Automation & Robotics
Labour shortages are a common problem in Canada’s agricultural and food sectors...
We came to be through a collaborative proposal submitted for funding through Stream 4 of the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF). The resulting not-for-profit company, Canadian Agri-food Automation and Intelligence Network, or CAAIN, was launched in July 2019 with a $49.5‑million award. We seek to support the creation of new knowledge and technological solutions for the most significant challenges facing Canada’s agri-food sector. We do this by serving two primary functions.
We support innovation that will drive increased precision, productivity, and value for food producers and processors. The advances should also enable technology companies and agri-food sector researchers and entrepreneurs to apply their expertise to an important industry with the potential to provide global impact, create employment in Canada and internationally, and drive our country’s economic growth. Our funding focus prioritises three innovation pillars:
While CAAIN is first and foremost a not-for-profit company that funds agri-food innovation, we’re…Read more
We bridge the divide separating agri-food companies and technology firms. Food producers, processors, and distributors tend to have generations of experience and, quite reasonably, a self-confidence derived from knowing that if “it ain’t broke, you don’t fix it.” That knowledge can make them hesitant to invest in unproven technologies that could provide great value. Then there are those agriculture sector players who DO want to modernise but don’t know where to look for solutions.
The other side of the equation is comprised of brilliant technology professionals who are unaware of their work’s potentially significant agri-food applications.
Through the network we’re building, we will bring together diverse stakeholders to provide the necessary touch points while beginning to create directories of relevant players of a combined agri-food/technology ecosystem. We will host events designed to inform and connect, and we will encourage the positive interaction and collaboration of diverse individuals and organisations with an interest in seeing Canada’s agri-food technology sector flourish. We will support the creation, validation, and scaling-up of innovative products for domestic and international markets.
We lead Canadian agri-food innovation through collaboration.
CAAIN connects and invests in Canada’s agri-food and technology sectors to drive innovation and productivity using collaborative solutions.
Originally from Ontario, Cornelia has spent the bulk of her professional life in Alberta, first as a veterinarian, then in a series of increasingly senior roles with government and at Alberta Innovates, from which she “retired” in January 2021 as Executive Director of the Smart Agriculture and Food (SAF) division. While leading SAF she was asked to spearhead the planning, development, and launch of CAAIN, eventually assuming the mantle of interim CEO, a role she relinquished in April 2021 upon the hiring of a permanent chief executive officer. A skilled strategic and operational planner, Dr. Kreplin brings decades-worth of provincial, national, and international agricultural experience and connections to her return engagement as CAAIN’s interim CEO, providing operational and strategic guidance while growing the network.
When not contributing to various boards and advisory committees, Cornelia occasionally stops to spend time with her veterinarian husband and their Jack Russell Terrier.
Cornelia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tracy Bowers, our remarkably competent Executive Assistant, sees her position with CAAIN as a return to her roots (pardon the ag pun). After all, she’s an Edmonton-area farm girl who launched an eventual 30-year Government of Alberta (GOA) career with the department of Agriculture as a summer student. Her broad practical experience, which includes stints with the GOA’s Agricultural Research Institute, Livestock and Meat Agency, and the ministries responsible for Pensions and Children’s Services, has been bolstered by certifications in human resources, benefits, and project management.
A firm believer in the importance of family and work-life balance, late in her government tenure Tracy took a year off to travel the rodeo trail with her teenage daughter. Which brings us neatly back to her personal and professional agricultural background and the impetus of a decision to leave the GOA in favour of Team CAAIN—a move we wholeheartedly applaud. Tracy grew up on a farm, and she lives on one now with her husband of 20 years, a daughter, two stepsons, and a menagerie that includes 13 horses, four goats, three dogs, an alpaca, a cat, and her “baby” Taco, a 136-kilogram micro mini pig. What more proof of her love of agriculture do we need? Right? Right!
Tracy can be reached at email@example.com
Garson Law has spent his entire adult life in a range of positions across the research continuum. His impressive portfolio includes diverse roles, ranging from graduate student to funding program administrator, with stops in between as academic researcher, industry funding partner, and project lead. Being active throughout the research spectrum has instilled in Garson a strong appreciation for, and deep understanding of, the needs and qualities of stakeholders along the innovation value chain, which makes him a valuable member of Team CAAIN. When not working, he enjoys exploring the great outdoors at home and abroad, as well as chasing balls, pucks, and curling stones.
