Kerry Wright


Raised in a small rural Southwestern Ontario agricultural community, Kerry is a long way from where she thought her career would lead when she enrolled at the University of Guelph with a view to becoming a dietitian. The UofG food science-oriented program differed from most in that it offered business components. The combination of her grassroots upbringing and a food science specialisation led her to the Beef Information Centre (BIC), where she spent 10 years, discovering innate abilities in marketing and business before leaving as the National Product Development Manager. This early managerial experience allowed her to hone natural skills and develop additional competencies that have since proven invaluable. More importantly, working at BIC was fun, instilling in Kerry a love for, and interest in, Canada’s agriculture and food sectors. This set the stage for her next opportunity with the Mallot Creek Group, a growing, Elora, Ontario-based agri-food consultancy she would call home for almost 17 years, rising to the level of vice-president. Her time at Mallot rounded out her skill set, adding project and people management, as well as strategic business planning for their agri-food clients across Canada. (Did we mention she’s certified in Financial Accounting for Business by the Canadian Management Centre?) In 2020, she became Champion Petfoods’ Vice-President of Technical Product Development and Innovation, a job that led naturally to her current role as CEO of CAAIN, where she oversees and supports ag-tech innovation projects. Kerry and her athletic therapist husband, Dave, are the proud parents of two grown children and an excellent running companion, Molly, their sassy Australian Shepherd.

Kerry can be reached at

Cornelia Kreplin, DVM, PhD

Advisor to the CEO

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. An experienced strategic and operational planner, Cornelia oversees every aspect of CAAIN’s development even as she searches for her permanent replacement. She leverages decades-worth of provincial, national, and international agricultural experience and connections to guide and mentor her team while growing the Network itself. Away from the office, she serves on various boards and advisory committees, occasionally stopping to spend time with her veterinarian husband and their two Jack Russell Terriers.
Cornelia can be reached at

Lisa Spinks

Operations Coordinator

Lisa is the perfect choice to manage CAAIN’s administrative functions. Her good humour and superb organisational skills are as much an asset as the extensive, relevant experience in areas such as grant funding administration, information and intellectual property management, and technology commercialisation she gained over a lengthy career with the Alberta Research Council and Alberta Innovates. In addition to having obtained accreditation in Intellectual Asset and Enterprise Content management, Lisa has had formal training in knowledge translation of research outcomes. Never one to sit idly by and relax while others work, she has spent countless hours volunteering for the local innovation community, notably as the Licensing Executives Society’s Edmonton Chapter Chair and as a screener for TEC Edmonton’s Venture Prize.

Lisa can be reached at

Joan Unger

Interim Operations Administrator

If you need something at the CAAIN offices, you go see Joan, the team’s administrative wizard. If she can’t fix your problem, it’s simply beyond repair. She honed her skills in various roles over 25 years with the Government of Alberta before becoming Director of Operations and Corporate Secretary of Alberta Innovates’ (AI) Bio Solutions division. In 2016, with the consolidation of AI’s four group’s into a single entity, she took over as Director of Operational Finance, retiring in February 2020—a retirement that was short lived. Her long working relationship with Cornelia Kreplin prompted CAAIN’s interim CEO to press Joan into service as Operations Administrator, a fancy way of saying “Ms. Fix-It.” She and her husband of many years are proud of their two grown sons, both of whom share their parents’ passion for rodeo and horses.

Joan can be reached at

Nicole Gaudette, PhD

Program Manager

Passionate about research and innovation, Nicole is dedicated to supporting the growth and improvement of Canada’s evolving ag-tech sector. Prior to joining CAAIN, she served as both senior scientist with Alberta Agriculture & Forestry and Adjunct Professor at the University of Alberta. The experience gained in these roles allowed her to develop skills in applied research, program development, stakeholder engagement, and strategic networking. As a result, she was eager to jump into the fast-paced, exciting world of agricultural innovation, feeling it fit her “out of the box” approach to problem-solving, as well as her inclination to seek opportunity when faced with challenge. Nicole’s energetic nature feeds her passions for creative cooking, gardening, outdoor activities such as hiking and cross-country skiing, and yoga. On the other hand, she’s not averse to sitting back with friends and family and enjoying a glass or two of wine while sharing the expertise she gained through her sensory science and wine studies at Brock University.

Nicole can be reached at

Rong-Cai Yang, PhD

Program Manager

Rong-Cai’s appreciation of ag-tech innovation’s  value was shaped by his experience with labour-intensive farming during his early years spent in a small village in Southeast China. As a result, when he was offered the CAAIN Program Manager’s position, he didn’t have to think twice. He is well suited for the role, having spent 24 years training students and researching at the University of Alberta, and working as a statistician and data scientist on research, statistical consultation, and policy development initiatives within the Government of Alberta. In addition to managing his own computational genomics and quantitative biology projects, Rong-Cai is proud to have guided the statistical and research design of many other scientists and professionals throughout his remarkable career. He has written and co-authored over 130 scientific publications, and his expertise in data analytics has resulted in his leading the development of several software packages, including geospatial analyses for precision agriculture. When not crunching numbers, he enjoys camping and fishing with his wife, Judy.

Rong-Cai can be reached at

Julie Thibeault, BBA

Finance Manager

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

Eric Morin, CMP

Communications & Marketing Manager

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

250 Karl Clark Road, Edmonton, Alberta

(780) 975-8635