Joan Salwen

For two full decades as a Managing Director at Accenture, Joan Salwen led multi-year projects for global leaders in the banking industry, including mergers and new product launches. Through this work, Joan developed a skillset that enables her to manage complex landscapes of change and help others think clearly about problems and opportunities. She is now applying that skillset to the creation of networks that test, operationalize and scale bold agricultural innovations that reduce climate pollutants.

Joan grew up in Iowa in the long shadow of her family’s 100-acre farm. Grandpa King produced pasture- raised cattle, soybeans and hardworking offspring. As a girl, Joan spent days walking bean fields, weeding by hand. She harvested cherries and processed and preserved fresh-picked sweetcorn.

In her forties, at the height of her Accenture career, Joan joined forces with The Hunger Project as a donor and volunteer.  The Hunger Project mobilizes smallholder subsistence farmers who develop shared vision statements and execute on community priorities.  Joan has traveled parts of four summers to Ghana to  support the work and celebrate achievements in rural village communities.  She leads a Women’s Initiative  and serves as the co-chair of the U. S. Development Committee of the global board of directors.  She is also a National Trustee of the Boys & Girls Clubs and a trustee of Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

At 50, Joan established a downtown Atlanta farm featuring rooftop pepper beds and an 11-occupant henhouse. Her hot pepper jelly has appeared on the menu of one of Atlanta’s hottest restaurants and has been served to Bill and Melinda Gates and Ted Turner. Joan also helped found Atlanta Girls’ School, a nimble startup that inspires girls to lead lives of purpose. Joan served as Head of School until 2014.

For more than a year, as a Distinguished Careers Institute Fellow at Stanford, Joan has immersed herself in coursework and independent research on agriculture, algaculture and climate.  She has studied with Roz Naylor, Director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment, and is coached by Pam Matson, Dean of the School of Earth.  She also has collaborated with Stanford’s design school on food-related projects.  Off campus, she has met with dozens of scientists, farmers and seaweed croppers such as TomKat Ranch, Straus Family Creamery and Kelpco, and she spent a day on a boat at a kelp farm on Long Island Sound with Bren Smith, winner of the 2015 Buckminster Fuller Prize for Innovation.

Now Joan is leading Elm Innovations.  Elm Innovations is a platform for exploring the potential of the seaweed-livestock connection.  Elm’s first major effort, the Red Seaweed Project, aims to produce seaweed for cows for a cooler Earth.  A cooler Earth is one in which less greenhouse gas is emitted, but also one in which cows obtain nutrients from whole foods that filter the ocean and take up CO2 but require no fresh water, arable land or added nutrients to grow.   To Elm Innovations, Joan brings strategy experience, a project management track record, financial skills and a leadership profile necessary to anticipate issues and proactively position the venture for success as its progresses.

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Joan Salwen

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