About Us

Board of Directors

James Gaspard

James Gaspard is the CEO of Biochar Now LLC. His career in start-ups, mid-size and Fortune 1000 companies gives him a unique perspective on all aspects of a company's life-cycle from birth, through growth and harvest.

James Gaspard is the CEO of Biochar Now LLC. His career in start-ups, mid-size and Fortune 1000 companies gives him a unique perspective on all aspects of a company’s life-cycle from birth, through growth and harvest. He graduated from the University of Texas with a JD/MBA with honors. His career has been highlighted to date by his ability to close larger dollar volumes of transactions in several diverse industries.

Alma R. Gonzalez

Executive Director Alma Gonzalez is the President of LeadSmart, a firm dedicated to leadership and community development, helping non-profits, small businesses, employers, and employees build a prosperous future. Ms. Gonzalez received her JD degree cum laude from the Florida State College of Law.

Ms. Gonzalez served as founding President of the Hispanic Bar Association for the 2nd Judicial Circuit and is a member of the Florida Supreme Court’s Justice Teaching Project, and the Administrative Law, and Labor Law Sections of the Florida Bar.

Ms. Gonzalez has an extensive legislative background having worked on federal legislative issues for the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund in Washington D.C., the Florida Association of Counties, and AFSCME Florida. Her state legislative background includes serving as Legislative Director for the Florida Association of Counties, lobbyist for the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, and attorney for the Florida House of Representatives Majority and Democratic office, as well as a consultant to the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators.

Her work as the Executive Director for the Florida Battered Women’s Clemency Project earned her special recognition from the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, and she received the “Most Inspiring Speaker” Award from the Florida State College of Law in recognition for her 10-year contribution to the Annual Summer Law Program for Undergraduate Students.

Richard Hackney, Jr.

Richard Hackney is Board Chairman of MSI STEM Research & Development Consortium. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Morehouse College, Mr. Hackney received his MBA in Finance from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and his JD degree from the Boston College Law School.

Mr. Hackney has led organizations in biotechnology and investment sectors serving as CEO, President and Director for BRT Laboratories, Inc. & Baltimore Rh Typing Laboratory, Managing Member, Hackney & Company LLC, Senior Vice President and Portfolio Manager for U.S. Trust, Partner and Portfolio Manager for Alex Brown and Sons, and Senior Vice President and Portfolio Manager for JP Morgan. In addition, he has served board, trustee and membership roles in organizations including: Mayor of Baltimore’s Task Force on Solar Power,The Howard County Equal Business Opportunity Commission, The Maryland Institute of College Art, The Glenelg Country School, The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Foundation of Maryland, The College Savings Plans of Maryland, The Maryland Venture Capital Trust, Gamma Boule, Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, The Baltimore Guardsmen, and The National Association of Corporate Directors.

Frederick Hicks

Fredrick ‘Fred’ Hicks is the president of the Hicks Evaluation Group, a consulting firm that specializes in candidate and issue campaigns. Mr. Hicks frequently appears on national and international news broadcasts as a guest commentator.

In addition, Mr. Hicks serves as a Trustee of the Clayton State University Foundation and as Chair of the Clayton State College of Arts & Sciences Advisory Board. Prior to founding his firm, Mr. Hicks taught at Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University and worked with USAID’s Farmer to Farmer program to provide technical assistance to farmers and agricultural institutions in developing countries.

Anthony Johnson

Building upon his success as on-air meteorologist at WTVT, Tampa, FL, Mr. Johnson founded Johnson Forensic Meteorological Consulting. While at WTVT Mr. Johnson implemented and maintained a student internship program.

A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the Florida State University, Mr. Johnson furthered his studies with classes on weather computer analysis at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Certified as both a consulting and broadcast meteorologist, Mr. Johnson provides research and analysis for parties in weather related law cases and provided forecasting services for agriculture, utilities, shipping and pilots. He has authored peer reviewed theses and papers, numerous articles for the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and countless peer reviewed forensic meteorological reports and analyses of site-specific of severe weather conditions. He is a sought-after speaker on topics regarding severe weather preparedness.

Ken Miller

Ken Miller’s career includes more than 30 years of experience in business development, sales management, channel management and direct marketing. Mr. Miller served on the Board of Directors of Ad2 Tampa Bay and Hillsborough Area Rapid Transit (HART) where he led the government relations initiative, raising funds and lobbying the state legislature on behalf of the advertising industry.

Additionally, Mr. Miller used the expertise he developed during over two decades marketing and selling information technology products and services to help raise funds for two Tampa Bay Area charities, Back To Work and Miracles’ Network.

Advisory Board

Kendra Armstrong

Dr. Kendra Armstrong received her PhD from Iowa State University in Plant Breeding with minors in Statistics and Genetics. Dr. Armstrong has worked in the agriculture space for more than two decades and specializes in leading teams to develop advanced computational tools for breeders and growers.

A co-founder of Crop Convergence, Dr. Armstrong’s passion is to link science and business to support customers with the right decision tools for enterprise needs. Throughout her career, she has had the opportunity to work globally with several large food and agriculture companies, improving marketable yield, agronomics, and sustainability of many major row, fruit, and vegetable crops. In addition to her role at Crop Convergence, Dr. Armstrong is an instructor for UC Davis Plant Breeding Academy and a consultant with AbacusBio.

Guiping Hu

Dr. Guiping Hu received her MS and PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in Industrial Engineering. Dr. Hu has more than 15 years of experience of research and higher education in the engineering and agriculture sectors.

A co-founder of Crop Convergence, Dr. Hu focuses on the data-driven decision support system design and supply chain management areas. Dr. Hu is a faculty at Iowa State University, where her research has focused on operations research and data analytics with applications in bioinformatics, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy systems, and sustainable supply chain design. Dr. Hu’s research has been supported by NSF, USDA, DOE, and DOD with over $11M in funding. She received the Mid-Career Research Award and has been recognized as a Plant Sciences Institute Scholar Fellow at Iowa State University. She has published over 90 journal articles and over 45 conference proceedings.

Lizhi Wang

Dr. Lizhi Wang received his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in Industrial Engineering. Dr. Wang has more than 15 years of research experience at the intersection of operations research and plant sciences.

A co-founder of Crop Convergence, Dr. Wang’s goal is to make a positive impact to humanity by providing effective and implementable solutions to the most important problems in agriculture. His data analytics tools have been shown at characterizing genotype by environment interactions, predicting crop growth, and prescribing optimal management practices when integrated with domain knowledge in plant biology and physiology. Dr. Wang is also a professor at Iowa State University where he has received $40M+ research funding, published dozens of new algorithms for crop growth analysis and plant breeding, and won the Syngenta crop challenge, which was about using agriculture data to inform seed breeding research and development.


David Johnson

Managing Director David Johnson worked in communications at IP law firms including Litman Law Offices for two decades. He produced numerous slide shows on US patent law for audiences at foreign institutions; shepherded inventions through prototyping, and managed the 6,000 member Global Academic Innovation Network LinkedIn group.

After studying ceramic engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Mr. Johnson received a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and was an Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas. He held positions at newspapers; the National Geographic Society as Asst. V.P. and Director of World & Traveler Magazines; the White House as Director of Photographic Services; and the Defense Intelligence Agency publications division.

Mr. Johnson founded Computers 4 Students, a charity that provided home computers to students in Northern Virginia. He served as a director of the 2001 Arlington (VA) Bicentennial and the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization.