About

Our Team

Joseph Lake Headshot

Joseph Lake is a big picture thinker with deep food innovation, research and collaboration experience across the global food industry.

Joe’s career in diverse and progressive positions with the global powerhouse McCain Foods sparked his entrepreneurial spirit, confirmed his passion for transformative innovation, and honed his analytic and collaborative negotiating skills. While at McCain, he successfully created and launched a global food innovation platform, as well as gained knowledge of innovation network models, incubators and accelerators in other countries, including the U.S., U.K. and Europe.

Joe studied at Dalhousie University where his meticulous and thorough work in food science and technology enabled him to skip a master’s degree on route to completing his PhD. Joe is fluent in English and French.

Dana McCauley Headshot

Dana McCauley is a value proposition driven innovator who has successfully launched many food products and programs in collaboration with domestic and international food companies and entrepreneurs.​

Beyond her corporate experiences in marketing, product development and creative services, Dana brings not-for-profit and academic expertise to her role. She was the founding Executive Director for Food Starter, a Toronto based food business incubator and accelerator that was recognized with an Ontario Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence. As Director of New Venture Creation at the University of Guelph, Dana enabled agri-food innovators to transform their inventions into innovations that grow the economy and enhances Canada's international reputation.

Dana has been a food media personality and keynote speaker. She is the President of the SIAL Canada Innovation Award jury. In 2017, Dana was recognized by WXN as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women in the Trailblazers and Trendsetters category.

Nestor Gomez Headshot

Nestor Gomez is a leader who uses information technologies to drive innovation and solve difficult food industry problems.

Before joining CFIN, Nestor was an executive at a Canadian based global food company where he designed, planned, and executed complex technology and community programs to impact innovation, socio-economic development and digital transformation.

Leveraging his corporate experience and keen understanding of data solutions, Nestor pioneered the formation of a dynamic community of start-up companies, entrepreneurs and universities in New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada. These efforts led to many successes including the co-creation of a dynamic technology company which Nestor mentored through product conception to growth and eventual expansion.

Nestor holds a degree in Cybernetics and Mathematics from the University of Havana, Cuba, and a diploma in Hydroinformatics from the IHE Institute for Water Education in Delft, The Netherlands.

Melanie DiReto Headshot

Melanie DiReto is a financial management professional with over 18 years of private sector and not-for-profit experience.

Between 2013 and 2021, she provided financial services, advice and reporting for the Canadian Food Innovators, among other food and agriculture industry association clients. Melanie brings considerable knowledge in writing proposals and contribution agreements in collaboration with federal and provincial governments.

​Melanie is a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) and has achieved an additional designation of Certified Association Executive. Melanie has a Bachelor of Administrative and Commercial Studies from Western University. She is fluent in English and French.

Alexandra Barlow Headshot

Alexandra (Alex) Barlow is an economic development advocate and business advisor with over a decade of experience in writing, researching, and administering government incentives at both the provincial and federal levels. She loves learning about where and how disruptive products, technologies and services originate and has leveraged her curiosity into funding success for her clients, enabling hundreds of Canadian food businesses to access over $300M in government incentives.

An avid and passionate supporter of Canadian innovation, Alex frequently presents cashflow strategies and funding best practices to business audiences. Prior work in economic development consulting and within organizations such as FedDev Ontario, Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food, & Rural Affairs gives Alex considerable insight into how to support businesses so that they can contribute to the success of our country.

Alex is bilingual and lives in New Brunswick, Canada.

Jamil Karim Headshot

Jamil Karim combines more than a decade of marketing and communications experience with a passion for helping people and companies tell their stories. A creative and energetic team player with a wealth of public sector experience, Jamil has worked with organizations like the Digital Technology Supercluster, Innovate BC, and Western Economic Diversification to launch new programs, secure additional funding, and facilitate cross-sector collaborations.

Jamil also has extensive experience working with industry, where he’s led media and community relations strategies for some of the country’s fastest growing tech companies. He enjoys collaborating with different stakeholders on major projects and has worked with researchers, investors, founders, and innovators on announcements and events that have generated media coverage across North America.

Jamil is deeply committed to having a positive impact on his community. He mentors for the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade’s Leaders of Tomorrow Program and currently serves as President of his local community centre in Richmond, British Columbia.

