Recently, Tyson Ventures hosted our first Demo Day, where startups and innovators from all over the world were invited to pitch their breakthrough, sustainable ideas and help us transform the way the world eats. While the panel included several of our Executive Leadership Team (ELT), team members from across the enterprise were also invited to apply to become a Ventures Innovation Partner (VIP). These 16 VIPs, alongside our ELT, helped choose six exciting startups – from dexterous robotic hands to a reinvented trucking system to animal welfare – to move forward with conversations toward potential partnerships.

Read on as VIPs reflect on the experience and what Demo Day means for the future of food.

Andrea McGovern Galo, commerce marketing director:

As a relatively new employee, I was honored to be selected to participate in Tyson Ventures’ Demo Day. For the first time ever, Tyson Ventures invited a broad cross-functional panel of Tyson team members to participate in the selection of start-ups for the next round of Tyson Ventures investment. We were a diverse group of team members, ranging in tenure from seven months to over 16 years, and experienced in areas like brand, marketing, sales, formulations, research and development, government affairs, packaging, demand planning, construction engineering, and food safety and quality assurance. But despite these differences, we were singularly focused on one goal: finding the most innovative solutions in sustainability. The weeks leading up to Demo Day were filled with extensive research and rigorous debate as we worked to fill the Demo Day roster. On Demo Day, we were joined by a dedicated team of Tyson executives who shared their passion for sustainable solutions: Donnie King, President & CEO; Amy Tu, Executive Vice President, Chief Legal Officer & Secretary, Global Governance & Corporate Affairs; Stewart Glendinning, Executive Vice President & Chief Financial Officer; and John R. Tyson, Executive Vice President, Strategy & Chief Sustainability Officer.

We were collectively blown away by the participating startups: their passion, strategic vision, and brave solutions. Nothing about sustainability is easy. The problems are dire and complex, and the solutions are expensive and equally complex. But from what I saw both from the startups and from Tyson, I now have more hope that together, we can solve these problems and work to feed the world, sustainably.

Ricky Wozniak, senior associate brand manager:

Demo Day was an incredible opportunity to contribute toward Tyson Foods’s sustainability and innovation priorities in collaboration with my fellow Ventures Innovation Partners whose experiences spanned Tyson’s functions and geographies. The future of food depends on new ideas and the startup founders we spoke with brought passion, scientific rigor, and unique solutions in droves. I have no doubt that the connections built with these startups on Demo Day will have a positive impact on Tyson Foods, and the food system we’re a part of, for years to come.

Braden Bateman, senior demand planner:

My experience as a VIP for Tyson’s first Demo Day was a tremendous learning experience. The caliber of startups we heard from blew me away. Following this process, I am reassured that there are plenty of bright-minded entrepreneurs developing technologies and ideas to aid in the pursuit of a sustainable future for food and agriculture.

Curtis Dunigan, food safety and quality assurance manager:

Being a part of Tyson Ventures Demo Day was truly an amazing experience! I am proud to have been selected to this cause, which aims to drive the sustainability and automation ingenuity of Tyson’s future growth. I feel incredibly honored to be one of the VIPs of this event who was asked to assess and select ventures to further pursue Tyson’s goals. Tyson is one of the largest food production companies in the world and I believe that more projects like Demo Day will put enhance our position as the forerunner of our industry.

Cara Ritenour, sales account manager:

To date, Demo Day has been the most enriching experience for me, both professionally and personally. The collaboration shared within the room(s) between the Demo Day VIP’s and the members of the ELT was inspiring. Each person brought their own vision and experiences to the table. The level of talent within our organization is unmatched – except by the level of passion that we share for sustainability, the future of food and the future of Tyson.

The exposure to other paths and opportunities that exist within our sustainability/ventures side of the business in the is one of the most important takeaways for me as well. It was an honor to meet members of the Ventures team as well as our corporate decision makers. 

If it’s even possible, I am even prouder to be a member of this team today than I was prior to this event, and I look forward to participating in similar events surrounding sustainability in the future. A big thank you again to the Ventures Team and our ELT for making this happen in such a memorable way.

Veronica Tapia Banuelos, senior distributions administrator:

It was an honor to be a part of Tyson’s first ever Demo Day. I did not realize all the knowledge I’ve acquired over the last five years from a plant setting would benefit me in this experience. It is incredible how aware Tyson Foods is of their impact on the environment and admirable that they want to make a difference to improve it. Listening to these up-and-coming innovators present their ideas made me excited for what the future looks like in sustainability and happy to be a part of a company who is actively seeking to collaborate and create a more sustainable tomorrow. I was impressed with the collection of people selected; there is strength in unity and bringing people from all areas have the company allowed for different perspectives and ideas.

Ryan Toomer, director of sales:

Tyson Demo Day was not solely oriented toward investments for this spectacular list of startups; it was also an opportunity for the ELT to make an investment in our team members! Experiencing Tyson Demo Day was special – having access to these types of experiences differentiates Tyson Foods from other employers. 

We were very fortunate to have the ELT participate right alongside us – the networking, the learning, and the shared purpose perfectly exemplify what I think Donnie King means when he talks about capturing the hearts of our team members. I’m so happy and honored that the Tyson leadership team understands the value of investing in our team members!

Dan Turton, senior vice president, Global Government Affairs:

Tyson’s Demo Day was a phenomenal opportunity to be exposed to creative, game-changing initiatives that covered a variety of challenges and improvements to today’s status quo. It was amazing to hear from these cutting-edge innovators about what is possible and where we could go – and not just as Tyson but as a community, as an industry leader, as care takers of our planet, as a society. The energy, excitement, and commitment the startups exuded while presenting their ideas was invigorating and contagious. We all walked away thinking, wow, we all could do more! Each presentation was unique as were the presenters, and there was a common thread of excitement and motivation to find a better way driving these innovators. Some of these ideas will change our industry, or maybe even the world. I left Demo Day thinking that we would all be better served by dedicating some time thinking outside our professional and social boxes about how we can make something better. 

Lori Ruff, formulations director:

As a global leader in food production, Tyson’s influence is strong, and its actions can have a lasting impact. As that leader, we have a global responsibility to not only provide affordable and nutritious proteins to today’s population, but to ensure we are creating a sustainable food source for future generations. We must proactively manage key environmental impacts, like climate change, pollution, and deforestation, as well as ensure the health and safety of our workers and the animals entrusted in our care. As a huge animal lover and nature enthusiast, it’s very important for me to be a part of a company that is constantly looking for ways to minimize our impact on the environment and to improve the quality of life for the animals that nourish us. Being a part of Demo Day and listening to the startups was inspiring. The creative and innovative ideas presented gives me hope for a more sustainable future and ensures that this planet will continue to thrive for generations to come. Having support from our ELT members and having open dialogue with them during the event ensures that we are all aligned with the same focus – to raise the world’s expectations for how much good food can do.

Thanks to all our VIPs for helping us move food forward.

Arada Phumisingharaj, deputy director corporate development – Thailand

Andrea McGovern Galo, commerce marketing director

Braden Bateman, senior demand planner

Brady Welu, senior manager engineering

Cain Cavitt, scientist

Dan Turton, senior vice president, Global Government Affairs

Dustin Aherin, strategy director

Kent Bearson, senior director research & development

Lori Ruff, formulations director

Ricky Wozniak, senior associate brand manager

Ryan Toomer, director of sales

Scott Pavel, senior director applications

Veronica Tapia Banuelos, senior distributions administrator

Curtis Dunigan, food safety and quality assurance manager

Nick Andresen, production planning manager Cara Ritenour, sales account manager