Garson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To say that Patience Palmer is highly qualified for her role of CAAIN Program Manager is to state the obvious. Born and raised in the West African nation of Ghana, the Edmonton resident boasts superb academic credentials, with master’s degrees in Animal and Food Science earned at universities in Sweden and Finland, respectively, as well as a PhD in Animal Science from the University of Alberta.
Dr. Palmer’s professional background is no less impressive, including early experience with Ghana’s Food and Drugs Authority and the country’s Cocoa Board. While completing her doctorate, she joined the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) as a Developmental Meat Inspector. When she finished her studies, she remained with CFIA, working at slaughter and processing plants in Lacombe and Edmonton. From there, she transitioned to CAAIN, which she sees as a natural progression, leveraging, as it does, her significant livestock project management experience, while keeping her involved in agricultural innovation and satisfying her passion for ensuring the efficiency, safety, and quality of our agri-food sector.
Away from the office, Patience prioritizes faith and family, volunteering as a Sunday school teacher and cooking for, and spending time with, her husband and their two daughters.
Patience can be reached at email@example.com.
Julie’s 25 years of public- and private-sector experience in all things finance and accounting make her the perfect person to develop, implement, and maintain CAAIN’s financial management tools, functions, and procedures. Her duties require that she work closely with the members of our funded projects to ensure their compliance with Government of Canada fiscal reporting requirements. Julie holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Corporate Finance. Fluently bilingual, she moved to Alberta from Quebec 15 years ago.
Julie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicole Bazley is a perfect fit for her role at CAAIN. Why? Glad you asked. First, she can trace her love of, and connection to, agriculture to a childhood spent on a sprawling southeastern Saskatchewan farm and ranch. Second, those roots also instilled her belief in the importance and value of innovation, as her family’s operation was one of the first Canadian automated feedlots with a capacity of 5,000 head and an efficiency for rapid rate of gain in their herd.
So, that checks the agricultural and innovation boxes, but what about the networking and marketing pieces? Well, how about the fact that she and her husband, Joe, have owned numerous successful businesses over the past 25 years, including the well-known western fashion boutique, Cowgirl Finesse.
As if her background weren’t enough, there’s a joyful, positive personality and that rare ability to turn strangers into friends almost instantly and with an effortlessness grace. And what she doesn’t accomplish with her smile, she’ll finish off with determination, a can-do attitude, and a dedication to succeeding at everything she sets her mind to.
On the personal side of things, nothing makes Nicole happier than being surrounded by her husband, two children, and numerous animals, especially her beloved horses—unless, that is, it’s creating culinary masterpieces or travelling the world and feeding her insatiable curiosity and sense of adventure.
So now you know why we say she’s the perfect CAAIN teammate. ‘Nuff said.
Nicole can be reached at email@example.com.
Fluently bilingual and a Certified Communications Management Professional, Eric has spent the bulk of his 30-year career working in and for not-for-profit and public-sector organisations. A generalist skilled in project planning and management, writing and editing, public and media relations, crisis communications, and stakeholder engagement, he believes passionately in the intrinsic value of his profession. When not communicating at work, he enjoys doing so at home with his wife, Kathy, their two teenagers, and the family’s beloved Rottweiler-Coonhound cross, Dexter.
Eric can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Born in London, England, and recruited from Austin, Texas, where she had spent over two decades as the founding CEO of Triton Ventures, Laura Kilcrease served as a member of the Alberta Research and Innovation Advisory Committee for seven years prior to joining Alberta Innovates (AI) in 2017.
She is widely recognised as a key contributor to the transformation of Austin from its dependence on oil revenue to high-tech prosperity and ultimately becoming the United States’ #1 city of choice for entrepreneurs.
Having spent over 25 years commercialising technology, Ms. Kilcrease brings an extraordinary track record in innovation ecosystem performance and design. In addition to myriad accomplishments delivered during her time in Texas, since arriving at AI she has steered the organisation’s restructuring, spearheaded a program assessment initiative, and launched Inventure$, an annual gathering of innovators, investors, industry leaders, and global researchers, which PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated catalysed some $200M in potential deal flow in 2019.
These achievements have not gone unnoticed, and she has been formally recognised with the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the Austin Business Journal’s Profiles in Power Award, and the University of Texas McCombs School of Business Trailblazer Award.
A dedicated community builder, Laura has supported the Women’s Leadership Advisory Board of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, the Beyster Institute, World Congress for Information Technology 2006, and the IC² Institute at The University of Texas. She currently serves on the board of the University Federal Credit Union, one of the top 100 financial institutions of its kind in the U.S.