Jairo Melo Headshot

Jairo Melo is a digital and analytics technology leader with over 20 years of experience working in diverse private and non-profit sectors, including top international companies spanning the food industry, global pharmaceuticals, and technology manufacturing. Driven by innovation, his goals include leading technology solutions to drive business results and improve user experience to promote collaboration across the organization. Jairo has also been recognized by the Canadian Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) for his contributions as an advisory council member to the 2021 Canadian Agri-food Technology Report.

Jairo holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the University of San Buenaventura, a Master's degree in Software Engineering, and a specialization in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning from York University in Toronto.

Rajiv Ramalingam

Rajiv Ramalingam is an IT Support Engineer with 15 years of extensive experience gained from different industries such as PC Manufacturing, Telecom, Maritime, Software, Oil & Energy, Education Management, Shingles Manufacturing and Global Insurance.
He has accomplished several migration projects as the lead responsibility and trusted for delivery, that includes ensuring the infrastructure readiness, managing the project when it is live, minimal downtime, post migration support and excellent communication. He has a high amount of expertise in tools and technologies related to Cloud computing, System administration, Online collaboration tools and End user support. He is very diligent and passionate about his work.
Rajiv is an ITIL certified engineer. He holds a Diploma in Electronics and Communication Engineering, a Bachelor's degree in Computer Applications and a MBA specialized in International Business.

 Lucie Bessant Headshot

Lucie is a meticulous, task-driven Executive Assistant with 25+ years of administrative experience in the federal government and healthcare sector, Lucie is ready to take on whatever comes her way. From calendar management to managing administrative responsibilities to achieve maximum operational impacts, conserve time and boost efficiency, she believes that each task is deserving of attention to detail.


Regional Innovation Directors

Lavina Gully Headshot

Lavina is a food scientist and product developer with over 15 years of experience in R&D, process development and ideation. She has worked in various industries such as bakery, soups, beverages, plant-based nutrition and meat alternatives, and has launched numerous new products into club, retail and foodservice channels.

She loves the multi-disciplinary aspect of R&D, and started her career immersed in ingredient functionality, process engineering, quality systems, packaging and scale-up. Prior to joining CFIN, Lavina was responsible for exploring the fuzzy front-end of the innovation process and developing long-range strategies for consumer-led product concepts.

In addition to her R&D experience, she has also worked as an SR&ED consultant, servicing CPG and agri-food businesses across British Columbia, and, as a food technology instructor at BCIT.

Lavina hopes to draw upon her hands-on industry and manufacturing experience to help businesses achieve their innovation goals. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and a Master of Food Science from the University of British Columbia.

Hubba Khatoon Headshot

Hubba Khatoon is the Regional Innovation Director for CFIN in Prairies Canada, with nearly a decade of experience intersecting technology and innovation. A noteworthy leader in Canadian innovation, she takes pride in avidly and passionately advancing innovation ecosystem initiatives, developing economic growth strategies, and catalyzing industrial evolution by fostering networks and collaborations.

You may know her from her work as convener, advisor, pathfinder and investor for innovation ecosystems at Prairies Economic Development Canada or as an economic development synergist at Calgary Economic Development, but Hubba can also be credited with contributions to many high-impact initiatives such as guiding work for Calgary’s 10-year Economic Strategy and leading an award-winning quarterly ‘New Economy LIVE’ event series.  

Being in love with conscientious economic growth her whole life, Hubba believes in continuous learning and its application. She holds an Evidence in Public Policy certification from University of Oxford and Master’s Degree in Economic Policy from University of Calgary. She is also an active member of Calgary Innovation Coalition, TCI Network, and North American Strategy for Competitiveness.

At CFIN, she enjoys helping create new opportunities and transforming the food ecosystem, accelerating innovation for food companies hitting their next milestones, and establishing trusted stakeholder partnerships to take food innovation to new heights.

Linda Fox Headshot

Linda’s insatiable curiosity and extensive brand marketing experience have given her a unique ability to understand the ever-changing dynamics of the consumer journey. Throughout her 15-year career in the food sector, she’s worked with major CPG and OTC brands, from developing innovative concepts to launching new products across major Canadian retail locations.

With a focus on marrying brand strategy to consumer needs, she has a passion for seeing the process through and collaborating with varied teams along the way. Linda enthusiastically keeps up with the latest consumer and food trends to provide her clients and partners with the insight and counsel they need to successfully bring their product to market.

Julie Daigle Headshot

Julie Daigle has spent more than two decades working in the food and biotech industries, both in Quebec and abroad.

