Our Team

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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.​ Throughout her career, Dana has long had her finger on the pulse of food innovation as a successful food writer and editor, a television food trends commentator, and a senior executive in the food manufacturing sector. 

Dana 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.

In 2017, Dana was recognized by WXN as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women in the Trailblazers and Trendsetters category.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Inspired by mission and purpose, Curtis Wong is motivated by sound business model management. Following a hospitality career in hotels and destination management, he has worked in several verticals of food & beverage at the consumer end, both corporate and independent. Curtis co-created an auditing company to identify missed B2C revenue opportunities, while learning various operations. Consulting exposed Curtis to B2B business development, training, cash flow and fiscal discipline in other sectors, while keeping relevant in the culinary space.

Curtis has held project roles in marketing, including sponsorships and partner development, he brings perspective and relationships from Destination Vancouver, Small Business BC, Ballet BC and the ministries supporting tourism, entrepreneurs, innovation and the arts. With a balance of profit-minded thinking and experience in not-for-profit, grants and fundraising, he understands the startup pressures of investment, cost control and labour management.

Most recently, a vocal advocate of addressing global food loss and food insecurity, Curtis knows collaboration of strategic partners from innovators, investors, academia, government and distribution is critical to solving our food crisis and excited to continue to build the community.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hello, my name is Ella and I have worked as an Executive Assistant for over 15 years in various industries, with the last 10 years in public accounting. Originally from England, I have had the opportunity to work in Spain, India, Australia, and now call Canada my home. Having worked in different cultures with diverse communities I have a love for learning and I am always looking for new opportunities to push myself outside of my comfort zone.

In my free time, I love to read non fiction books and write, and I am currently working on writing my own book. I am very excited to be joining the CFIN team and look forward to meeting its members.

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Jaleh Sasani is a Program Specialist with over 10 years of experience in agriculture, food, research, and innovation sectors across various government, not-for-profit, and academic organizations. She provides exceptional customer service and program expertise and is committed to supporting Canadian innovators.

Jaleh’s background in program analysis, business analysis and software testing enable her to support programs and systems while offering unique guidance in process improvement techniques and the use of technologies to enhance business workflow. She is committed to delivering high quality programs and services to CFIN members.

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The passion for technology, innovation, and statistics drive Leonardo Ojeda as a Data Analyst. A key aspect of his interest is understanding how data can be used to respond to business goals and generate value for companies. With experience in the Tech Food industry, he has developed business solutions through data visualization and data storytelling.

He uses Python and PowerBI to lead anti-fraud and engagement campaigns. He graduated from the National University of Colombia with a degree in Statistics and certifications in Agile methodologies and computational Python.
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Adrianne Assenheim is a dynamic and enthusiastic storyteller driven to co-create a better future for the next seven generations. A curious and creative problem-solver she brings to the table over a decade of experience in Operations and Communications, working with founders, stakeholders and innovators to passionately build brands, and the communities that sustain them. Meticulous, driven, and highly empathetic, Adrianne focuses her energy on systems-level transformation – from iteration to implementation.

Regional Innovation Directors

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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.
She holds a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and a Master of Food Science from the University of British Columbia, and is also proud to serve on the board of CIFST.
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Hubba Khatoon enjoys helping foodtech startups and scaleups hit their next milestones, establish trusted stakeholder partnerships, and to take food innovation to new heights. 

Hubba has spent the last decade supporting the intersection of technology and innovation. She is based in Prairies Canada and is a key contact for new CFIN members located there. A leader in Canadian innovation, she advances food and beverage innovation ecosystem initiatives, develops economic growth strategies, and helps food and beverage industry innovators build stronger networks and collaborations.Hubba’s experience includes roles as convener, advisor, pathfinder, and investor for innovation ecosystems at Prairies Economic Development Canada and economic development synergist at Calgary Economic Development. She has contributed to many high-impact initiatives including Calgary’s 10-year economic strategy and leading an award-winning quarterly ‘New Economy LIVE’ event series.  Hubba is passionate about food and beverage industry topics around Prairies’ innovation, cellular food, clean technology, and sustainability. 

She believes in continuous learning and conscientious economic growth. Hubba holds an Evidence in Public Policy certification from University of Oxford and a master’s degree in Economic Policy from University of Calgary. She is also an active member of several international organizations including TCI Network and North American Strategy for Competitiveness. 

