Team

Juan Bronson, Co-Founder & COO
Juan is a timber & agro-forestry operational manager and investment specialist who resides between the San Francisco Bay Area and Guatemala. He has consulted for institutional timber management companies in Panama, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Juan is a third-generation farmer and the owner of an award winning agro-forestry project on Guatemala’s Caribbean. Most recently he received a “Best forestry plantation” award from the International Tropical Timber Organization in recognition of Izabal Agro-Forest’s management of plantation tropical mahogany. He takes an active role in the Latin American forestry industry and is regularly invited to speak at industry conferences; He is a firm believer that the dominant timber investment model can be improved both as a financial investment and to generate environmental and social benefits. Juan completed his undergraduate studies at San Francisco State University with degrees in cinema and philosophy, he has completed agroforestry related coursework in FHIA in Honduras and CATIE in Costa Rica. View profile on LinkedIn.

Andrew Miller, Co-Founder & CFO
Andrew has a diverse background spanning finance, operations management, international development, and investment oversight. He has extensive agricultural and forestry operational experience in Guatemala, Colombia, Panama, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Brazil. Prior to co-founding Izabal Agro-Forest, he worked with Grupo Ecos, a Swiss-owned private equity fund with investments in forestry and renewable energy across Latin America. Overseeing the fund’s forestry portfolio, he served as director of various investee companies, forging close relationships with local management teams and key stakeholders. He engaged with portfolio company clients which included a variety of timberland investment management organizations and other private forestland investors as well as public entities, such as Panama Canal Authority. He led multiple portfolio company divestitures and executed farmland and timber sales. He served as a Leland International Hunger Fellow with the Congressional Hunger Center, assigned to work on USAID Food for Peace Title II programs in Africa and Latin America comprising agriculture, forestry and public health components. He worked with Moore Iacofano Goltsman, a Bay Area consulting firm specialized in urban and regional planning. He completed service with US Peace Corps in Guatemala, carrying out a number of agricultural production and marketing projects. He holds an MBA from IE Business School in Spain where he was a Fulbright recipient. He attended the Wilson School at Princeton University, graduating with master’s degrees in Public and International Affairs and Urban and Regional Planning, and completed his undergraduate degree at Brown University, concentrating in Development Studies. View profile on LinkedIn.

Richard Bronson, PhD, Tropical Forestry & Farming Specialist
Richard is former professor of archaeology at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He has directed international expeditions for the University of California, National Geographic, UNESCO, Royal Dutch Shell and other institutions. Over the years he has served on the Board of several NGOs dedicated to the conservation of the tropical rainforest, indigenous people and World Heritage Sites. He is one of the founders of the NGO Carpenters Without Borders. In 2003 he and his wife, Edna, received the Guatemalan National Forestry Institute Award for the best hardwood plantation.

Javier Mejía, Regional Manager
Javier has hands on experience in traditional forestry, agro-forestry, forest economics, GIS mapping & field supervision.  He manages our operations in Izabal, overseeing up to 100 field workers and coordinators at a time and 200 (and counting) community partners.  He manages a complex blend of species using 100% organic applications, these include cacao, avocado, vanilla, coconut and a selection of tropical hardwoods.  He also supervises our infrastructure and nursery projects as well as our relationship with public forest institutions.  He holds masters degrees in both Forest Economics and in Environmental Management, and hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Agro-ecology with an emphasis on sustainable agroforestry.

Steve Bergin, Cocoa Genetics, Production & Processing Specialist
Steve is a cacao expert and environmentalist who supports cacao farmers across Latin America, helping them to improve quality through the selection of “cacao fino de aroma” varietals and better post-harvest practices.  Over the last five years he has undergone extensive research throughout the region, identifying unique cacao genetics, and promoting sustainable development in threatened tropical ecosystems.

Juan Castillo Piñeda, Operations Manager
Juan grew up on the forestry project Las Quebradas and spent most of his working life in various management capacities thereon. He has been foreman of Izabal Agro-Forestry plantations since 1988. He is highly regarded among foresters for his deep experience and innovative practices, such as using tropical kudzu as a leguminous ground cover for hardwoods, management of shoot borer (Hypsipyla grandella) on mahogany plantations and his interest in the silviculture of threatened tropical hardwood species.