Prior to joining CFIN as a Regional Innovation Director, she held the Executive Director role at both the Créneau d’excellence Aliments Santé -- a food and nutrition industrial cluster focused on innovation -- and MYCÉLIUM, a food accelerator and incubator based out of Quebec City.

During her time at the Ag-Bio Centre, Julie spent years providing mentorship and marketing services to food startups and SMEs, helping these rapidly growing companies expand into new markets. She also gained extensive experience working in the seafood industry during her time in Mexico and with Les Pêcheries Marinard, where she oversaw international market development for their biotech by-products.

Tyson MacInnis Headshot

Tyson MacInnis has over 20 years of experience in the food industry in Prince Edward Island.

Prior to joining CFIN, he was the Director of Company Development at Food Island Partnership. In that role, he identified opportunities to improve supports for food entrepreneurs, and through a collaborative approach, led the development of a successful food start-up competition, food accelerator mentoring program, 28,000 square foot food scale up facility, and organized the first Food Automation Atlantic event.

Tyson draws from his past experience commercializing food products, being a small business owner, working in economic development, and MBA to respond to industry needs. He most enjoys working directly with food.


Board of Directors

Sandy Somers Headshot

Sandy Somers is an experienced C-Suite executive with a record of success in numerous corporate settings and market sectors. Over a 25-year corporate career, he held progressively senior roles in sales, marketing and general management with a number of global consumer packaged goods organizations serving customers across Canada, the U.S. and internationally. This includes Campbell Soup Co. Ltd, Canada Bread Company Limited, Maple Leaf Mills, Parmalat Canada and Vincor International Inc.​

Sandy has been co-founder, management consultant and advisor of Flint Business Acceleration Inc., supporting clients across a range of industries to help them focus on business growth through leveraging their investment in people.

From 2017 to 2019, Somers advised and served Food Starter, a Toronto-based food and beverage innovation incubator and accelerator, where he held roles as Board Treasurer and Interim Executive Director.

Throughout his career, Sandy has been valued for his strategic insight, bias for action, and ability to maximize organizational resources in support of positive change and sustainable, measurable business improvement.

Harjeet Bajaj Headshot

Harjeet Bajaj is recognized internationally as an AI expert, having won numerous awards for developing commercially viable solutions. Harjeet’s background includes developing Artificial Intelligence driven solutions for the medical and health care industries. He has also pioneered the application of AI in the market and financial analysis industries.

Harjeet also has significant experience in international business development. He has many years of successful on-the-ground experience in establishing businesses in developed and emerging markets. Harjeet is actively involved in the global innovation ecosystem.

Currently Harjeet is President and CEO of Savormetrics, a globally recognized company that provides AI-driven sensor devices to food and ag sector companies.

Harjeet has a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering & Management and a Master’s Degree in Engineering, both from McMaster University.

Carolina Berti Headshot

Carolina Berti is a global marketing executive with more than 15 years of success driving brand management and innovation growth across the food value chain in Europe and North America.

Carolina joined Restaurant Brands International in 2016 as the Head of Marketing for Tim Hortons International and successfully expanded the iconic Tims brand into new markets, including the Philippines and the UK. Carolina was then promoted to lead Innovation for Tim Hortons Canada. She is currently the Vice President of Category Marketing & Innovation for Tim Hortons Canada leading category marketing, innovation, promotional calendar and sustainability projects. Among her priorities has been working to shift the entire Tim Hortons menu to being free of artificial flavours, colours and preservatives.

Prior to joining Tim Hortons, Carolina spent 11 years with DuPont in several positions that advanced food innovation in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Tatiana Bossy Headshot

Tatiana Bossy is an experienced entrepreneur with a proven track record in building a company from a simple idea to a multimillion-dollar business. While her main focus is sales and operations, she is also an expert in plant-based product innovation and brand building across Canada and the U.S. Tatiana is the co-founder of LeGrand, the Plant Indulgence Company, since 1997, building multiple sales channels in various categories and successfully negotiating high value partnerships with Canadian and U.S. leading food retailers and online providers. Her business model led to the creation of a trendsetting and health-oriented brand, nourishing consumers across the country for more than 20 years. Tatiana has played a fundamental part in product development, creating multiple and revolutionary product innovations, such as the renowned pesto in a pouch. She also successfully created a new plant-based dairy product line with state-of-the-art products such as a plant-based butter made with organic carrots and potatoes.

