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Board of Directors

Resource Innovation Institute

RII is recruiting board members with investment and research experience in controlled environment agriculture (CEA).
Please contact Executive Director Derek Smith to learn more.

American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy

Jennifer Thorne Amann

Jennifer Thorne Amann is the Buildings Program Director at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). Since joining ACEEE in 1997, she has authored dozens of publications and articles on buildings and equipment efficiency technologies, policies, and programs. Jennifer leads content development for ACEEE’s consumer-focused website,

Her current work focuses on maximizing energy savings from key buildings policies including building codes and appliance standards, scaling up retrofit activity in homes and commercial buildings with an emphasis on deep retrofits, expanding opportunities for energy savings in low-income and multifamily housing, and analyzing new opportunities for energy efficiency in the buildings sector. Jennifer brings to ACEEE several years’ experience in the environmental technology field and has experience in community organizing and education on a variety of environmental and consumer issues.

Jennifer serves on the Board of Directors of the Attachments Energy Rating Council and the Resource Innovation Institute. She is an NCQLP Lighting Certified Professional. Jennifer earned a Master of Environmental Studies from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from Trinity University.

Tress Capital

Jonathan Eisenberg

Jonathan has over 30 years of private equity experience in Asia and the US, with a focus on investments in ag-tech and big data analytics. He received an MBA from Columbia University and an undergraduate degree in Finance from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Jonathan is currently a Partner of Tress Capital and is a Board member of Grownetics, a next-generation aggregator of Controlled Environment Agriculture data, and a Board member of WasteTrakr, a software platform for tracking all forms of cannabis waste. Prior to joining Tress, Jonathan was a Partner of a California-based family office and managed investments in energy efficiency (battery state of health monitoring systems), aquaculture (170,000 sq ft of inland zero water discharge farms), and sustainability (water purification using biowaste).

Jonathan was also previously a Managing Director and Investment Committee Member of Citicorp Capital Asia Pacific Region, a $350M growth equity fund based in Hong Kong. On behalf of Citigroup, Jonathan was a Board member of 3 listed and 2 private companies including WebPattern, a Korean company which in 2000, was one of the first to track consumer Internet usage behavior. Early in Jonathan’s career, as part of the Kyoto Protocol carbon credit program, he worked with a large Brazilian ethanol producer to introduce Sorghum into China as a source of biofuel.

Vice President of Innovation International Fresh Produce Association

Vonnie Estes

Vonnie has dedicated her career to bridging technology and agriculture, drawing on her leadership experience at major firms like DuPont, Monsanto, and Syngenta. Currently serving as the VP of Innovation at the International Fresh Produce Association, she focuses on integrating technology into the produce industry's supply chain to address crucial needs.
Vonnie hosts the podcast "Fresh Takes on Tech," exploring practical solutions to industry challenges. She also leads the Fresh Field Catalyst Accelerator, introducing new technologies to the field. As the chair of the CEA Council, she plays a key role in fostering collaboration on industry issues. Vonnie received the Rosalind Franklin Award for Leadership in Industrial Biotechnology, recognizing her contributions.

Vonnie also shares her insights through speaking engagements and publications. She actively contributes to company, advisory, and government boards, emphasizing her commitment to advancing technology in agriculture.

Vice President External Affairs & Foundation President at The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company

Brian Herrington

bio - coming soon

"CEA is a new and dynamic sector full of potential. It needs to be studied and supported, and that’s why the work of RII is so critical. Ultimately, we need data, standards, and leadership recognition systems to drive good policy and smart public-private partnership to solve the energy and water challenges we face."

Executive Vice President | ARCO/Murray

Patrick Hidder

Patrick joined ARCO/Murray in 2010 and has provided operational leadership since 2015, when he helped start ARCO's Dallas office. He has been integral in building teams within new niches, providing successful management and leadership for over 200 projects across ARCO's major verticals, including tenant improvements, heavy processing, entertainment, industrial, self-storage, and controlled environment agriculture. In addition to his executive oversight, Patrick provides coaching and mentorship to high-performing project managers, focused on helping them grow into the next generation of ARCO leaders.

Over the course of Patrick's career, he has overseen over $660 million worth of projects and was promoted to Vice President in 2021 in which he brought in over $100 million in revenue within the first year for the CEA start-up group. During his leadership, his team has completed $600 million worth of projects. He helped establish ARCO's Dallas offices Self Storage group comprising 75% of the office's revenue and was one of the first three project managers to build the $200+ million TopGolf account. He is dedicated to building and growing the team and expanding sustainable ideas to further the growth of the business. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family.