Marta Estrada, Geographic Information Systems
Marta is an experienced forestry engineer and GIS specialist. She manages the company’s permanent sample plots and timber inventories. She navigates relationships with local environmental authorities and is charged with forestry subsidy compliance incentives. She is fluent in English and Spanish.

Dwight Carter, Nursery Technician
Dwight is the owner and operator of Frutas del Mundo, a 10-hectare tropical fruit orchard and nursery located in the Izabal department of Guatemala and established in 1987. Before moving to Guatemala, he was the co-manager and family partner of Carter’s Red Wagon Farm, a direct-to-market fruit and vegetable farm in Minnesota, specializing in strawberries, tomatoes and sweet corn. He has provided advisory services throughout Guatemala, including to the Ministry of Agriculture and small business owners.

Luis Juarez, Director of Accounting
Luis has over 20 years of experience as a certified accountant and auditor with a diverse variety of Guatemalan clients.

Scott Forsythe, Soil Specialist & Apiarist
Having spent several decades traveling, working and researching throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, Scott has become knowledgeable about Mayan subsistence strategies, past and present. His research has included works on seasalt making, beekeeping with Africanized honeybees and Melipona bees (Melipona beecheii), a stingless species native to Mesoamerica and sacred to the ancient Maya. His present work with practical biochar production and application in conjunction with cacao cultivation on Izabal Agro-Forest-managed properties developed out of an interest in ancient Amazonian agricultural terra preta soil systems and a concern for impacts of present-day slash and burn soil management. In Guatemala, Mexico and Belize, he has worked independently as beekeeper and tugboat captain. For the last ten years, he has called Izabal his home and center of investigation.

ADVISORY

Giuseppe Dal Bosco, Forestry Economist
Guiseppe is a professional forester with over a decade of tropical forestry experience in Central and South America through work with private forestry companies, international and local organizations, and governmental institutions. His professional skills include planning and implementation of forestry operations (e.g. establishment, maintenance and harvest operations). He has developed monitoring protocols for forestry operations, accounting for harvest scheduling, biodiversity and forest carbon stocks. He has developed financial and environmental assessments for forestry operations in accordance to the Forest Stewardship Council. Giuseppe has extensive experience with community-based forest management and a strong background in technical training.

FHIA Honduras, Agroforestry Research Center
Izabal Agro-Forest maintains close institutional ties to FHIA, a research institute based in Honduras with expertise in cacao and agroforestry systems. FHIA researchers support the company’s operation through technical advisory, assessment, and genetic sourcing.

John Scharffenberger, Serial Entrepreneur & Cacao Specialist
John co-founded Scharffenberger Chocolate Maker, which was sold in 2005 to the Hershey Company.  He was instrumental in selecting several of the company’s original fine-flavor cacao varietals through blind taste testing. He currently is on the Advisory Board of the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley and was Entrepreneur in Residence at London Business College. In the past, he has designed and developed several agricultural projects similar in scale and complexity to those managed by Izabal Agro-Forest. He has a degree in Agricultural Geography from UC Berkeley with a minor in Forestry.

Edna Bronson, Gourmet Foods Specialist
The daughter of one of the original owners of the Izabal Agro-Forest farm group, Edna’s father was a respected forester and mill manager in the region. She has an intimate knowledge of the region and its people, and has always played an active role in the management of the plantations. She is a specialist in fine wines with a focus on French and California denominations. She studied linguistics at the University of Delaware and speaks fluent French, Italian, Spanish and English.

Dennis Martin, Community Engagement Specialist
Owner and president of DM Custom Homes, Inc. of Napa, California since 1982, Mr. Martin has been involved in the construction industry for most of his career. He is also the director of the NGO Carpenters Without Borders. In addition to designing and building high-end residential and commercial structures, including solar passive and active systems, off grid power systems, water supply, septic and medical clinics, Mr. Martin has spent considerable time in Guatemala beginning with the 1976 earthquake where he built over a dozen schools in the highlands, three health centers, and water systems, the first Mayan-speaking radio station, and a municipal building. In addition, he has considerable experience in the forestry industry as a consultant where he developed products for export as well as providing consulting services on equipment, export and establishment of a distribution center in Houston, Texas.

Stephen Levine, PhD, Biochemist
Trained as a biochemist, Stphen is an advocate of sustainable forestry investment. He is the founder of Allergy Research Group and wrote the groundbreaking textbook Antioxidant Adaptation. He obtained his doctorate from UC Berkeley.