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Speaker Bios

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Dr. Alice Aiken

Dr. Alice Aiken is the Vice President – Research at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.  She was the Dean of the Faculty of Health at Dalhousie.  She is a co-founder and the former Scientific Director of the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research, a unique consortium of over 41 Canadian and 7 international universities dedicated to researching the health needs of military personnel, Veterans and their families.  She does health services / health policy research and has a unique focus on Veterans and their families in her work.

She received her PhD and Master’s from Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada; her Physical Therapy degree from Dalhousie University and a BSc in Kinesiology from the University of Ottawa.   She also proudly served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 14 years, first as a ship’s navigator in the Royal Canadian Navy, then as a physiotherapist.

She is currently the Honorary Commander of 33 Health Services for the Royal Canadian Medical Group.  For her commitment to the health and well-being of military personnel, Veterans, and their families, she has received the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Chapel of the Four Chaplains Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion (USA), and most recently she was made a Dame of the Order of St. George. She is elected to the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada.

Dr. David Gray


David graduated with a degree in Marine Biology from UCNW Bangor in 1993 and immediately jumped on a plane to South Africa where he spent the next 4 years completing his PhD in Zoology at Rhodes University.  Upon completion of his PhD David then took up the post of lecturer in Marine Biology at The University of the Western Cape in Cape Town and then returned to a lectureship at Rhodes University in 1998.

In 1997 David was awarded a research fellowship from The University of Hong Kong to investigate biological rhythms in intertidal gastropod molluscs. During his tenure he was based at The Swire Institute of Marine Science, Cape d’Aguilar, and in The Department of Ecology and Biodiversity, delivering lectures to the postgraduate school.

From 1999-2004 David worked at Hartpury College, an associate Faculty of The University of the West of England and the largest land-based Institution in the UK, first as a lecturer but latterly as Deputy Principal (Academic) and Dean of Faculty. In 2004 David moved to become Principal and Dean of The University of Derby Faculty based at The Devonshire Campus in Buxton and was awarded a personal Professorial chair in 2007. As Dean of Faculty David was responsible for 7,000 students, 300 staff and oversaw a budget of £17.5 Million.

In 2008 David took up the post of Director of The NAFC Marine Centre based in The Shetland Islands, a founding academic partner of The University of The Highlands & Islands Millennium Institute and became joint Principal of Shetland College in 2010. In 2013 David left the Shetlands to become the inaugural Dean and Campus Principal of the newly created Faculty of Agriculture when Dalhousie University merged with the Nova Scotia Agricultural College.

In 2016 David was elected to the Executive of the International Agriculture Section of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and will take up the role of Chair in 2018.

David has worked for and on behalf of The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education since 2000 as a Subject specialist reviewer (Biosciences) and an Institutional auditor of collaborative provision. David is also a Fellow of the British Higher Education Academy.


Dr. Ian Yule

Ian Yule grew up with a very real interest in agriculture and studied agricultural engineering at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England. After graduating,  he continued further part time study and on completion of his Masters he returned to teach at the university where he also completed his PhD under part time study. After a period setting up precision agricultural research at Newcastle he moved to Massey University in New Zealand in 1997, to head up their efforts in this field.  He established the New Zealand Centre for precision agriculture which has an active program of industry funded research. The Centre has developed a strong reputation for research in precision agriculture applied to pastoral farming and has pioneered the use of hyperspectral remote sensing.

Ian is currently  the President Elect of the International Society for Precision Agriculture and has a strong interest in international networking.

Dr. Arnold Schumann

Dr. Arnold Schumann is a Professor of Soil and Water Sciences at the Citrus Research and Education Center, University of Florida, with over 90 journal publications and 16 years of citrus research and extension experience. He has worked closely with the Florida citrus community on collaborative projects, to improve citrus irrigation and nutrient efficiencies (BMPs), reducing production costs and increasing profits with site-specific precision agriculture. A variable rate fertilizer spreading and pesticide spraying controller was developed in 2008, patented, licensed and commercialized for sale since 2009. He co-developed with UF/IFAS colleagues the first protected agriculture hydroponics technology in Florida specifically for disease-free fresh citrus fruit production. In 2016 he started research on vegetable and citrus applications using artificial intelligence (deep learning convolutional artificial neural networks, Big Data) to identify weeds, pests, diseases, physiological disorders of fruits, and nutrient deficiencies with autonomous robotic machine vision.

