BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Sandy Somers | Chair, Board of Directors
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 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 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 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 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.
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 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.
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’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 Industry Development Centre Inc., which further supports 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 900 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.
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.
Rickey Y. Yada
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.