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UC Davis MBA Industry Immersions: Teaming up on Novel Business Ideas

At the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management, the MBA program combines its deep business expertise, corporate partner network and UC Davis’ global research leadership to offer multidisciplinary Industry Immersions in key areas of biotechnology, food and agriculture, sustainable energy, technology finance and business analytics. UC Davis MBA student Laudan Yavari shares her first-hand experience teaming with classmates each week to present novel solutions to complex challenges posed by top executives.

At the Convergence of Business and Agriculture

UC Davis Food and Ag Immersion brings executives and researchers together with MBAs

By Laudan Yavari, second-year UC Davis MBA student

Ranked number one in the United States and second globally for agriculture, the University of California, Davis is leading the charge to develop solutions to feed the world—and improve food systems.

The UC Davis MBA Food and Ag Industry Immersion course at the Graduate School of Management converges these two areas of expertise—business and agriculture.

The School’s five Immersions are bringing executives, thought-leaders and faculty together with MBA students and graduate students from across the UC Davis campus, creating new networks and opportunities. In addition to Food and Ag, the Industry Immersions include: Sustainable Energy, Biotech, Business Analytics, and Technology Finance.

Top Executives Present Live Case Studies

From the CEO of an innovative crop biopesticides company to executives from one of largest beverage companies in the world, the Immersion stirred amazing conversations and lasting connections among the students and speakers.

Taking this class was the best decision I’ve made in business school so far. Discussing innovations in agriculture, I was hooked from the first session.

Each week we had the pleasure of meeting with executives from companies such as MarsCoca-ColaMcKinsey & CompanyH.M. CLAUSEOnce Upon a FarmMarrone Bio Innovations and Mattson. We learned valuable lessons from the cases they presented and through the stories and experiences they shared.

Yet one truth stood out. One of our speakers, UC Davis Assistant Professor Edward Spang, said, “There is no silver bullet.” The idea that there isn’t one answer to why our food system is breaking is both daunting and hopeful.

Like most of my classmates, my hope coming into this class was to better understand how I can create real changes in a system that is spiraling out of control. From food waste to resource constraints to environmental challenges, the agricultural industry on a global scale is facing major issues.

Coupled with an ever-growing world population and existing food distribution problems, the industry needs major change. The reality that there isn’t an already-conceptualized solution that we could feed into was disheartening at first. As the course progressed, a daunting task became an inspiring one. 


Innovating in the World’s Largest Industry

So many of the companies and individuals we learned from were passionate about developing innovative ways to add to the tide of change in the industry.

The Coca-Cola Company has a project called Renew, in which they promise that by 2020 they will “safely return to communities and nature an amount of water equal to what we use in our finished beverages.” In 2016, they reported a return of 133 percent of water used, and this number is continuing to grow.

Marrone Bio Innovations is a small, Davis, Calif.-based agrochemical company that creates bio-friendly, natural crop protection and enhancement products. These products are changing how growers think about pesticides and crop protection.

Assistant Professor Spang brought in a group of his doctoral candidates to introduce their experimental company, ReNew, which produces food for consumption from the pulp in organic juice waste.

These stories, among the many others we heard, not only inspired us individually during class but also led to conversations and connections outside of class and between graduate programs that could potentially be the spark of new solutions for the industry. I’ve been able to share my pre-MBA experience working as an associate marketing manager at Driscoll’s, the California-based family business that controls roughly a third of the six-billion-dollar U.S. berry market.

The Immersions has by far been my most rewarding learning experience, mainly due to three key aspects: real-life stories and challenges, honest and passionate speakers and the open-discussion format.

The food industry is likely the largest industry in the world and its needs and consumers are becoming more complex.

The true question is: As the field of the game changes, how will the players react? Through continued research and cross-knowledge sharing opportunities such as this Immersion class, UC Davis is at the cusp of creating lasting solutions for getting food to plates in a more sustainable, healthier and superior way.


Interested in pursuing an MBA or business master’s degree? Check out the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management website to learn more about their MBA Industry Immersions and other graduate business programs in accounting and business analytics. Set up a personal consultation now!

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