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 pastureraised
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.