Director of Strategic Development, North America | KUBO Greenhouse Projects

Andrew Horowitz

Andrew Horowitz is the North American Director of Strategic Development for KUBO Greenhouse Projects, a Netherlands-based industry leader in the design and construction of high-technology greenhouses. With a Chemical Engineering degree from Northeastern University, Andrew brings experience to the RII board in the design, construction, and validation of highly technical projects in both the Life Sciences and CEA industries.

Before KUBO Andrew worked as a Project Manager & Engineer at Little Leaf Farms, and as a Process Engineering consultant at the Barry-Wehmiller Design Group. Through his experience on both the operator and supplier sides of the CEA industry in both the United States & the Netherlands, Andrew can help the board in identifying and forging the strategic relationships across the industry needed to shape the industry’s future.

Professor in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, and Director of the Ohio Controlled Environment Agriculture Center at Ohio State University

Dr. Chieri Kubota

Dr. Chieri Kubota is a professor in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science, and Director of the Ohio Controlled Environment Agriculture Center at Ohio State University. A Fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS), Dr. Kubota joined the faculty at the Ohio State University in 2017. She received her Ph.D. in Horticultural Engineering and M.S. in Horticultural Science from Chiba University, Japan and worked as faculty for 6 years in Chiba University, as well as 16 years in the School of Plant Sciences at University of Arizona. In research, Dr. Kubota has worked on issues in CEA crop production such as lighting technologies, water and nutrient management, and introducing new crops for CEA. Dr. Kubota is very active in training professionals through online courses, hands-on training, and consultations.

"I am looking forward to working with my fellow board members as RII expands its roster of efficiency programs and services for the growing CEA industry," Dr. Kubota said. "There continues to be a tremendous need for knowledge and information by CEA producers and the design and construction sector that support them. RII is providing a critical role that is complementary to the academic sector."

Senior Vice President with Forbes-Tate Partners

Shanita Penny

Shanita Penny is an internationally recognized strategy and management consultant with 20 years of experience helping Fortune 1000 companies and startups solve complex issues and improve business performance. Penny is currently a Senior Vice President with Forbes-Tate Partners, where she helps agricultural clients connect with federal resources, build brand awareness, and plan for the future. She earned a BS in transportation and logistics management from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and an MBA from the University of Baltimore and Towson University.

"I am honored to be on this board and working with the RII team," Penny said. "It is exciting to help shape the workforce development potential for modern agriculture. This is important work and an incredible opportunity to ensure equitable outcomes as the industry scales. I am grateful to be a part of it."

Director of Research Director of Research, Equilibrium Capital

Kimberley Player

bio - coming soon

"CEA facilities are a new asset class of buildings that are key to humanity’s food-secure future. As impact investors, we need benchmarks to assess sustainability performance, and we value RII’s role in working with producers to standardize and aggregate information that explains the resource efficiency advantages of CEA within the agricultural ecosystem."

Director of Conservation and Innovation at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture

Mike Roth

Mike Roth serves as the Director of Conservation and Innovation at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. A Pittsburgh native, Roth acquired his BA in Environmental Studies from Washington and Jefferson College and a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh. Roth started at the Department of Agriculture in 2019 as a William Penn Fellow where his work focused on climate change, industrial hemp and food security.

"Pennsylvania is a leader in CEA, which helps supply the state’s need for fresh, local produce while diversifying our agriculture industry," Roth said. "I have been gratified to work with Pennsylvania’s CEA community and I look forward to working with RII to help further the important work of building a stronger CEA industry."

Executive Director

Derek Smith

Derek Smith has been a leader in triple bottom line ventures in the public, private and nonprofit sectors for 15 years. Most recently, he founded and led Clean Energy Works, a nationally-recognized nonprofit organization that facilitates residential energy efficiency upgrades throughout Oregon and Washington. He has directed energy programs for the City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability and also created an award-winning sustainability program for a national retailer who was part of bringing to market certification standards such as Forest Stewardship Council and Marine Stewardship Council.
Strategic Business Developer at Priva

Dr. Jan Westra

Dr. Jan Westra is a strategic business developer at Priva, which develops leading-edge technologies, services and knowledge for climate control and process automation in buildings and horticulture. He graduated M.Sc. at the TU Delft in 1985, Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Department of Refrigeration and Indoor Climate Control (HVAC) and subsequently conducted PhD research at the same department, culminating in a thesis in 1990 on the topic: Development of an Advanced Absorption Heat Transformer. Following his departure from TU Delft, Dr. Westra worked for more than five years at an HVAC consultancy firm in Rotterdam. He joined the Priva company in 1996.

"In many respects, the future of agriculture is CEA," Dr. Westra said. "By providing the resources and knowledge to help CEA producers optimize their facilities, RII is helping to shape and secure that future. It is a privilege to work alongside their team to assist in those efforts."