Throughout her career, Tatiana has been praised for her positive leadership that contributed to building and training a dedicated senior management team committed to delivering the best plant-based products on the market. She has also been valued for her trailblazing business model in the plant-based food world, always putting product quality as her top priority.

Natasha Dhayagude Headshot

Natasha Dhayagude is the CEO and co-founder of Chinova Bioworks. The company was founded in 2016 and it is a food technology company, developing natural, clean-label preservatives extracted from mushrooms for the food and beverage industry.

Natasha was named and awarded Startup Canada’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year in 2017 and Startup Canada's Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019 for her work in founding Chinova. Since then, she has raised $4.5M in investment from major food-tech venture capitalists and has formed strategic partnerships with major multinational producers in the food-tech industry. Her company is headquartered in Atlantic Canada and her team consists of 90% women in STEM.

Ken Keelor Headshot

As Chief Executive Officer of Calgary Co-op, Ken brings passion and enthusiasm to his strategic oversight of one of the largest retail cooperatives in North America, providing Calgary Co-op’s 440,000 member-owners with exceptional shopping experiences, products and services.

Since being appointed CEO of the Calgary-based co-operative in 2014, Ken has led the development of a new 10-year strategic plan, and overseen the refreshment of pharmacies, investment in store redevelopments, construction of new gas stations, acquisition of liquor stores, the launch of Co-op Cannabis, and the recent acquisition of Community Natural Foods.

Ken brings a wealth of Canadian and international food retailing expertise to his current role including executive roles at Sobey’s and Rexall. He began his career with Procter & Gamble India, in brand management.

Ken holds a BSc (Physics) and an MBA (Marketing). He serves on the Board of the Dean’s Advisory for the SAIT School of Hospitality & Tourism, as well as the Board of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

Emilie Laurin Headshot

Emilie Laurin recently joined Nature’s Touch leadership team as Vice-President of Innovation. Her main responsibilities are to develop and implement short and long terms innovation strategies and capabilities to enable organic growth for the business.

Prior to that, Dr. Laurin was the VP of R&D, Innovation, and Consumer Insights for Agropur’s Canadian Business. She also held several positions in the dairy industry related to product development, regulatory affairs, scientific affairs, development of co-manufacturing activities and business development. Dr. Laurin and her teams accomplished several innovation launches during those years, demonstrating a strong leadership in the Canadian market. She had the opportunity to participate in the launch of the IÖGO brand, which was recognized to be the most innovative yogurt brand in Canada. Early in her career, she also had the opportunity to develop her expertise while working with a US based start-up developing applications for several sectors of the food and biotechnology industry such as Omega-3s, pharmaceutical and fresh produce and aquaculture.

Dr. Laurin has a PhD in Food Science and an MSc in Food Engineering from Laval University.

James Pratt Headshot

After graduating from the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University with an MBA, Jim became an investment banker at a national investment dealer in Toronto. In the early 1990’s he co-invested in Sepp’s Food Group, a specialty food manufacturing company located in Vancouver, which was later listed on the TSX. He held various positions over the years, including President, CFO and ultimately CEO when it was sold in 2010.

Prior to joining Rhema Health Products as CEO, he was President and Director at Mazza Innovation, a botanical extract company, and co-owner of Prosnack Natural Foods, a manufacturer of healthy snack foods. Since 2010, he has been a C-level executive in three companies that were sold to publicly listed entities, including two companies that were sold to NYSE listed companies.

Jim has served as a Director of the Food Innovation Centre of BC, Food Processors of Canada, Canadian Food Innovators and Timia Capital Corporation, and as Chair of the Functional Foods Alberta Centre of Excellence and the BC Food Processors Association. He is currently Vice Chair of the BC Investment Agriculture Foundation.

Dan Prefontaine Headshot

As Chief Executive Officer of Calgary Co-op, Ken brings passion and enthusiasm to his strategic oversight of one of the largest retail cooperatives in North America, providing Calgary Co-op’s 440,000 member-owners with exceptional shopping experiences, products and services.

Since being appointed CEO of the Calgary-based co-operative in 2014, Ken has led the development of a new 10-year strategic plan, and overseen the refreshment of pharmacies, investment in store redevelopments, construction of new gas stations, acquisition of liquor stores, the launch of Co-op Cannabis, and the recent acquisition of Community Natural Foods.