Dr. David Yarborough

David E. Yarborough is the wild blueberry specialist with Cooperative Extension and professor of horticulture in the School of Food and Agriculture at the University of Maine, where he has worked for the past 39 years. He received a B.S. degree in wildlife management in 1975 and an M.S. degree in resource utilization 1978 at the University of Maine and a Ph.D. degree in Plant and Soil Science from the University of Massachusetts in 1991.  His research was on weed-crop competition and shifts in species distributions in Maine's wild blueberry fields with hexazinone use.  He now develops chemical and cultural strategies for controlling weeds, and on programs that will enable growers to increase their efficiency and profitability. He has published well over 300 research and Extension publications dealing with wild blueberries and weeds.  He received the Order of the Wild Blueberry from the Wild Blueberry Association of North America and the Outstanding Service and Long Term Commitment Award from the Wild Blueberry Producers of Nova Scotia in 2016.

Dr. Chris Cutler

Chris Cutler holds degrees from Memorial University, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Guelph. He has been at the Dalhousie University Faculty of Agriculture since 2007, where he is a Professor teaching and conducting research mainly in the areas of insect pest management and insect ecotoxicology.

Dr. Qamar Zaman

Dr. Qamar Zaman is Professor of Precision Agriculture (PA) at Faculty of Agriculture, Dalhousie University, Canada. He successfully developed PA research program at Dalhousie Agricultural Campus. He is one of the pioneers in the field of PA and have invented cost-effective automated variable rate (VR) technologies for real-time spot application of pesticides and fertilizer to increase farm profitability and reduce environmental risks. He also initiated a precision harvesting research program at Dal-AC with the collaboration of Doug Bragg Enterprises and wild blueberry industry to develop innovative precision harvesting technologies for Atlantic Canada to increase harvestable fruit yield. Increased harvesting efficiency of the harvester with no additional expenses contributes $5.5 million to the NS economy only and $31 million to Atlantic Provinces and Quebec every year.

Dr. Aitazaz Farooque

Dr. Farooque is an assistant professor at the School of Sustainable Design Engineering, University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI). His field of research is precision agriculture (PA) technologies with an emphasis on the development of intelligent technologies for agriculture industry in Canada to ensure economic and environmental sustainability.

Dr. Farooque has expertise in developing/modification of agricultural equipment, applications of DGPS and GIS in agriculture, delineation of management zones, electromagnetic induction methods, remote sensing, digital photography technique, and sensing and control systems for variable rate technologies. He also has expertise in the area of bio-system modeling, analog and digital sensor integration into agricultural equipment for soil, plant and fruit yield mapping in real-time. Currently, he is involved with Atlantic Potato Borads to develop PA technologies for potato cropping systems in Eastern Canada. He is a Professional Engineer and registered in both PEI and Nova Scotia.

Dr. Travis Esau

Dr. Travis Esau has been working in the Precision Agriculture Research Program at the Department of Engineering, Dalhousie University Faculty of Agricultural since 2007. Travis graduated from Dalhousie University in spring of 2010 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Travis is currently a Postdoctoral fellow working on developing precision agriculture technologies to increase profitability and reduce environmental risks. Travis specifically is involved with wild blueberry harvester automation and field efficiency.

Dr. Yves Leclerc

Dr. Yves Leclerc completed PhD in plant physiology from McGill University, Montreal, Quebec. He served as Provincial Potato Physiologist in New Brunswick Department of Agriculture. Then he joined as Senior Agronomist.  McCain Foods Canada.  Florenceville NB. Currently Dr. Yves is Director of Agronomy, North America.  McCain Foods Ltd., and leading McCain Foods Potato Agronomy program for North America.  Program focuses on 3 main areas of activity: Potato research and extension, variety development and corporate social responsibility.  The research and extension activities are best class program dedicated to improving the yield and quality of raw material delivered to our factories.   Through innovative research and extension program, we create solutions to address the company’s crop production, quality and environmental sustainability challenges.  We have numerous collaborative partnerships with research institutions (AAFC, USDA-ARS), universities (McGill, University of Wisconsin) and crop protection companies to deliver science-based solutions to producers and company on agronomy, food safety and environmental sustainability issues for North America. 

