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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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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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.
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Jessie Bovay

Director of Business Development
Jessie joined Mercaris from The Howard G. Buffett Foundation where she was an Operations and Project Manager focused on the Foundation’s goals in food security, water security, conflict resolution and post-conflict development. Earlier, Jessie served as Executive Operations Assistant providing daily, on-site assistance to the CEO/ Chairman.
Prior to her role at the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, Jessie was a Senior Transportation Analyst at Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM). In this position, she evaluated ADM’s entire supply chain financially and strategically, identified areas for improvement then developed and advanced changes. Earlier, Jessie was a Market Analyst in ADM’s international intermodal freight group. Jessie began with ADM in 2008 as a Commodity Merchandiser in Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois.
Jessie holds an M.B.A from the University of Illinois and a B.A. in International Relations from the James Madison College at Michigan State University.
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Ryan

Senior Economist
With more than six years' experience providing custom market analytics and strategic pricing forecasts to stakeholders in the agricultural supply chain, Ryan brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to the Mercaris team.
Previously with IHS Markit, Ryan developed econometric models forecasting US and global agricultural markets for top global agriculture businesses. While studying Agricultural Economics, Ryan joined IHS Markit as a graduate research assistant, before being promoted to Senior Economist, focusing on delivering livestock, dairy, and biofuels market analytics.
Ryan has also produced research focusing on the impacts of weather, technology, policy, trade, population demographics, and culture on global agricultural markets. Ryan studied economics at Missouri State University and the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Locate Us

Mercaris
8070 Georgia Avenue #206
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Contact Us

[email protected]
(312) 423-1875
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