Ag Assembly brings together a series of exceptionally productive ag-market leaders who take the stage to talk about demands from the frontlines, translating ideas from vision to reality, and the future of AgTech investment. The event will also give AgSprint startup companies the opportunity to pitch their products/services and engage with their corporate and funding peers in a one-on-one format.

Who Should Attend

Executives / Media
Get an inside look at the up-and-coming trends and startups at the forefront of ag innovation
Meet the most promising new ag startups
Connect with investors, potential partners and customers. Plus, have the chance to give a 60-second pitch during the open mic section.






The Plan at a Glance


Registration opens at 10:30 am
Event runs from 11:00 am to 4:30 pm, followed by a reception
Lunch provided

10:30 AM


11:00 AM


  • Dr. Garrey Carruthers, Chancellor and President, New Mexico State University

11:15 AM


A Firestarter. The current and future focus for innovation in AgTech, its disrupters and wildcards.

  • Vonnie Estes, Independent Contractor 

12: 00 PM


60-second pitches. FoodTech and AgTech startups from the Southwest will be selected to give pitches in a rapid-fire format.

12:20 PM


1:20 PM


A chat with agriculturalists. An  “agricultural revolution” is brewing, but innovators are often short on real producers to validate the new technologies. What helps and what hinders producers’ adoption of new technologies?

  • Dr. Rolando Flores, Dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at New Mexico State University
  • Sam Cobb, Owner and President at RMS Foods Inc.
  • Marianne Schweers, Co-Owner at Heart of the Desert Pistachios & Wines and Eagle Ranch Pistachio Groves
  • Derek Romig, Southern Representative at Dairy Farmers of America
  • Sid Strebeck, Owner at Strebeck Cattle and Co-Owner at K-Bobs Steakhouse

2:05 PM


The truth about starting up. From the NM’s brightest AgTech innovators, find out what’s worked, what didn’t and key lessons learned attracting innovation capital and launching new technologies and systems.

  • Jeff Witte, Secretary of Agriculture at New Mexico Department of Agriculture
  • Richard Selinfreund, Serial Entrepreneur
  • Roger Holt, Founder at Inspection Masters
  • Justin Eisenach, Co-Founder at BayoTech

2:50 PM


Investor insights. Interest in AgTech has picked up dramatically in the last few years. In just the first half of 2015, investments in the sector totaled $2 billion. This makes investment in the emerging AgTech sector larger than the Fintech and Cleantech sectors.

  • Estela Hernandez, Managing Director, President and Chairman of the Arrowhead Innovation Fund
  • Lee Rand, Partner at Sun Mountain Capital
  • Cheryl Clements, Founder and CEO at PieShell
  • Christopher Burns, Senior Coordinator, Digital Development for Feed the Future at USAID
  • Dr. Lisa Benson, Director of Rural Development at the American Farm Bureau Federation
  • John Chavez, President at New Mexico Angels

3:35 PM


 7-minute demos from the stars of AgSprint. A unique opportunity to hear presentations from the AgSprint cohort, the Southwest’s most compelling early-stage startups in AgTech.

  • James Kaminsky, CDO at Revolution Agriculture
  • Kevin Branum, Founder at Enchanted Management Solutions
  • Deveraux Smith, Founder + CEO at  Ag Coalition
  • Wendy Lu McGill, Founder + CEO at Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch
  • Roch Hart, Founder + CEO at Wildlife Protection Management

4:30 PM


Sample some of the region’s best wines while enjoying tasty bites. Entrepreneurs are a sociable bunch; they enjoy interaction as well as transaction. This is a chance to meet like-minded individuals.







Cheryl Clements

Cheryl Clements

For Cheryl Clements, food is personal. It’s about connection. Growing up, in Smiths Falls, Ontario, Canada, Cheryl spent summers helping her mother run a pie business, with help from her Dad and brother they made close to 10,000 pies. Aptly named The Pie Shell, it was headquartered where all good startups begin; the family’s basement.

Cheryl had the opportunity to take on the tech world. She jumped at the change and for more than 18 years, she was an independent contractor, becoming a highly sought-after Senior Program/Project Manager; working with major corporations such as Hershey, General Mills, and Miller Beer and overseeing the implementation of SAP – the world’s largest enterprise resource planning software.