Dr. Ali Madani

Dr. Ali Madani was a full professor in the Department of Engineering at the College of Agriculture (NSAC) of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada. He was involved in teaching, conducting research and providing extension services in the area of drainage, water quality, water table management, and constructed wetlands for several decades.  He produced more than 200 refereed publications and conference presentations, and had been involved in the education of more than 60 M.Sc. and Ph.D. students as well as post-doctoral fellows, and visiting scientists at several universities. He has received the NSAC Teaching Excellence Award as well as the NSAC Research Excellence Award.

He is the recipient of the Jim Beamish Award from the Canadian Society of Agricultural Engineering for outstanding achievements in research and teaching in the area of soil & water engineering and received the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers Award for his outstanding leadership as the Chair of the 9th International Drainage Symposium. He received the best paper award from the Canadian Society of Plant Science and the best poster award at the Multi-Functions of Wetland Systems Conference in Italy. He is a Distinguished Life Member of the Nova Scotia Institute of Agrologists and is a Fellow of the Canadian Society of BioEngineering.

Dr. Vijaya Raghavan

Dr. Vijaya Raghavan is a Professor at the Department of Bioresource Engineering of McGill University.  He has much expertise in the development and implementation of post-harvest technologies and methods for handling, drying, heat treating, and storing of crops and produce, as well as for value-addition to produce and waste agricultural materials.  He was the Director of four CIDA-funded project between 1990 and 2013, and a collaborator in other international development projects.  He is currently the Director of an IDRC project from Global Affairs Canada (GAC).  He thus has considerable experience in the transfer of technology to address issues of food security and safety in India, China, West Africa, and Ethiopia.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC), and is the current President of the Academy of Science of the RSC, and Past-President of the Canadian Society for BioEngineering (CSBE).  

Dr. Khalil Al-Mughrabi

· Ph.D. in Biology, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada (1994).
· Provincial Potato Pathologist, New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture & Fisheries (NBDAAF) (2002-present).
· Section Editor, the Canadian Journal of Plant Pathology (2017-2019).
· Chair of the Science, Research and Innovation Priority Area of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership Program, NBDAAF (2018-2023).
· Acting Regional Director, Northwest Region, NBDAAF (2013).
· Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Agriculture and Faculty of Graduate Studies, Dalhousie University (2005-present).
· Chairman, National Late Blight Working Group, Canadian Horticultural Council (2009-present).
· Guest Editor, The Americas Journal of Plant Science and Biotechnology – Focus on Plant Science in Canada. Three volumes, 2009 -2012.
· Assistant Dean, Faculty of Agricultural Technology, Al-Balqa’ Applied University (BAU), Jordan (1998-2001).
· Chairman and Professor, Department of Biotechnology, BAU, Jordan (1998-2001).
· Coordinator and Quality Control Manager of Brooks Diagnostics Limited – A private Plant Health Clinic, Alberta (1995-1998).
· Post-doctoral Research Associate, Department of Environmental Biology, University of Guelph (1993-1994).· Acting Provincial Plant Pathologist, Prince Edward Island Department of Agriculture (1993).

Dr. Danny Mann

Professor Danny Mann grew up in western Manitoba where he attended school in Roblin and was introduced to the profession of agriculture on the family farm. Danny received a B.Sc. degree in Agricultural Engineering (University of Manitoba, 1992), an M.Sc. degree in Biosystems Engineering (University of Manitoba, 1995), and a Ph.D. in Biosystems Engineering (University of Manitoba, 1998).  Danny joined the Department of Biosystems Engineering in 1998 as an Assistant Professor, was promoted to the rank of Associate Professor in 2004, and was promoted to the rank of Professor in 2008.  Administrative appointments include two years as an Associate Head (2006-2008), one year as Acting Head (2008-2009), and Head since 2009.  Danny is a registered Professional Engineer with the Engineers Geoscientists Manitoba. Within the University community, Danny is a Member of the Centre for Engineering Professional Practice and Engineering Education.

