben brings to FSF:
• Over 15 years of experience in food and agribusiness development in emerging markets
• An extensive international network in food and agribusiness and finance
• An entrepreneurial and pioneering spirit and passion for sustainable food systems

Hamid Hamirani, a FCCA is the Advisor to the Minister of Finance in Oman. He is also the:
• Board Finance Committee member for the largest Oil operator in Oman
• Chairman of the Baraka Seawater Facilities Company SAOC jointly owned by two of the largest independent power producers in Oman
• Director of the Musandam Power Company one of the Independent Power Producers in Oman

Hamid is recognized for his macroeconomic insights. He presents and contributes through his writing on several platforms including Institutional Investors Network which is part of Euro money with readership of over 4000 Institutional Investors in Europe. He recently co-authored a chapter on Sovereign Wealth Fund Investing in Innovation in the Global Innovation Index 2020 report.

Hamid brings to FSF:
• Executive Experience of Dairy and Poultry Business
• Independent Investment Committee Member of one the largest Sovereign Wealth Funds in Oman.