Who We Are

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Joan Salwen

Joan is the CEO of Blue Ocean Barns, responsible for corporate and business development and government relations. She grew up in rural Iowa in the long shadow of her family’s 100-acre farm where she harvested cherries, preserved fresh sweet corn and walked her Grandpa King’s bean fields, weeding by hand. 

During 20 years as a Managing Director at Accenture, Joan managed $50M+ client relationships and led the firm's Atlanta practice for organization and change strategy. In 2003, she helped found Atlanta Girls’ School, where she served as a teacher and Head of School. In 2015, Joan transitioned to Stanford, where she built a team that energized university, market and government interest in a particular red seaweed as a solution to climate change. She founded Elm Innovations, a non-profit platform for exploring the potential of the seaweed-livestock connection and ultimately co-founded the commercial engine for it, Blue Ocean Barns. She is a graduate of Northwestern University and holds a BA and an MA.


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Mike Bracco

As our CFO Mike manages the strategic, operations and administration activities at Blue Ocean Barns and brings to this role more than 30 years of experience as a strategy consultant, private equity investor and hands-on business leader. An alum of Bain & Company and Bain Capital, Mike has held management positions across the industries of technology, health care and finance, where he recently served as Chief Administrative Officer of Bank of the West.

Mike holds a BS in computer science from Rensselaer, an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School and in the spirit of constant learning was the first student to earn Stanford’s professional certificate in Genetics and Genomics. When not helping cows become better environmental citizens, Mike helps Stanford’s Knight-Hennessy Scholars team with their admissions process as they search for the next generation of global-scale problem solvers.




Matt Rothe

Matt leads customer-focused design and sales at Blue Ocean Barns. Raised on a conventional corn farm in Colorado, Matt has worked all across the food system, including as a picker at a beef slaughter plant, a dishwasher in three states, and a cook earning cash under the table.

Matt holds a BA in environmental health and science from Dartmouth College and an MBA from the Graduate School of Business at Stanford. He founded and led a program in food system innovation at Stanford called the FEED Collaborative, became a fellow in residence at the Stanford d.school, directed Stanford’s Sustainable Food Program, and served as an operations executive in two early-stage companies, Attune Foods and Niman Ranch.



Ermias Kebreab, Ph.D.

Ermias is a scientific advisor for Blue Ocean Barns. He also serves as an Associate Dean, Professor and Sesnon Endowed Chair at the UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. For the last decade, he has researched animal nutrition, strategies to measure and reduce agricultural emissions and other topics in sustainable agriculture. He accepted the challenge when Joan suggested they undertake a U.S. proof of concept of the seaweed, and he became the first researcher in the world to test the red seaweed as an additive in live dairy cattle. He is the co-author of a 2018 study on anthropogenic methane emissions published by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, and he chairs the UN FAO committee on feed additives for livestock production. He is also a contributing author to IPCC for the 2019 refinement of enteric ethane emissions.



Jennifer Smith, Ph.D.

Jen is a scientific advisor for Blue Ocean Barns. In addition, she is a Professor of Marine Ecology and Conservation at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD. Jen earned her Ph.D. at the University of Hawaii where she worked extensively with the red seaweed before expanding her research interests to include coral reefs and kelp forests. Jen is currently growing the red seaweed in indoor and outdoor facilities and manages the first location on the U.S. mainland where the red seaweed is being cultivated.


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Maggie Nowlan

Maggie is a masters’ student in Sustainability Science and Practice at Stanford, with a particular focus on corporate sustainability and social impact. Raised in dairy country in rural Vermont, Maggie has worked in the industry behind the counter (at a family-run ice cream shop) and behind a desk (at a farmer-owned dairy cooperative and at the Ben & Jerry's World headquarters). She is an intern focused on communications and special projects at Blue Ocean Barns.





Blue Ocean Barns is designed for farmers, consumers and all the other stakeholders in the meat and dairy industries, so it only makes sense that it should be designed by these stakeholders, too. Drop us a line to share your ideas, questions or concerns — we want to hear from you!