The term “multiculturalism” was coined by a Canadian, and is the bedrock of our society, which is one of the reasons CAAIN seeks out diversity of background and experience. We want our staff and board to bring a range of views to the table. Micheline Ayoub epitomises this value. Her list of accomplishments includes earning graduate degrees in Agronomy and Plant Breeding from McGill University and a BSc in Biology from The Lebanese University, as well as an extraordinary history of volunteerism. We cannot list them all, but how’s this for diverse? She has served as a first responder in a war zone, as a board member of the McGill Society of Montreal, and as a special advisor on sustainable development and strategic environmental directions to the Mayor of Maasser el Shouf, in Shouf, Lebanon. Her international education has been bolstered by skills honed working on intellectual property, research management, partnership development, the legal aspects of collaborative research, technology and knowledge transfer, granting-system management, peer review processes, program performance assessment, and governance. In short, she is an ideal addition to the board of an organisation with the dual mandates of supporting agri-food innovation and building a sustainable sectoral network.
When she isn’t forging and nurturing partnerships for My Intelligent Machines, a Montreal-based start-up leading the way in life sciences AI software, Dr. Ayoub enjoys singing in a choir, supporting her children’s school in various capacities, and walking her family’s very large, very playful malamute.
An award-winning researcher and the author of more than 60 peer-reviewed manuscripts, David Bailey was born and raised in the educational enclave of Lennoxville in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. He completed a BSc in Biology at Bishop’s University before moving on to the University of Alberta, earning a PhD in Genetics and Animal Breeding in 1985. Upon graduation, he joined Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) as a research scientist in Lethbridge, Alberta, launching a 21-year career that saw him appointed in 2003 to the role of Director General responsible for 11 federal research centres across the country. Dr. Bailey left AAFC in three years later to become the inaugural president and CEO of Genome Alberta. However, agriculture remains in his blood, and in addition to raising draft horses on his small mixed farm northwest of Calgary, he volunteers as a member of the Calgary Stampede’s International Agri-Food Committee and serves as a mentor in Sustainable Agriculture & Food Security with 4-H Canada.
A Central Albertan to his core, Stuart Cullum lives and works less than an hour from his native Three Hills, a small agricultural community located 130 km northeast of Calgary. He is well suited for his current role by his upbringing, his professional background, and his education, which includes bachelor’s degrees in Arts and Education from the University of Lethbridge, and an MBA earned at the University of Alberta. Mr. Cullum farmed commercially for approximately 10 years, worked in agriculture venture finance, and over the last two decades has enjoyed a number of educational opportunities, including teaching in the K-12 system, and occupying a series of increasingly senior administrative positions in various post-secondary institutions, culminating first with his leadership of Olds College, and now his current role as President of Red Deer Polytechnic, leveraging his training and experience in agriculture, administration, and education.
His career path has focused on a search for opportunities to contribute to the development and use of new knowledge, technology, and practices, and a desire to prepare young people learning to apply innovation so they may be better prepared to contribute to our economic, environmental, and social well-being.
In addition to his significant contribution to CAAIN, Stuart gives back by participating in various local initiatives, serving on several community committees, and involving himself in mentoring programs.
A Haligonian (it’s a real word…honest) by choice who loves Canada’s East Coast, Bethany Deshpande grew up in the agricultural heartland of Guelph, Ontario. She is a successful agtech entrepreneur who attributes her achievements to, “A series of accidents and good luck.” We beg to differ. Undergrad Arts and Education degrees from the Glendon Campus of York University, followed by an MSc and PhD in Environmental Biology earned at Université Laval, are evidence of extraordinary intellect bolstered by an exceptional work ethic. She’s needed both qualities to conceptualise, launch, and grow SomaDetect from a few folks working out of an apartment to 23 employees in Canada and the U.S.
Scientific innovation runs in the family, as she and her two partners founded the company to commercialise a discovery made by Bethany’s biophysicist father, Dr. Satish Deshpande. He noticed in 2014 that his low-resource medical diagnostic tests could measure fat content and somatic cells in milk. Two years later, SomaDetect was born with a mission to provide dairy farmers with tools that allow them for the first time to monitor milk quality and herd health.
Bethany’s passion for her work stems from its place at the intersection of agriculture, data, and sustainability, which, not coincidentally, aligns perfectly with her responsibilities as a member of CAAIN’s board of directors. When she’s not building her business or engaging in extensive community-based volunteer work, focusing particularly on agtech, food, science, and supporting women entrepreneurs like herself, Dr. Deshpande enjoys spending time in nature, creating pottery, painting watercolours, and singing.