Cheryl brings the same effective project management and forward-thinking to PieShell so all “PieShellers,” both campaigners and supporters alike, can be sure that their experience on the site is engaging, seamless and meaningful. She understands the mix of hard work, commitment, and passions that drive every entrepreneur and looks forward to helping them realize their dreams. It was from her mother that Cheryl learned what it takes to build a successful food operation, but more than that, she learned how communities grow around the food that people share.

Estela Hernandez

Estela Hernandez

Estela Hernandez is the Managing Director, President and Chairman of the Arrowhead Innovation Fund. She has over 15 years of leadership and management experience working in the public health, interior design, and business sectors. Estela has a particular interest in seed- and early-stage companies. Estela launched a design strategy firm in Las Cruces, New Mexico in August 2012 where she works at the intersection of design thinking and business strategy, helping entrepreneurs and startups design innovative business models and compelling customer experiences using new frameworks and tools. Since 2013, she has served as an Enterprise Advisor at Arrowhead Center where she teaches design thinking innovation and advises clients of the Arrowhead Technology Incubator and Studio G student business accelerator, preparing them for the investment due diligence process. Hernandez is a Kauffman Fellow, a member of a distinctive world-wide network of expert innovation investors who provide smart, connected capital to fuel entrepreneurial change. Prior to earning an MBA in Design Strategy from the groundbreaking program at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, Estela earned a Bachelor of Community Health from NMSU and studied interior design with a concentration in healthcare facility design at The Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago.

Sam Cobb

Sam Cobb

Sam D. Cobb is the second-generation owner and president of RMS Foods Inc. (RMS). Sam joined the family business in 1976 the company had just nine employees. Since then RMS has grown into a full-fledged operation as the sole supplier of the famous Boca brand and a strategic partner of industry giant Kraft Heinz Company. Boca consists of soy and other vegetable protein based, meat-alternative products from veggie burgers to breakfast links. In recent years Boca’s success has taken off as consumers seek healthier, environmentally friendly options, and in turn so has RMS.

RMS was founded in 1959 by Sam’s father, S.G. Cobb as a meat processing company and home delivery service for food products. Sam grew up in the industry, working for his father throughout his youth. “I started working in the plant when I was about 10 or 12 years old,” he says. “I drove the delivery trucks when we operated on a door-to-door basis. I went on to college at Texas Tech University and studied animal and meat science where I learned more of the ins and outs of manufacturing. I came back to help my father and take over the business in 1976.”

Today RMS employs approximately 150 individuals, operating as the exclusive manufacturer of all things Boca for the Kraft Heinz Company. Kraft Heinz markets and controls the product’s licensing agreements. “We’re a standalone company,” explains Sam. “However, we have an exclusive manufacturing agreement with Kraft Heinz, which owns the Boca brand. We share ideas on product development, do in-plant tests of new products and contribute to Boca’s manufacturing strategies.”

Roger Holt

Roger Holt

Roger Holt earned a BS in Electrical/Computer Engineering from New Mexico State in 1987. He went on to work on a number of interesting engineering projects after graduation to include shooting laser beams at satellites in Hawaii as part of President Reagan’s Star Wars initiative.

Roger eventually landed at NASA as was involved with the Space Station, the first Mars Rover and believe it or not, analyzing golf ball dimples for Titleist.

In 1996, Roger’s father-in-law, who operated a Pecan cleaning plant in Tularosa, NM, contacted Roger with the need to minimize the labor in the Pecan plant that was needed to sort good nuts from bad. This labor was getting more expensive and harder to find.

Roger turned his guest bedroom into an electronics lab for a year, developing a prototype automation machine that would replace this labor. Seeing a perfect storm of rising labor costs and declining technology costs, in 1997, Roger quit NASA, moved to Tularosa, NM and started Inspection Masters.

Today Inspection Masters designs, builds and services automated sorting machinery for Pecans, Walnuts and Macadamia nuts in six countries around the world.

Christopher Burns

Christopher Burns

Christopher Burns is the Senior Coordinator, Digital Development for Feed the Future at USAID. In this capacity, he leads a nimble technical team within the U.S. Global Development Lab, working alongside the Bureau for Food Security, to integrate a suite of digital technologies into the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future Initiative. He previously served as Acting Director for the Digital Development team, as well as their Senior Advisor for Digital Inclusion, within the Lab. In these positions, he led a fast growing and multidisciplinary group focused on widespread adoption of mobile and digital technologies in the developing world through digital finance, real time data, affordable connectivity, digital literacy and locally relevant content. In his nearly eight years with USAID, he has spearheaded – and currently serves as technical lead for – a number of public-private partnerships including the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), the GSMA Connected Women Program and the Alliance for Affordable Internet.