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Linda Fox is a food industry branding, marketing, and commercialization leader with the ability to help deepen Canada’s strength as an international food innovation powerhouse.  Linda’s 25-year career in the food sector has included work with major CPG and OTC brands, where she’s taken innovative concepts through to commercialization and launch across major Canadian food retail locations. She knows how to make a food label stand out on the shelf, set marketing goals, and design a product launch plan and go to market strategy framework that drives sales growth and profitability.  

Linda employs her heightened curiosity and brand marketing experience to understand and leverage the ever-changing dynamics of the consumer journey. Her skill in marrying vision with experience is especially valuable in today’s dynamic business climate. She focuses on aligning brand strategy to consumer needs, and Linda understands how to shepherd the product through to successful launch with strong collaboration. Linda enthusiastically keeps up with the latest consumer and food, beverage, and technology trends to provide CFIN members with the insight and counsel they need to successfully bring their innovative food or beverage product to market. 

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Julie Daigle supports Canada’s food and beverage startups as they scale their businesses and bring new, innovative food products and technologies to market. She’s 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.  

Julie has a bachelor’s degree in marine biology from the University of Victoria and a masters in fisheries management-marketing from Université du Québec à Rimouski. Her more than 23 years of experience includes 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. Julie is passionate about food and beverage innovation and co-creation, nutrition, and functional foods, and helping members access food industry funding and marketing strategy resources. 

Julie speaks French, English, and Spanish fluently and is an excellent resource for members who wish to work with a CFIN Regional Innovation Director and food industry expert who can converse with them in any of those languages.  

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Tyson MacInnis, based in Prince Edward Island, specializes in mentoring food and beverage innovators with their business model creation, target markets, and how to scale their entrepreneurial ventures successfully.   

Tyson has an MBA from Dalhousie University with an emphasis in International Business and a minor in Finance and Marketing. He has over 20 years of experience in helping food innovators grow. He was the Director of Company Development at Food Island Partnership. In that role, he identified opportunities to improve supports like startup funding for new venture food entrepreneurs, and through a collaborative approach, led the development of a successful food start-up competition, food accelerator mentoring program, food scale up facility, and organized the first Food Automation Atlantic event. 

Tyson draws from his experience commercializing food products, being a small business founder, and start up advising in economic development, to respond to Canada’s food and beverage innovation industry needs. He enjoys helping innovative emerging food and beverage companies get the advice, connections, and funding they need to thrive. 

Board of Directors

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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.

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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.

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David Barber has recently retired from Gordon Food Service (GFS) a multibillion dollar, privately held, family managed foodservice distribution company with operations in Canada and the U.S. where he served as the Canadian Vice President of Broadline Distribution.

David worked with GFS for seventeen years serving as President of GFS Edmonton for four year, followed by nine years as President of GFS Calgary before taking on the Canadian Vice President Role.  David was responsible to enthusiastically lead, coach and mentor the Senior Leadership Team to high performance while ensuring return expectations were met.  Additional responsibilities include building and executing on the strategic plan and cultural initiatives.

David has been in the food distribution industry for over 30 years working with Centennial Foodservice, Scott National in Calgary before relocating to Toronto where he assumed the role of Vice President and C.F.O. for SERCA Foodservices, and later for SYSCO’s Canadian Foodservice operations.

David is a graduate of the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, a Certified Public Accountant (CA) and recently received his ICD.D designation.  David was involved in several professional development associations including TEC (The Executive Committee) and currently serves as Chair of the Board of Habitat for Humanity Southern Alberta and a member of the Deans Advisory Board with the SAIT School of Hospitality and Tourism.  

With an increasing level of accountability and responsibility, David brings valuable insight and knowledge regarding leadership and management to the table.

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Ally Bharmal is a corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, corporate/commercial and board governance Partner at Fasken Law based in its Vancouver officeAlly works with clients across the business life-cycle: from start-up and incorporation matters, seed and growth stage financing, to complex M&A, strategic investment, venture capital and private equity transactionsHe also often serves as external general counsel for his clients and guides them through ongoing operational business and legal matters. 

Ally has particular expertise in the food, beverage and agri-tech industry, and co-leads the firm’s national food and beverage group. He has advised his clients on many of Canada’s leading private equity and M&A transactions, which in the food and beverage industry includes Daiya Foods’ $405 million sale to Otsuka (ACG 2017 deal of the year), SmartSweets’ majority exit to TPG Growth (ACG 2020 deal of the year) and Coho Collective Kitchens’ initial public offering and subsequent acquisition of the Purebread Bakery chain. 

