Attention Food Entrepreneurs: School’s Back in Business

Food Tank | Posted: 09/29/2015

The fall semester is in full swing and many students are enrolled in courses focused on food and agriculture. They realize that the food system is at a crossroads. Nearly a billion people suffer from hunger while at least 2.1 billion people are overweight or obese; 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted each year; and women and youth farmers and food workers are often discriminated against.

But the movement to create a better food system has been growing and evolving. Food + Tech Connect recently reported that “over US$460 million of global investment {went} into the food tech and media space” this year. However, food often “attracts a lot of people who just want to go do it,” says Will Rosenzweig, Dean at The Food Business School (FBS). But it takes more than a good idea to create a successful food company; specialized training in business-related disciplines is a key component, too. That’s where FBS comes in.

FBS is the center for executive and graduate education of The Culinary Institute of America (CIA). Rosenzweig has worked with “industry experts to create specialized programs that enable and empower entrepreneurs to design, deliver, and lead transformative innovations that address the world’s most pressing food challenges—and its greatest business opportunities.”

After just six months in operation, FBS is already receiving rave reviews. The “professors have such a wealth of knowledge, and it was an amazing opportunity to have them share some of it with us. Every single conversation led to revelations about our business and where we need to take it. And the networking was incredible,” according to Allison Arevalo, co-owner of Homeroom, a mac and cheese restaurant in Oakland, CA.

FBS offers a range of courses at locations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, including five-week online courses, two-to-three-day innovation intensive​ workshops​, and longer 10-to-15-week venture​ acceleration​ programs. The Fall 2015 program include​s the online courses Ethical Leadership in Food Business and Food Venture Formation & Financing, the in-person Scale Up Your (Authentic) Food Business in Fort Mason, and the 15 week accelerator Food Venture Lab in San Francisco. Registration is now open for these courses.

Coursework is taught by some of the best and brightest in the food and business world, including Emilie Baltz, founder of the Food and Design Studio at Pratt Institute; Neil Grimmer, CEO and Co-founder of Plum Organics and Design Director at IDEO; Sarah Soule, a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business; Nikki Silvestri, former director of People’s Grocery; and Don Buder, partner at Davis Wright-Tremaine LLP.

Many other schools are also offering courses to help food entrepreneurs and innovators.

Boston University Metropolitan College Programs in Food and Wine “put you face-to-face with some of the most talented chefs, mixologists, wine experts, and food industry veterans from Boston and beyond,” offering a variety of seminars, professional certifications, and a graduate certificate in Food Studies.

Institute for the Development of the Food Chain and Agribusiness (IDECA) at Instituto Internacional San Telmo in Seville, Spain, offers degree programs, seminars, and in-company or custom-made programs covering all aspects of the food chain.

Food-X holds intensive three-and-a-half-month training programs “in all areas required for launching and running a business, as well as mentoring from a team of entrepreneurs who’ve done it all before.” Participants meet at the organization’s New York City offices.

Portland State University offers an Online Business of Artisan Food Certificate, which covers topics such as food business finance and accounting, production sales and distribution, and marketing strategies in its three- or four-week courses.

The Center for Food and Agribusiness Management (CFAM) at The Indian Institute of Management at Lucknow offers a two-year Postgraduate Program in Agricultural Management. Short-duration training programs that cover topics from business decisions and policy making to agribusiness and rural development are available as well.

The Food Innovation Center at Rutgers University provides quality educational courses for three sectors of the food industry: startup food entrepreneurs, established food companies, and farmers markets. Courses are offered online, and study material is available for four months after the date of purchase.

The New School in New York City offers several course options. The BA or BS in Food Studies focuses on the connections between food and the environment, politics, history, and culture. The post-master’s certificate in Sustainability Strategies prepares its students to be “be planners, directors, and consultants for environment-oriented nonprofits, emerging “green” industries, and planning and regulatory agencies” with courses such as Food, Global Trade, & Development and Political Ecologies of Food, Farming, & Capitalism.

The University of Gastronomic Sciences in Bra, Italy, born of the Slow Food values, takes a holistic approach to food studies. Students can choose from a three-year undergraduate degree, one- or two-year graduate degrees, and professional training courses.

What other food and business programs do you know of? We’d love to hear about them! Please share them with us at

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