About Mercaris

Our market data and auctions are helping to grow organic and non-GMO agriculture in the U.S.

The development of sustainable agriculture is at a critical point. While some resources are in place to educate consumers, address public policy, and support scientific research on sustainable agricultural crops, far less emphasis has been placed on the market infrastructure upon which participants, from producers to retailers, depend.
Mercaris was formed to address this gap through two types of services. First, we provide up-to-date, accurate information on market conditions for organic and non-GMO commodities. Second, our trading platform allows buyers and sellers to meet on-line and trade physical commodities.
Mer•car •is
People ask us all the time about our name. Mercaris comes from two Latin words: Mercatus, meaning a gathering for the purposes of commerce or markets, and Mercari meaning ‘to trade.’

Who We Are

Meet the team behind Mercaris

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Kellee James

Founder and CEO
Prior to Mercaris, Kellee spent five years at the start-up company Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), the first electronic trading platform and registry for spot, futures and options on carbon, sulfur, clean energy and other environmental derivatives. In 2009 she was appointed by President Barack Obama as a White House Fellow and was Crain’s Chicago Business Magazine ’40 under 40’ rising leader.
Previously, Kellee worked with commodity banks in Latin America on risk management and income diversification strategies. Kellee is an Aspen Institute Catto Environmental Fellow and has also served on the board of Net Impact, a membership organization of more than 12,000 MBA professionals committed to sustainability through corporate responsibility. Kellee received her MBA and MA in International Development from American University in Washington, D.C., and completed a BA in Spanish from the University of Kentucky.
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Chris Duesing

Co-Founder and CTO
Chris Duesing has 15 years of experience in software development with a specialization in high throughput, distributed applications in the financial and retail industries. Most recently Chris served as the Director of Application Development for the Chicago Climate Exchange, where he led the development of trading platforms, market data feeds, settlement calculation, clearing integration and marketing websites. Prior to this Chris worked at Sears corporate on projects including terabyte scale data reporting and distributed, streaming order processing..
Chris has spent the last 6 years focusing on entrepreneurship and developing new businesses. His company Exchangery took part in Excelerate Labs (now TechStars Chicago) 2011 class, before being acquired by Mercaris. Chris is active in the Chicago tech and entrepreneurship communities where he is an organizer of the Chicago Erlang Users group as well as a mentor for ScaleWell.
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Nathan Clark

Director of Business Development
Nathan is the founder of Ridge Street Capital. Ridge Street is an advisory firm focused on the U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions markets and transportation fuels. Prior to Ridge Street, Nathan was Managing Director of Environmental Financial Products (EFP), a firm that specializes in inventing, designing and developing new financial instruments for the environment along with making investments in renewable and non-renewable energy markets. Nathan also served as Managing Director and Senior Vice President for Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX). Nathan was also Vice President of Wabashco, LLC.
Nathan is a co-author of the books Sustainable Investing in Environmental Markets published by World Scientific Press, and Environmental Markets: A New Asset Class, published by the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) Institute. Nathan currently serves on the board of directors of Highmark Exploration and MagnaVera Resource Corporation, both Canadian energy companies. Nathan holds a Master of Science in Agricultural Economics and Bachelor’s degrees in Natural Resource Management and Agricultural Economics from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture Food and Environment.
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Mike Kunz

Director of Engineering
Former Founder and CTO of an online supplement company, Campus Protein, and a life-long coder; Mike has spent his entire career in the tech start-up world. He graduated from Indiana University with a B.A in Economics. At Indiana University he was also the winner of the 2012 Indiana University 'Best' competition for aspiring start-ups.
Since starting his own company, Mike has worked for startups in various industries including Small Business Insurance and Real Estate. Mike was on the forefront of analytics on the housing market; even guest speaking at the University of Chicago for classes on Predictive Analytics.
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Scott Shander

Senior Economist
Scott comes to Mercaris with seven years of experience in the consumer packaged goods industry for the cocoa, sugar, and barley markets by providing technical insight in financial risk management for commodity and foreign exchange market risks to protect profit margins. With specialties in market research, financial risk management, time series analysis, econometric forecasting, scenario analysis, experimental design, and fundamental valuation, he is interested in utilizing quantitative rigor to drive objective analytic-based decisions. He is a certified Financial Risk Manager (GARP) and holds an M.S. in Applied Economics and a B.S. in Mathematics and Economics from Marquette University. Scott, originally from Milwaukee, now lives in Chicago but remains an avid Packer fan.
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Lizzie Ekeberg

Director of Market Operations
Lizzie has nearly 10 years of experience as a commodity trader. She got her start in the industry working for Cargill as a soybean buyer, which included dealing with NGMO and other specialty grains, as well as working directly with farmers and grain elevators. Most recently she spent 5 years working for Miller Milling Company selling wheat flour to tortilla companies and bakeries, and also dealt with organic wheat and flour. In her spare time Lizzie is an active fitness buff and enjoys running, cycling, lifting weights, and yoga. Lizzie graduated from the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul Minnesota in 2006 with dual degrees in International Studies/Economics and French.
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Alex Heilman

Director of Sales
Alex comes to Mercaris with a diverse food based background. Prior to pivoting his career into commodity markets, he was a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY and spent more than 7 years working in some of the best restaurants in NYC including, Eleven Madison Park, and Spigolo. His sense of discovery and personal quest to study global food system and food justice issues, lead him back to school where he graduated with a B.S. in Food Systems with an emphasis on Consumers and Economic Markets, from the University of Minnesota. Most recently, Alex worked for Miller Milling Company in commodity sales and merchandizing.
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Julia Hofmeister

Director of Member Relations
Julia comes to Mercaris after having worked with several food-tech startups. Her journey began at the University of Kentucky where she received a B.S. in Sustainable Agriculture with a focus on organic production systems. While a student, she launched a non-profit program to battle food insecurity and help family farms in Kentucky. She then went onto Babson College to pursue her M.B.A. focused on entrepreneurship. After discovering the world of social entrepreneurship she has worked with food-tech startups ever since. Most recently for AgLocal, a San Francisco based company that was helping sustainable family farmers better market their value-added protein products with a focus on animal welfare, environmental sustainability and consumer health.
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Rachel Storey

Operations Manager / Chief of Staff
New to the startup world, Rachel is a seasoned management professional with five years of experience in managing programs and business development efforts in the international development industry. She has lived and worked in four countries, with her most recent role sending her to both Uganda and Afghanistan to manage the operations of a $45 million aid portfolio. Rachel also spent time in India working with a marketing consulting firm to help multinational corporations develop strategies for selling products and services to the rural poor in emerging markets.
She received an MA in Global Affairs & Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management and a BSc in Marketing and Mandarin from Clemson University.