Immediately prior to USAID, Christopher spent nearly ten years with the Peace Corps, as Program and Training Officer for Peace Corps/Niger, Country Desk Officer for Central Asia, and Agro-Forestry Advisor in Ghana. He has supervisory and management experience and technical background in mobile technology, natural resources management, agro-forestry, food security and solar power design/installation. All told, he has 20 years of international development experience, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, including 6.5 years living on the continent.

Mr. Burns has spoken and written publicly on a variety of topics related to digital technologies and development. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Development and Environmental Management from St. Lawrence University (Canton, New York) and a Master of Science in Development Management from American University (Washington, DC).

Twitter: @cmitchellburns


Dr. Lisa Benson

Dr. Lisa Benson

Director, Rural Development, American Farm Bureau Federation
Dr. Lisa Benson is the Director of Rural Development for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington, DC. Benson directs the Rural Entrepreneurship Initiative which helps rural entrepreneurs scale up agriculture and food enterprises. Benson leads the Rural Entrepreneurship Challenge, a national business competition that provides rural entrepreneurs with $145,000 in startup funds. She also leads the Agriculture Investment Summit which connects rural entrepreneurs with associates from venture capital funds and accelerator programs. In addition, Benson runs the Patriot Project, a mentorship program that connects military veteran beginning farmers with experienced farmers in their local communities.She earned a PhD in agricultural and Extension education from Virginia Tech, and worked for the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida for almost 10 years.
John Chavez

John Chavez

Mr. Chavez is the President of the New Mexico Angels. President since 2008, he has been an angel investor since 2003. Mr. Chavez is also the Managing Director of Phase One Ventures, a start-up fund out of  Santa Fe, NM and Managing Director of New Mexico Start-Up Factory I and II. Outside of the Angels, he is the President of Tafoya and Brainerd Partners LLC, a nationwide business development consulting firm. Prior to his work in consulting, Mr. Chavez was appointed Cabinet Secretary of the Taxation and Revenue Department by by New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson. During his six year tenure as Tax Secretary he also served as the President of the Federation of Taxation Administrators for one year.

Mr. Chavez received the following degrees from New Mexico State University: Master of Business Administration, Bachelor of Art in Economics and Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance.

Garrey Carruthers

Garrey Carruthers

Garrey Carruthers first set foot on the NMSU campus more than 50 years ago as a student interested in studying dairy production. Today, he is the first NMSU graduate to lead the university as president.

  • Raised in Aztec, N.M.
  • Earned his bachelor’s degree in agriculture and a master’s in agricultural economics from NMSU
  • Received a Ph.D. in economics from Iowa State University
  • Joined the NMSU faculty in 1968 in the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business
  • Served as a White House fellow assigned to the Secretary of Agriculture and as the assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior
  • Elected governor of New Mexico in 1987
  • Helped create Cimarron Health Plan in 1993 and served as president and CEO
  • Became dean of the NMSU College of Business in 2003, also serving as the university’s vice president for economic development and director of the Pete V. Domenici Institute
  • In 2013 he became the 27th president of New Mexico State University

He and his wife, Kathy, have been married for more than 54 years. They have three children and six grandchildren.

Rolando Flores

Rolando Flores

He received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the Universidad de Costa Rica in San José, Costa Rica; an M.S. in Agricultural Engineering from Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa; and a Ph.D. in Grain Science and Industry with a specialization in International Trade from Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. Since receiving his Ph.D. he has worked at four land-grand universities in the U.S and also at the Eastern Regional Research Center of the ARS-USDA in Wyndmoor, PA.