It’s hardly surprising that Chris Paterson believes farming to be a “universal language.” Consider that he grew up on a farm near Marsden, SK, studied Agricultural Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan, attended the renowned Harvard Agribusiness Seminar, runs North American digital farming activities for one of the world’s largest companies, and lives near Calgary on—you guessed it—a farm. In short, agriculture is both vocation and avocation; it’s what he does and who he is.
Agtech is quite simply transforming the way food is produced. In his current role, Chris helps advance the adoption of a suite of digital technologies, thereby witnessing the transformation first-hand as the most traditional of industries evolves with dizzying speed. That front-row seat creates perspective, and he feels able to provide significant value to CAAIN by leveraging experience gained working for Canadian and overseas agribusinesses, as well as through his extensive volunteer activities with agriculture technology companies, accelerators, and venture investment funds.
More specifically, contributing to the strategic direction of an organisation tasked with driving innovation in today’s increasingly complex agri-food ecosystem requires an understanding of investment capital, talent pools, strategic insight, market access, technology validation, and the IP landscape. Mr. Paterson’s background includes having learned some valuable do’s and don’ts, in addition to having allowed him to forge valuable connections, all of which can benefit CAAIN, its project partners, and its expanding network.
In their spare time, the Patersons can be found travelling the globe, riding motorbikes, scuba diving, and—naturally—checking out local agriculture. It, after all, a universal language.
To call Robert Saik a champion of Canadian agtech is akin to saying Wayne Gretzky played hockey. That is, both are obvious and massive understatements. The founder of over 15 agriculture-related businesses has two public exits under his belt. His current enterprise is AGvisorPRO, a connectivity platform that connects those seeking agriculture advice with experts who can provide answers now.
He has enjoyed an extraordinary 40-year career as Professional Agrologist, entrepreneur, and international consultant since graduating from the University of Alberta with a BSc in Agriculture. A respected author and agricultural futurist, Mr. Saik has advised the likes of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, the Government of Nigeria, and Bill Gates.
He has been recognised for his leadership and professional excellence by the Alberta Institute of Agrologists, which named him its 2006 Distinguished Agrologist of the Year, and by the Canadian Agri-Marketing Association, which honoured his business acumen by presenting him with its 2014 Canadian Agri-Marketer of the Year award. In 2021, Agribition identified him as being one of Canada’s Top 50 Most Influential Leaders.
When he is neither working nor volunteering for a list of organisations too long to include here, Robert divides his time between homes in Alberta and Arizona, motorcycling, sailing, and enjoying his four children and seven grandchildren.
Currently the FCC’s VP of Marketing and Digital Agriculture, Fred Wall is responsible for course-correcting challenges and managing complicated, leading-edge projects requiring innovative thinking. His three-pronged expertise in technology marketing, agriculture, and research contribute to his being a perfect fit with CAAIN’s board. An additional reason we’re so glad to have him is his stated preference for advising from a background position in his volunteer roles, which include supporting inner-city projects and helping children with special needs.
The passion for helping youth is a spillover from Mr. Wall’s personal life, as he and his wife completed what they called, “The Six Continents Project.” Over a 10-year period, before their children started leaving the nest, the family went on a series of trips that saw the Walls enjoy meaningful experiences on all six populated continents.
Describing Vancouver native Rickey Yada’s academic career and credentials as anything less than “distinguished,” would be laughable, and even that seems understated. A graduate of the faculty over which he now presides, Professor Yada is an internationally renowned food science expert. Prior to being appointed dean of his alma mater’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems, he held numerous senior positions at the University of Guelph, notably: Chair, Department of Food Science; Assistant Vice President, Research; Canada Research Chair in Food Protein Structure; and Scientific Director of the Advanced Foods and Materials Network. His list of current and former Canadian and international accolades and activities is lengthy and impressive, and includes being co editor-in-chief of Trends in Food Science and Technology, past president of the Deans Council of the Faculties of Agriculture, Food and Veterinary Medicine in Canada, and a past president and fellow of both the Canadian Institute of Food Science and Technology and the International Academy of the International Union of Food Science and Technology. If that weren’t enough, he serves on various community and professional boards in addition to a day job that requires him to oversee a research program related to food science, as well as various applications of nanoscale science and technology.
Dr. Yada’s acceptance of an appointment to CAAIN’s board brings with it his deep understanding of academic institutions, funding agencies, government relations, and how best to take innovation from lab to industry. And while we feel badly about taking him away from what little personal time he has, we take solace in one of his favourite mantras: “The excitement is in the chase.”