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Henry “Hoby” Wedler is a blind fifth-year Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Davis, founder and director of the nonprofit Accessible Science, and host of truly blind wine, beer and food tasting experiences. Hoby grew up in Petaluma, California where early on he fell in love with beautiful Sonoma County.   When he’s not busy working towards his Ph.D. in organic chemistry or leading his blind or visually impaired chemistry camp students in conducting lab experiments through touch and smell, he turns his attention to food and drink – where he’s most passionate about flavor, accurate flavor descriptors, and how flavor and aroma relate to science.

In May of 2012, Hoby was one of only fourteen individuals honored at the White House as part of President Obama’s Champions of Change program, for leading the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for people with disabilities.  The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative that recognizes outstanding individuals for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities. 

Blind since birth, Hoby was inspired by programs offered by blind role models in high school and with encouragement from professors, colleagues and others, he gained the confidence to challenge and refute the mistaken belief that STEM fields are too visual and, therefore, impractical for blind people.  

Hoby founded and teaches at an annual chemistry camp held on the summit of Mount Veeder for blind or visually impaired high school students. Accessible Science just held its sixth annual chemistry camp where they hosted students from as far away as Maryland. Chemistry Camp demonstrates to the students, by example and through practice, that their lack of eyesight should not hold them back from pursuing their dreams.

Hoby has hosted his Tasting in the Dark, a completely blinded wine tasting experience at the Francis Ford Coppola Winery and other Napa-Sonoma wineries for over five years. Hoby has also brought this experience to consumers and key markets throughout the nation as a sales consultant to Francis Ford Coppola’s sales team. The surprising and enlightening wine tasting, where guests are blindfolded and led to the location of the tasting, explores how flavors and aromas in wine are accentuated when experienced in complete darkness. Hoby believes that when a sighted person is in complete darkness, he or she feels more vulnerable and his or her senses become more heightened because vision is not a distraction, bringing out more flavors in a food or beverage. Over the past three years, Hoby has worked as a consultant wine educator and sensory specialist.

In 2013, Hoby partnered with Sierra Nevada Brewing Company to host beer tasting in the dark, “Sightless Sipping” for their national sales team. This event, similar to blind wine tasting, allows guests to enjoy beer at an entirely new level. Since 2013, Hoby has hosted many blind beer experiences at Sierra Nevada Brewery in Chico, at the Robert and Margaret Mondavi Institute for Food and Wine at the University of California Davis, as a special seminar at the Culinary Institute of America, and at tap rooms nation-wide. Hoby also leads wine, beer, and food tastings as corporate team building and motivational exercises.

Finally, Hoby’s work in the food and drink industry was generously recognized by Forbes Magazine when he was recognized as a member of the Forbes 30 under 30 list for food and drink in 2016. This prestigious honor is granted to 300 individuals from around the world all under 30 years of age across ten categories, making a total of 30 individuals per category. Hoby will complete his doctoral studies in September, 2016 at which point he plans to work full-time in the food and drink industry.

Hoby will co-host the Blind Tasting session with the UC Davis Olive Center on Saturday, July 30 at IFBC.

Shireen Yates is co-founder and chief executive officer of Nima. She has been leading a gluten-free diet for the past eight years due to multiple food allergies. After pursuing an MBA from MIT Sloan, she decided to pursue her passion for helping people lead healthier lifestyles by starting Nima. Founded in 2013, Nima is creating greater food transparency that enables consumers to make better health decisions. Its first product is a discreet and portable device that allows consumers to test their meals for gluten in approximately two minutes. The company’s goal is to alleviate the stress around unknown food ingredients, deliver social freedom and make mealtime enjoyable again.

Shireen will co-host the tech session Questions the FoodTech Industry is Asking and How Bloggers Can Answer on Saturday, July 30 at IFBC.

Hillary Reeves works full-time as the Marketing Manager at Chicory, a web app that turns recipes into reality. Her food blog, Hill Reeves, has also led to a freelance recipe development and food writing career-- you can see her work at Food52, Food Network Magazine and Good Housekeeping, among others. In the past, Hillary spent time working in live theater, general managing and marketing major performances like appearances at Carnegie Hall, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, The National High School Musical Theater Awards, the 2008 Broadway production of A Tale of Two Cities, Met Opera HD and the New Victory Theater’s 2014 and 2015 seasons. Find her on Twitter at @hillreeves or visit her blog at

Hillary will co-host the tech session Questions the FoodTech Industry is Asking and How Bloggers Can Answer on Saturday, July 30 at IFBC.

Yuni Sameshima is co-founder and CEO of Chicory, a shoppable recipe platform that allows brands to reach consumers through contextual, native products. Today, their clients and partners include Time Inc, Peapod, Chobani, and many more. In 2015 they saw growth from 10K monthly visitors to over 14M and they now serve over 23 Million users monthly. He has a BA in Molecular Biology and Economics from Colgate University.

Yuni will co-host the tech session Questions the FoodTech Industry is Asking and How Bloggers Can Answer on Saturday, July 30 at IFBC.

Cindy Diffenderfer is a serial entrepreneur, innovator and over-all hustler. Having launched her first start-up while still in college, she has acquired a dynamic skill-set to flourish in fast-paced, high risk environments.  Currently Cindy is working on creating a superior method for delivering wine by-the-glass.  Her company, Miavina, is utilizing technology and new methods of distribution, with plans to innovate the wine industry.  Miavina's product eco-system includes connected hardware, software and wine products using alternative routes to market with sustainable materials and socially responsible business practices.   In an industry steeped in tradition, she is eager to be a part of the positive change from analog to digital.

Ms. Diffenderfer has an extensive network of mentors, advisors and colleagues that enhance her work as a mentor and advisor to other entrepreneurs and start-up companies focused on food, beverage, travel and hospitality.  She is looking for new connections and opportunities to continue building smart businesses and the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Ms. Diffendurfer will co-host the tech session Questions the FoodTech Industry is Asking and How Bloggers Can Answer on Saturday, July 30 at IFBC.



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