He has notable experience and expertise in Board governance matters, and holds an ICD.D designation from the Institute of Corporate Directors. On the corporate side, among other roles, he currently serves as Corporate Secretary for Daiya Foods and as a Board Advisor for DeeBee’s Organics. On the non-profit side, he has served in director roles with the BC Food and Beverage Association, TiE Vancouver, the Ismaili Councils for British Columbia and Canada and Kids Up Front Vancouver. 

Ally received Lexpert’s Leading Lawyers under 40 Award in 2018, and is ranked by Chambers Canada, Lexpert, Best Lawyers and IFLR1000 as, among other areas, a leading lawyer in the areas of Startups and Emerging Companies, Corporate/Commercial Law, Mergers and Acquisitions, and Corporate Finance and Securities. 

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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.

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Belinda is Vice-President of the Food Canada division with Dempsey Corporation, a specialty food ingredients distributor in Toronto. She is a Food Scientist with a passion for helping others achieve their goals. She loves learning about what we eat and how functional ingredients make food better. She has a B.A.Sc. Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo, and a M.Sc. Food Science from the University of Guelph. She is licensed as a P.Eng with PEO and is a CFS (Certified Food Scientist).
She started her career working in Alberta in the oil industry.  She quickly realized that food was her calling and returned to Ontario to pursue it.  She has over 25 years’ experience in the food industry selling ingredients, at small and large companies such as Cargill Inc, and International Sugars.  Her roles have included technical service, quality management, and technical sales.  
Belinda was President of CIFST (Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology) from 2013-2014 and was a CIFST volunteer for 18 years.  She was on the steering committee for the 2014 IUFoST World Congress of Food Science and Technology, which attracted 2000 attendees to Montreal.  Belinda also volunteers with the Girl Guides of Canada as a Pathfinder, Ranger and Trex leader, leading adventurous and confidence-building activities for girls from 12-17 years of age.  She enjoys open water swimming in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter.
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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.

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Peggy is a professional with over 30 years of experience in Business Management, and as a Board Director. This experience provides her with the perspectives and knowledge to offer strategic oversight and promote good governance practices. Peggy has been a member of four Boards, including the Alberta Agriculture and Food Council, and Calgary Co-op, a billion dollar retail business. She served 2 years as the Board Chair of the Calgary Co-op, 9 years in total. Peggy achieved her Director, Institute of Corporate Directors designation in 2013.This nationally established ICD.D program exposes board members to a broad range of financial, governance & ethical perspectives to enable them to be more effective Board members and leaders with a lifelong commitment to excellence. 

Since 2011 Peggy has been employed with Alberta Innovates, Alberta’s most comprehensive research and innovation agency. She has conducted hundreds of reviews for a wide manner of innovative research and business proposals, and managed many of the resulting approved projects. This experience has added insights for Peggy into the future growth of the province. 

Prior to that, Peggy was a Senior Investment Manager for AVAC Ltd, an entity whose primary focus was to support the growth of early stage commercial opportunities in Alberta and Canada. Advising clients from conception of an idea to full commercialization was the objective. 

Earlier in her career Peggy was the General Manager for Alberta Beef Producers (ABP), an organization that represented the interests of 35,000 beef producers in Alberta. Peggy led ABP in the development and implementation of a new business direction which included a revamping of marketing, communications and partnering strategies, in order to increase ABP’s national influence. 

While at Agricore Cooperative Ltd (formerly Alberta Wheat Pool) Peggy was Manager of Prairie Sun Grains. She and her team were responsible for turning this local flour and cereal business into a North American functional food business. Following the introduction of new organic and functional foods, Canadian distribution was increased by 18% and US distribution was initiated, resulting in a 62% growth in sales. The business was sold in August 2000. 

Peggy holds a BSc Agriculture and MSc Agriculture, both from the University of Guelph. Areas of specialization were Environmental Biology and Plant Physiology. 

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Jillian MacCallum Sproul is the Executive Director at BioFoodTech, located in Charlottetown, PEI. BioFoodTech is a renowned provider of professional technical services catering to the food and bioprocessing industry. With a wealth of experience in biotech, manufacturing, quality management, and sales, Jillian is a seasoned leader. However, her true passion lies in helping others achieve success through coaching, accountability, and fostering innovation.