Danny has been heavily involved with curriculum development at the undergraduate level, especially the development of the Department’s innovative capstone program that spans the final three years of the program.  Danny has research expertise in agricultural ergonomics, agricultural safety, and assistive technologies. His research bridges the disciplines of agricultural engineering and ergonomics. Danny has been a member of the Canadian Society for Bioengineering (CSBESCGAB) since 1998 and is currently serving as President. In 2006, Danny was the recipient of the CSBE/SCGAB Young Engineer of the Year Award and in 2011 was the recipient of the CSBE/SCGAB Glen Downing Award in recognition of outstanding work in the area of power and machinery.

Dr. Farhat Abbas

Farhat Abbas has his BSc and MSc in Agricultural Engineering from Pakistan, PhD from Newcastle University (UK), a post-graduate diploma in GIS from Fleming College (Canada), and 4.5 years post-doctoral experience from USA. Currently, he is serving as a Professor Environmental Sciences & Engineering at the Government College University, Faisalabad - Pakistan.     He has been involved in simulating and observing pollutant transport through inert and reactive porous media, reclaiming polluted lands/lakes of Northern Ontario, establishing good agricultural practices for arid conditions of Pakistan & tropical conditions of Hawaii, a “USDA Water Quality Project”, the “Agricultural Water Use and Irrigation Systems in Hawaii” project to forecast Hawaii’s irrigation water needs for next 20 years, and evaluating irrigation water availability for biofuel production in Hawaii. He has 64 research articles carrying impact factor exceeding 105, h-index 14, i10-index 16, and citation 573), 8 book chapters, and 3 extension manuals.

Peter Burgess

Peter is Perennia’s wild blueberry specialist. He works closely with the wild blueberry industry in Nova Scotia to assist producers with production, pest identification, pest controls and whole system management issues. Peter has extensive knowledge of pesticide usage and regulation, weed science, and production systems of many other horticultural and field crops. He works with and supports other specialists to provide the best possible pest management advice.

He promotes the use of integrated pest management approaches in all cropping systems and works to identify and find long-term solutions to pest problems with individual producers and for larger industry issues.

Michelle Cortens

Michelle is the Tree Fruit Specialist with Perennia Food and Agriculture Inc. She joined Perennia in September 2017, during an exciting time of relative prosperity and modernization in the tree fruit industry. Michelle has an awesome responsibility to help the industry stay competitive with leading production regions around the world who are rapidly advancing in production efficiency.

She supports the growth and development of the tree fruit industry in Nova Scotia by being a resource for producers of apple, pear, peach, plum, cherry, and tree nut. Michelle performs extension activities, applied research and participates in committees related to production, research, and education.

Michelle has a B.Sc. and M.Sc. from the University of Guelph, specializing in plant agriculture and apple production. Michelle has won numerous awards, including the Diamond Jubilee Medal from the Government of Canada, in 2012, for her achievements in community involvement and leadership.

Peter Swinkels

Peter Swinkels graduated from McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He completed his degree in agricultural engineering and served in Nova Scotia (NS) Department of Agriculture for 28 years.  He started his career as farm structure engineer and then was promoted as planning and development office.  Mr. Swinkels has vast experience in machinery systems, automation and precision agriculture. He is a member of NS Engineers (Professional Engineering Council). He is a member of professional engineering societies (ASABE, CSBE).  He is member of several advisor boards and committees.

Mr. Swinkels received best Engineer award from University of Guelph.  Currently, he is working as general manager and engineer in Doug Bragg Enterprises (DBE) Limited. He is also incharge of Research and Development component of DBE. Peter Swinkels developed strong relationship with Dalhousie University, Wild Blueberry Producers’ Associations, Oxford Frozen Foods, Jesper Wymans, Green Diamonds (John Deere). DBE in collaboration with Dalhousie University is working on different research project to increase farm profitability and reduce environmental risks. Currently, DBE is working closely with Precision Agriculture Research Team led by Dr. Qamar Zaman at Dalhousie University. Peter Swinkels presented/demonstrated innovative technologies in international conferences, farmers meetings and field days. He organized/organizing several farm mechanization shows and technical workshops. Mr. Swinkels received shields of honors in recognition of his excellent service and contribution towards engineering profession and agriculture industry. Peter recently received the prestigious Friend of the Faculty Award from Dalhousie University in recognition of his service and research contribution towards the faculty of agriculture.


