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Wrigley's former innovation officer to keynote Ag Springboard awards finale

Posted: April 1, 2016

Tawfik Sharkasi invests and advises food and environmental startups
Tawfik Sharkasi advises and invests in food and eco-startup companies

Tawfik Sharkasi advises and invests in food and eco-startup companies

A former innovation officer at Wrigley who now advises and invests in startup companies will tell his story and share his keys to success as the keynote speaker for the Ag Springboard Awards Banquet on April 14.

For a decade, Tawfik Sharkasi led innovation for the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, a subsidiary of Mars, first in the United States then in China from 2011-2014 as VP of Innovation for the company’s Asia-Pacific operations. Prior to 2004, Sharkasi — who earned a doctorate in food science from Penn State in 1984 — worked on research and development at Pepsi, Kraft and Nestle.

Ag Springboard, a student business pitch contest in the agricultural sciences, is the signature event of the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. Winners of a $7,500 grand prize and $2,500 second prize will be announced at the evening awards banquet, at the Nittany Lion Inn.

Career Phase Two: Helping Others

Sharkasi retired in 2014, marking a strategic shift in his life goals. “In my first phase, I describe it as I had to make a living. We had two kids and wanted to ensure they had a good education and a good start in life. My wife and I are proud: Both kids have master’s degrees from good universities and good jobs. Now, we have energy. We have capacity and resources and we can help others achieve their dreams.”

Sharkasi is a partner and investor in Monday-Swiss, a company operating in Switzerland, Germany and the U.K. that produces Veggie-Day, a line of frozen vegetable-based meat substitutes. He advises the company on food ingredients, processing and regulatory issues.

Sharkasi is an investor in Enginuity, LLC, a startup environmentally conscious manufacturing company located in Mansfield, Missouri, that practices the “triple bottom line” of people, planet and profits. It produces Rain Reserve, a patented system of harvesting and storing rain water that collects water from a home’s roof gutter and stores it in easy-to-stack “Build-a-Barrel” cubes. The systems are sold in the U.S. market at Menard’s, Ace Hardware and online through Amazon.

He is also a partner in Spun (pronounced “spoon”) a startup built upon a spoon and fork that calculate the calories, protein, fat and carbohydrate content of every bite of food. One patent has been issued and three more are pending.

One key to success: Art

Sharkasi will share his keys to success during his Ag Springboard keynote talk. He is also a passionate visual artist who creates intricate images using the PowerPoint program.

“Art is what makes you a better scientist,” he says. “I believe as an artist the word impossible doesn’t exist in my vocabulary. I understand hard, difficult and that something takes time and takes a lot of resources, but I don’t believe impossible exists.”

Sharkasi earned a doctorate degree in food science at Penn State in 1984. He has served on several advisory boards, including Penn State’s Department of Food Science and holds nine U.S. patents. He has served as the Executive in Residence at the University of Illinois Urbana Champagne, advising the university chancellor on how to best work with corporations.

In 2009, Sharkasi received the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences’ Outstanding Alumni Award and was inducted into the college’s Armsby Honor Society in 2010. In 2011 he was awarded the University’s prestigious Alumni Fellow, a lifetime achievement award.

Sharkasi and his wife, Magda Fehema-Sharkasi, a life coach, live in Springfield, Missouri.

About E&I

The Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences helps researchers and students grow their ideas into new enterprises that can create jobs, make money, provide economic opportunities — and better manage natural resources. Learn all or part of the E&I story.