Jillian pursued her education at UPEI and Atlantic Veterinary College, earning a distinguished M.Sc. in protein biochemistry. She embarked on her professional journey at what was then known as PEI Food Technology Center, where she contributed to the food microbiology lab until 2005. Following this, she joined Novartis (Elanco), specializing in veterinary vaccine manufacture. Her roles included QC Manager and Quality Training Manager.

After dedicating 17 years to the food and biotech sectors, Jillian embraced a new challenge that combined her lifelong passion for fitness with her extensive leadership experience. She introduced the GoodLife Fitness brand to PEI and served as the General Manager of the inaugural GoodLife facility. Under her guidance, the business flourished, eventually becoming the largest fitness facility on the island. In 2022, after six successful years with GoodLife, Jillian returned to BioFoodTech as the Executive Director.

Jillian's return to a leadership position in the food and bio innovation realm has been an exhilarating experience, as it allows her to engage with both budding entrepreneurs and well-established industries. Her goal is to create valuable opportunities for success by fostering connections and driving innovation within the sector.

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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.

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Dan Prefontaine’s expertise in new food innovations, business start up, market information and technical knowledge has been an integral part of the Canadian food processing community over the last 35 years. He has worked with various organizations to build an industry ecosystem to support Canada’s potential as a global leader in food production and technology.

His career started with the University of Saskatchewan as a Food Development Specialist involved with the creation of “The Saskatchewan Food Product Innovation Program.” This was followed by the Vice Presidency for a specialty meat products' export company.

Dan was instrumental in the start-up of the Saskatchewan Food Centre - a shared food processing facility for new businesses - and in 2018 the Food Centre Inc., which further support entrepreneurship, commercialization of Saskatchewan food products. Dan’s leadership and commitment to collaboration led the Food Centres to assist over 400 companies in the development of over 885 new products.

Dan is a Saskatchewan Agriculture Hall of Famer (2019) and recognized for his role in promoting pulses in plant-based foods in 2020

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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.

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Kerry’s passion for food originated from her father who is a Chef and with that came the appreciation for the hard working agricultural community that grows our food. Initially focused on food science and business, Kerry took her Bachelor of Commerce at University of Guelph and that unique combination of skill set has parlayed her career into avenues far beyond a traditional dietetic role. This included working In the not-for-profit sector, Kerry supported the marketing arm of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association for 10 years where she influenced incremental growth utilizing marketing, new product and innovation strategies, developing value-added meat products with small, medium and large meat processors across Canada. 

For the next 16 years, in the for-profit sector, as a senior consultant to the food and beverage industry at Mallot Creek Group, Kerry supported strategic business and market development involving an array of food categories creating mutually beneficial relationships involving producers and growers, primary and secondary food processors, through to distributors to the food service and retail sectors.  

Kerry returned to not-for-profit serving the agri-food sector as CEO of Canadian Agri-food Automation and Intelligence Network, CFIN’s sister organization. Most recently Kerry was promoted to General Manager of Fresh Start Foods in Milton, ON, a Specialty Company owned by Gordon Food Service. Kerry continues to emphasize the importance of the growers, supplying the essential ingredients to provide innovative, value-added solutions to the food service and retail sectors. 

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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

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Jacinthe Côté is Director, Product Management, Innovation and Operational Marketing North America at Lallemand with a focus on new ingredients and baking applications. Throughout her career, Jacinthe has comprehensive experience in food manufacturing, biotechnology and nutrition, working in various roles spanning: clinical nutrition (as a registered dietitian), quality assurance, technical support, R&D, communications and marketing. Besides her extensive work experience, Jacinthe is the author of several scientific papers and of the nutrition guide “Desobesité”, published in 2005. In addition, for many years she wrote weekly columns in the daily newspaper “LaPresse” on numerous subjects related to food processing, biotechnology, functional food, nutraceuticals, etc.

Jacinthe earned a bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science and a master’s degree in Food Science from McGill University. In 2011, she completed her PhD in Biology at the INRS Institute Armand – Frappier after researching the effects of juice processing on the recovery yield and preservation of cranberry bioactive compounds and properties.

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Meaghan Seagrave has two-decades of experience in early-stage technology companies and since 2014 has been Executive Director of BioNB - a high-impact NGO focused on providing leadership and support to companies and stakeholders in New Brunswick’s bioscience sectors.

She is a nationally recognized bioeconomy thought-leader. Her influence brings together industry and association collaborators across Canada’s science, technology and resource-based sectors, building strong partnerships.

She is member of several investment/funding review committees including Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Canadian Foundation for Innovation’s College-Industry Innovation Fund, the Agri-Innovation Investment Forum Committee, the Office of Small and Medium Enterprises - Public Works and Government Services Canada Build in Canada Procurement Program (OSME & Build in Canada).

Meaghan currently serves on multiple boards including: the Atlantic Chamber of Commerce, the New Brunswick Research and Productivity Council, BioIndustrial Innovation Canada and BioTalent Canada.

Meaghan has a MSc (Food Science) from UBC.

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Ishkandar Ahmed is a senior executive with thirty five years of professional experience with natural, organic and specialty foods. 

As the founding managing director of Jentash Marketing in 1985, he was a pioneer in the specialty food industry in western Canada specializing in importing, distribution and marketing of natural and organic foods.

When Jentash was acquired by Preisco Foods and the newly merged company was then subsequently acquired by Tree of Life, Ishkandar developed and implemented a strategy for distribution and marketing of natural and organic foods, including international importing for a $100 million dollar enterprise.

After leaving Tree of Life, Ishkandar worked as a business consultant and executive coach using his significant experience in managing teams of employees and a large network of collaborators, suppliers in Canada and abroad.

In 2013 Ishkandar became the CEO of Choices Markets, a natural foods retail chain based in British Columbia. Under his guidance Choices Markets opened up a state of the art production center and created its own import-distribution division.

While establishing a presence as a natural, organic grocer, Choices also gained recognition as an advocate of local food producers, setting aside time to get to know the people who grow and produce the foods that go home with its customers.

Ishkandar retired from Choices Markets at the end of 2020.

Ishkandar has a BSc.(hons) from Queen’s University and an Executive MBA from the Telfer School Of Management at the University of Ottawa, Ontario.

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Doug Alexander joined Premium Brands Holdings (PBH) in 2018 as Vice President and General Manager, Leadbetter Foods and in 2021 accepted a new role with PBH as Vice President Technical Services, Belmont Food Group. Premium Brands Holdings is a Canadian food company consisting of 60 leading specialty food manufacturing and differentiated food distribution businesses with operations across North America servicing over 22,000 customers with more than 10,000 employees. Doug has over 30 years experience running a variety of food processing operations spanning bakery, pasta, sauces, vegetables and meat.

He is a Director on the boards of the Agricultural Adaptation Council, Food and Beverage Ontario and Meat & Poultry Ontario. Doug has also served as Chair of the Agri-Food Management Institute, Chair – of Food Starter, and on the Board of Directors of Provision Coalition. Doug has diplomas in science as well as industrial engineering.

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Dave Bender is the Global Vice President of Research & Development for Griffith Foods. Dave is responsible for 350 Research and Development Associates globally and oversees the strategic direction and implementation of the company’s innovation and research and development initiatives. Dave developed the Griffith Foods’ Global Innovation Council and has led this group over the past 4 years.

Prior to assuming this position, he served as Griffith Foods’ Canadian Vice President of Research and Development. Dave joined the organization in 1997 and has held various roles in the commercial organization including Vice President of Sales.

His previous experiences include progressive management roles at DuPont Canada, Morrison Lamothe Fine Foods, and Cuddy Food Products. Dave graduated with a Master of Science in Marketing Management from the University of Guelph and holds an Honours Bachelor of Science in Food Science.

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Shawn Carver has 20 years of experience in advanced analytics and software development. He is currently the founder and CEO of Fiddlehead Technology Inc.—a data science company exclusively focused on food manufacturing and fast-moving consumer goods. He is passionate about startups and committed to growing Atlantic Canada’s IT industry. Prior to Fiddlehead, he worked with or mentored over 80 technology startups as a founding partner in THENEXTPHASE management consultancy and executive board member of the Propel ICT accelerator.

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Aneta Dymerska is a talented, driven, forward-thinking food development professional with more than 12 years of experience in a variety of food categories at top consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies in North America. She is currently the Director of R&D at Ozery Bakery, specializing in the development of innovative breads and snacks and responsible for all elements of industrial baking processes.