Prior to coming to New Mexico State University as Dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, he established new collaborative programs and student exchange programs between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and highly regarded institutions all over the world, including in India, China, Japan, and Latin America. He also worked at increasing the diversity of the student body, faculty, and staff.  As Department Head of Food Science and Technology and Director of the Food Processing Center at UNL, he worked closely with food industries and developed collaborative distance-learning with international centers, such as the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture, that reach students in several countries.  Dr. Flores was also instrumental in the development and establishment of the Food Innovation Center at University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Richard Selinfreund

Richard Selinfreund

Richard Selinfreund is a serial  entrepreneur. Richard currently serves an consultant for the Southwest Institute for Food Technology (SWIFT). Richards  first  company was Verification Technology, which was sold successfully to Sun Chemical in 2004 for 8 million. His second company Companion Diagnostics  Inc was not a success.  Currently, he is in a commercial partnership   to develop commercial agricultural processes and products in New Mexico.  In the past 12 months we have launched two commercially successful products, one in Pecan Processing and one in Red Chile processing.  Richard trained as a Research Scientist with the department of pharmacology of Yale University school of medicine. He served as a Director of Aquamatrix, Inc. (formerly Nesco Industries Inc.) from December 8 2004 to December 12, 2005.

Vonnie Estes

Vonnie Estes

Vonnie Estes is currently an independent business consultant. She was most recently Vice President of Business Development at Caribou Biosciences, leading the company’s partnerships and business development activities in agricultural and industrial biotechnology. Prior to joining Caribou Biosciences, Vonnie Estes served as Managing Director for GranBio, where she oversaw the company’s continued expansion and growth across North America and was responsible for identifying and licensing new technologies, overseeing large capital investments and raising brand awareness. Vonnie Estes is a Board Director of Microvi Biotechnologies, a member of the Iteris ClearAg Advisory Council, a member of the Advisory Board of Agile BioFoundry, and a member of Biomass R&D Technical Advisory Committee at the US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. She formerly served on BIO’s Industrial & Environmental Section Governing Board.

Lee Rand

Lee Rand

Lee joined Sun Mountain Capital in 2009 with experience starting and managing technology related businesses at both startups and large corporations as well as investing in companies and funds both in the US and abroad. Prior to joining Sun Mountain, Lee founded Knogee a semantic search company, ran business development for Intel’s consumer electronics group, launched and managed the product marketing and standards team for Intel’s blade based server initiatives and led product management at semiconductor start-up Netboost (acquired by Intel). Lee also has extensive business consulting experience having worked at Ernst and Young early in his career and as an independent consultant brought in by investors and the board to work with start-ups on strategy and operations. Lee has an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a dual BA in computer science and mathematics from Cornell University.

Lee is a Board Member of Sun Mountain portfolio companies Skorpios Technologies, TriLumina Corporation, Comet Solutions, BounceChat, JackRabbit Systems, KiwiLimon, iD90t, Underdog, Plenummedia, and WePow and is also actively involved supporting xF Technologies. Past investments include SinDelantal (acquired by HelloFood). Lee also serves on the Limited Partner Advisor Committee for a number of private equity funds and is a member of the Arrowhead Innovation Network Advisory Council at New Mexico State University’s Arrowhead Center.

Justin Eisenach

Justin Eisenach

Prior to co-founding BayoTech, Mr. Eisenach was a successful CEO of a number of agriculture and food-oriented companies including one of the nation’s first, virtually integrated, frozen bakery companies. As CEO of ERTH Solutions he, along with his partner, Mr. Dyer, successfully completed the sale of ERTH Solutions to Outlook Resources Inc., a Toronto-based fertilizer company. He is a graduate of Colorado State University and has an MBA from the University of North Dakota. Mr. Eisenach is an innovative business leader with direct P&L responsibility in numerous industries. He has over twenty years’ experience in building and revitalizing production and sales organizations. A Veteran of Desert Storm, he flew 40 combat missions. Most importantly he is the proud father of 3 children and one grandchild Bennett. He and his wife Robyn enjoy spending time in Albuquerque.

Jeff White

Jeff White

Jeff grew up on his family’s ranch on the Rowe Mesa between Moriarty and Las Vegas, N.M. He graduated from New Mexico State University (NMSU) with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural business management and a master’s degree in agricultural economics.

After college, Jeff worked for Farm Bureau as the field representative for the counties in northern New Mexico. He also represented the state’s farmers and ranchers in legislative discussions in Santa Fe. During this time, Jeff worked to bring farmer groups and rancher groups together. The Ag Group, as it’s loosely known, still gathers every year before the legislative session to set policy priorities that will benefit all of agriculture. When the session ends, the group puts on what’s known as Ag Fest to showcase to legislators and their staff the diversity of New Mexico agriculture. Jeff was instrumental in making this an annual event.

Jeff first came to the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA), located in Las Cruces, in 1994. He spent the next nine years as the assistant director alongside Secretary Frank DuBois. During that time, Jeff helped create the New Mexico Agricultural Leadership Program, a two-year program that aims to develop effective leaders within the state’s food, agriculture and natural resource sectors.

Jeff then went to work as the director for the Office of Agricultural Biosecurity for NMDA and NMSU. He later started up the Southwest Border Food Safety and Defense Center at NMSU. In both capacities, he worked with private industry and officials at all levels of government to develop plans that will protect New Mexico agriculture as part of a homeland security strategy. Jeff still heads up trainings on the subject from time to time.

The bulk of Jeff’s time as New Mexico’s secretary of agriculture is spent on the road, meeting with groups that represent farmers and ranchers across the state. Jeff also works to educate legislators about New Mexico agriculture.

Jeff and his wife Janet live in the southern New Mexico’s Mesilla Valley. Their son Jeremy graduated from NMSU with a degree in ag economics and ag business; their daughter, Jennifer, attends Mayfield High School. Both have been active in 4H and FFA, as well as showing animals at the fair, among their many other activities.



The Schweers family pioneered pistachios in New Mexico.  Beginning in 1974, their farm has expanded from 400 trees to 13,000. With the first pistachio crop in 1976, they have always sold directly to the consumer.  In 2002, a vineyard was planted which now contains 24,000 vines.  Marianne has been instrumental in developing the marketing of the crops.  They now have four, brick and mortar stores and an active online store.

Marianne has served on the Administrative Committee for Pistachios (national) representing New Mexico; testified before the International Trade Commission in support of continuing tariff on Iranian pistachios; is currently honorary commander of the 49th Maintenance Group, Holloman AFB; Alamogordo Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year, 2013; member of American Pistachio Growers; Trinity Lutheran Church, advisory board for Southern NM Outreach (Pregnancy Help Center), NM Wine Growers Association, and has served on various boards of community organizations over the years.

Derek Romig

Derek Romig

Derek Romig is passionate about agriculture.  His background in this industry is extensive and began with growing up and working on his family’s dairy farm.  Derek earned his bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Business and Agriculture Economics from New Mexico State University.  He chose this degree to stay connected to his passion with agriculture.   Upon graduation, he began working for DairyMax, a local Dairy Checkoff company that works to promote the industry.  This led to a positon with Dairy Farmers of America as a Field Representative.  Derek’s ultimate goal is to eventually own or operate a dairy farm, but through his current position he enjoys helping and staying connected to dairy farmers in New Mexico, and remaining current with this ever changing industry.

Sidney Strebeck

Sidney Strebeck

Strebeck Cattle was founded in 1946 by C.B. Strebeck.
Today Strebeck Cattle is owned and operated by C.B’s son, Sid Strebeck and two of Sid’s sons, Brent and Layne.
Strebeck Cattle runs 250-500 mother cows, 2,500-3,500 stocker calves and artificially inseminates 500-1000 Cows and heifers per year. The operation runs cattle and raises feed on approximately 35,000 acres of farm and grass land in Roosevelt, Curry, Quay, Harding and Union counties in Eastern New Mexico. Strebeck Cattle is continually improving the genetics of their operation to meet the demands and desires of the market.

Sid Strebeck is a partner with Ed Tinsley on K-Bobs Steak House in Clovis. Sid and Ed are working on various programs to provide source verified New Mexico beef in all of the New Mexico K-Bobs.

Open Mic

Ag Assembly invites FoodTech and AgTech startups from the Southwest to apply to pitch executives, investors, media, government, entrepreneurs, and other ecosystem contributors. We know entrepreneurs need to be judicious with their time. If you are going to pitch, pitch wisely and pitch to the right people. If you are developing something in the food and agriculture space, regardless of business maturely, presenting at this event will be time well spent. 

Up to ten startups will be selected to give 60-second pitches to describe their venture and what additional skills and help they are looking for from the food, agriculture, and entrepreneurial community. Registration fees will be waived for Open Mic presenters.

Space is limited and submissions must be received by July 19th at midnight.

Apply Now

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Contact Info

  • 575-646-7833
  • 3655 Research Drive. Genesis Center-C,
    New Mexico State University
    P.O. Box 30001
    Las Cruces, NM. 88003