Kevin Dunn

As Director at Dalhousie University, Industry Liaison and Innovation (ILI), Kevin Dunn leads, with his colleagues, the business interaction and industrial relationships for Dalhousie as they relate to contract research and issues of intellectual property.  Kevin is also served on committees locally and nationally, including Springboard Atlantic and the past chair of the Board for the Alliance for Commercialization of Canadian Technologies (ACCT Canada).  Prior to joining ILI, Kevin worked with Dalhousie’s Technical Cooperative and Career Services, helping engineering coop students find learning opportunities and meaningful employment.  Before joining Dalhousie University, Kevin has worked in senior technical sales management positions across North America with both a multi-national companies and a small regional company.. Throughout his career his roles have required close interactions with small and medium-sized business clients but also with large organizations throughout Canada, US and globally.

Allan Dale

Allan Dale is a retired Naval Officer who served in the Royal Canadian Navy for three decades. On retirement from service, he worked in the Defence/ Engineering Industry and now at the School of Sustainable Design Engineering connecting industry partners to the School’s innovative program. 

Doug Wyllie

As a regional supervisor for Bragg Lumber Company, the farming division of Oxford Frozen Foods, Doug Wyllie has been working in the Nova Scotia wild blueberry industry for over 40 years. His vast experience includes managing all aspects of wild blueberry cropping systems. He is a past president of the Wild Blueberry Producers’ Association of Nova Scotia, as well as a past chair of the WBPANS Research Committee, of which he remains a member. In 2011, Doug was named an honourary member of the the Nova Scotia Institute of Agrologists thanks to his significant contributions to the wild blueberry industry in Nova Scotia.

Joe Slack

Slack Farms Ltd. was founded in 1960, and is a second generation wild blueberry grower and dealer. As a dealer, the farm buys and exports other local farmer’s berries through its receiving station located in Debert, NS. All berries are shipped to the processors for the frozen retail and ingredient market.

With two full time employees, two part-time employees and an additional 20  workers  during  harvest  the  farm  exports  two  million  pounds  of wild blueberries a year. Currently, the farm has 400 acres of its own land under production. The farm also does custom work on the land of other  blueberry farmers to assist with their production.

Slack Farms understands that research is of the utmost importance in the agricultural sector in order to sustain a viable operation in the 21st century. As a result in the past five years Slack Farms has actively participated in research in cooperation with the Agricultural Campus of Dalhousie University (formerly NSAC). Research trials in disease, insect and weed management have been conduct by some of their finest researchers. Most recently, Slack Farms has partnered with the university engineering department on a harvester efficiency test to decrease berry loss during harvest.

The Farm continues to invest in operational efficiency initiatives. In the past four years it has conducted traceability and cost benefit analysis programs in an attempt to achieve overall profit maximization. In addition, it purchased new technologies, GPS auto steer tractors and sprayer swath control units, in an effort to attain its goal of achieving increased profit margins.

Slack Farms will continue to execute its operational strategic plan and partner with local researchers in an attempt to further the development of the wild blueberry industry of Nova Scotia.

Bernard Hache

Bernard Haché is an experienced engineer with product development and project management experience, Mr. Haché worked in the private sector successfully commercializing innovative new products and solutions for both small and large companies. As technical product manager, he led major R&D projects in partnership with key stakeholders including University researchers. Having developed a passion for Innovation, he later pursued a MBA in Entrepreneurship and Technology Management. He is now applying this past experience with the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) in order to support and increase the number of successful collaborations between academic institutions and industry.

Joe Brennan

Joe attended NSAC and the University of Maine at Orono and holds a Diploma in Agricultural Business and a B Sc in Agriculture and Resource Economics. He worked briefly  for Agriculture and Agri- Food Canada as a Farm Development Officer before returning to the family farm. Joe operated a mixed farm in New Brunswick for 35 years, focusing on potato production for the last 20 years.

Joe was active in many farm organizations throughout his farming career and since 2014, has been Project Lead of the New Brunswick Potato Industry Transformation Initiative.  He has been using his political skills to encourage a collaborative approach to agricultural research to improve the competitiveness of the potato sector in the region.