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Louis Falardeau is the R&D Director at Bonduelle Americas, where he is responsible for the frozen and canned vegetables innovations and product development activities in North America. After graduating from Laval University in Food Sciences and Technology, his 25-year career, has been devoted to developing deep QA and R&D expertise in the vegetable processing industry. He successfully managed product development and Innovation projects in both Canada and Europe.  During that period, he developed a broad understanding of the global food processing industry landscape with experience in facilities located in more than 10 different countries. Louis is currently a Director on the Board of the INITIA Foundation and was a Director on the Canadian Food Innovators (CFI) Board between 2016 and 2021.

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Kelley Fitzpatrick is President of NutriScience Solutions. She has over 30 years of experience in functional food and natural health products (FFNHP) including regulatory reviews and submissions; scientific and consumer presentations, newsletters and articles; and due diligence, feasibility studies, business plans and market trends. Her work has focused on building relationships between the agriculture, food and health sectors and promoting the health benefits of Canadian crop resources.

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Salma Fotovat is a Co-founder and leads Sourcing & Procurement at Riverside Natural Foods. Having been in the organic food manufacturing and agriculture space for nearly 2 decades, Salma & her siblings made the decision in 2012 to combine their expertise and launch a family-centric company taking food manufacturing to the next level with a triple bottom line (people, planet, performance) philosophy. The flagship brand: MadeGood produces organic, gluten-free, and allergen-free snacks that don’t just taste good, they do good. Beyond being a B Corp certified company, Riverside's facilities are zero waste and LEED (leadership in Energy & Design) certified. Additionally, they support organic growers through various impact projects. Their giving back strategy does a lot of good by supporting non-profit organizations including Daily Bread & Canadian Food Centres Canada (CFCC), Student Nutrition Programs & 1% for the Planet to name a few.

Today, all Riverside’s employees are paid a certified living wage, and they employ over 500 people. The business is expanding globally, and Salma and her siblings are more determined than ever to fulfill Riverside’s purpose to inspire a healthier and more compassionate world.

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Jean-François (“JF”) Guillerez is a Professor in the Packaging Engineering program and Structural Packaging Design and Management program at Conestoga College.  Prior to teaching, JF spent over 20 years working for major food companies like Nestlé, Maple Leaf Foods and Mondelēz International, in Europe, South America and North America. JF holds a Diplôme d’Ingénieur in packaging from the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne (France) and a Master in Environmental Engineering from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (Switzerland). He is also a lifetime Certified Packaging Professional.

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Olga Pawluczyk is the co-founder and CEO of P&P Optica (PPO). Olga is an expert in medical imaging, with a technical background in systems engineering and deep knowledge of the science of spectroscopy. Together with her co-founder, her father Romek Pawluczyk, PPO launched in 2004 as a research company focused on developing high-end spectrometers.

Olga assumed full leadership in 2010 and has grown the company from a research-driven organization to focus on commercialization across different industries, starting with oil and gas, space exploration and medical applications. Olga pivoted the company over the past six years to focus exclusively on building quality and safety solutions for the food processing industry. Olga is driven by the opportunity to combine emerging hardware and software technologies to significantly improve the nutritional quality, safety, and sustainability of our food.

Olga participates regularly in an advisory capacity in both the meat industry and the Canadian tech sector, with organizations such as Communitech and Ontario Centre of Innovation. Olga has a BASc (Engineering) from the University of Waterloo; an MSc (Medical BioPhysics) from the University of Toronto, and an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University.

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Cathy Simpson is an IT leader who is dedicated to building the Atlantic Canadian region's tech capacity. Cathy is the CEO of TechImpact, an organization focused on building a growing economy by using technology to unlock its potential. She is the Chair of the NB Innovation Foundation, a not-for-profit that invests in growth-oriented companies and applied research. Her vision, passion, energy and capability define her work. She exemplifies how, when we lean into our strengths and act, we have an impact.

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With a lifelong interest in building things and solving problems, Dhruv Sood co-founded Fresh Prep, today Canada’s most sustainable meal kit company. Dhruv’s curious nature has helped him use his learnings to help the company push boundaries on sustainability, service, and on what it means to do business for good. He likes to learn about the business world, and in the future would love to teach. Outside of Fresh Prep, he enjoys time with friends and family, and likes to stay active playing squash and tennis.

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Mark Toman is the Founder and President of EggTech Ltd. He is the developer of an internationally patented process to manufacture upcycled, eco-friendly and sustainable forms of high-purity calcium, collagen and hyaluronic acid from a currently discarded food by-product for use in the human nutrition and specialty packaging markets including, but not limited to nutraceuticals/natural health, pharmaceuticals, food fortification, cosmetics, and personal care.