Ken brings a wealth of Canadian and international food retailing expertise to his current role including executive roles at Sobey’s and Rexall. He began his career with Procter & Gamble India, in brand management.

Ken holds a BSc (Physics) and an MBA (Marketing). He serves on the Board of the Dean’s Advisory for the SAIT School of Hospitality & Tourism, as well as the Board of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

Kathlyne Ross Headshot

Kathlyne Ross is Vice-President of Product Development and Innovation for Loblaw Brands and has enjoyed more than 20 years with Loblaw Companies.​

She began her career as a chef, travelling and living in Italy and Australia for several years following her graduation from the George Brown Culinary Management and Italian Culinary Arts program. When she returned to Toronto, she joined Summer Fresh Salads as the R&D chef. In this role, she began developing expertise in food manufacturing.

She started her career with Loblaws Companies in a product development role creating products for multiple house brands, including President’s Choice and No Name across such categories as dry grocery, frozen meat & seafood, hors d'oeuvres, deli, bakery and HMR. Another opportunity saw her managing the deli cheese desk for three years, before being promoted to Senior Director of Deli, Bakery and HMR, a role that took her on six-month secondment at Marks & Spencer in the UK.

Kathlyne is recognized by La Guilde Internationale des Fromagers in France as a Garde et Juré member. Her other accolades include a Star Women in Grocery Award from Canadian Grocer and nomination for a 2018 Premier’s Award from George Brown College.

Arjan Stephens Headshot

Arjan Stephens is the Manger of Nature’s Path Foods and President of Que Pasa Foods. Arjan believes our forks and wallets are powerful tools for change, and regenerative organic agriculture is the catalyst that will transform the world for the better.

Since 2011, Arjan has led the launch of over 100 products at the company, growing the product fleet to more than 350. Arjan also launched major brands within the company, including Love Crunch, Qi’a, and Nature’s Path Sunrise cereals. He led the acquisition of Que Pasa Foods and Anita’s Organic Mill, helping to build them into trusted brands.

Arjan and his wife Rimjhim are the proud creators of the Love Crunch brand. Originally created as a favor for their wedding guests, Love Crunch granola was such a hit that Arjan, working with major retailers, made it an official Nature’s Path product. This indulgent, premium granola, now expanded to granola bars and cereal, revolutionized the granola market when it hit store shelves in 2010. Arjan also created the Bite4Bite program so that for every bag of Love Crunch sold, the equivalent is donated to food banks across North America. To date, this program has donated more than $16.5 million USD worth of food, ensuring that food-insecure communities have access to healthy, organic food. Love Crunch granola is emblematic of how Arjan combines his business skills and passion for innovation with a compassion for community.

Rickey Y. Yada Headshot

Appointed in 2014, Professor Rickey Yada is the Dean of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at the University of British Columbia. Prior to UBC, Dr. Yada was at the University of Guelph where he held numerous leadership roles, including Chair, Department of Food Science; Assistant Vice President Research; Canada Research Chair in Food Protein Structure; Scientific Director of the Advanced Foods and Materials Network (Networks of Centres of Excellence); and Founding Member of the Food Institute.

He is currently the North American Editor of Trends in Food Science and Technology, and serves on the editorial board of several journals. He is the author of over 230 refereed journal publications as well as numerous book chapters and books. His areas of research include: the structure – function relationships of enzymes (aspartic proteases) and carbohydrate biochemistry as related to nutrition and food quality.

Dr. Yada serves in a leadership capacity to several research and industry organizations, some of which include Board of Trustees - Institute for the Advancement of Food and Nutrition Sciences; Board of Bioenterprise Inc.; and Advisory Committee Member – Arrell Food Institute. He is a Past President and Fellow of the Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology and the International Academy of the International Union of Food Science and Technology, and a fellow of the Institute of Food Technologists. Dr. Yada has an honorary DSc from the University of Guelph and was the 2019 Harraways 1867 Visiting Professor, University of Otago, New Zealand.


Innovation Advisory Council

Olga Pawluczyk | Chair, Innovation Advisory Council / Presidente, conseil consultatif sur l'innovation

Doug Alexander | Vice Chair / Vice-président

Dave Bender

Shawn Carver

Jacinthe Côté

Aneta Dymerska

Louis Falardeau

Kelley Fitzpatrick

Dana Gibson

Jean-François Guillerez

Doug Newstead

Meaghan Seagrave

Mark Toman