The Bioenterprise Northern Ontario Project:

A focus on food and agri-tech innovation in the North

Bioenterprise, Canada’s Food & Agri-Tech Engine, is piloting a pan-Northern hub to serve as a single source of agri-food sector networking and business acceleration services focused on technological innovation, expertise and access to private capital.

The Bioenterprise Northern Ontario Project is designed to fill the gaps in the food and agri-tech innovation ecosystem in Northern Ontario, complement support from existing centres and initiatives across the region, and connect start-ups and early-stage businesses with services and targeted resources for growth.

Staff in Northern Ontario

The Bioenterprise team in the North is headed by Thora Cartlidge, a professional planner with strong roots in sustainable community development and natural resource management who serves as the Regional Manager for Northern Ontario. She is supported by Business Development Coordinator Taylor Gynane and Relationship Manager for Northeastern Ontario Dieter Valtins. Thora and Taylor are based in Thunder Bay at Ingenuity, Lakehead University’s business incubator, and Dieter is situated in Sudbury.

Northern Ontario Advisory Committee

The Bioenterprise Northern Ontario team is supported by an advisory committee of knowledgeable and experienced stakeholders from across the region who provide input on direction and programming to help drive food and agri-tech innovation in the North. Committee members also bring their key industry connections to the project and help increase visibility and profile for the Northern hub regionally and nationally. 

In addition to Thora Cartlidge, who serves as committee Chair, memebers include:

  • Alyson MacKay, Ingenuity, Lakehead University’s Business Incubator
  • Brent Cadeau, Northwest Beef Co-op/Beef Farmers of Thunder Bay/Beef Farmers of Ontario
  • Stephanie Vanthof, Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Northeastern Ontario
  • Sean Murray, Nor’wester Maple Company/Canada West Maple Products
  • Kim Jo Bliss, Ontario Crops Research Centre – Emo/University of Guelph
  • Denis Castonguay, Coopérative régionale Nipissing-Sudbury
  • Norm Jaehrling, White Lake Limited Partnership, Pic Mobert First Nation Venture
  • Robin Craig, Director of Research and Innovation, Collège Boréal

Funding for this two-year pilot project is provided through FedNor’s Regional Growth Through Innovation Fund, which supports the growth of Northern Ontario businesses.

Meet the Committee

Thora Cartlidge

Bioenterprise, Northern Ontario Regional Manager

Dieter Valtins

Bioenterprise, Relationship Manager Northeastern Ontario

Taylor Gynane

Bioenterprise, Business Development Coordinator

Alyson MacKay

Ingenuity, Lakehead University Business Incubator

Brent Cadeau

Northwest Beef Co-Op/Beef Farmers of Thunder Bay/Beef Farmers of Ontario

Stephanie Vanthof

Ontario Federation of Agriculture, Northeastern Ontario

Sean Murray

Nor’wester Maple Company/Canada West Maple Products

Robin Craig

Director of Research & Innovation – Collège Boréal

Kim Jo Bliss

Ontario Crops Research Centre – Emo/University of Guelph

Denis Castonguay

Coopérative régionale Nipissing-Sudbury

Proven Regional Sector Expertise

Alyson MacKay

Alyson MacKay is the Manager of Ingenuity, Lakehead University’s Business Incubator. Born and raised in Thunder Bay, she worked in Ottawa after graduating from university and returned to the area six years ago to be closer to her family. In her role at Ingenuity, she supports the development of small business and entrepreneurial culture.

Brent Cadeau

Brent Cadeau is owner of Wolf River Farm, a family owned and operated beef farm in Dorian with 70 head of cattle. The family markets all of its products directly to consumers. Brent is the current president of Northwest Beef Co-op, a not-for profit co-op of farmers who have come together to create a brand built on humanely and sustainably raised cattle. He is a serving member of the Beef Farmers of Ontario provincial Cow-Calf Committee.

Stephanie Vanthof

Stephanie Vanthof is the Northeastern Ontario Member Service Representative for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, supporting farmers and local federations in their initiatives. She previously managed the Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance (NOFIA), a non-profit organization that works to advance agriculture in Northern Ontario. Stephanie was raised on a dairy farm in Northern Ontario and received a Master of Science in Geography and Environmental Studies from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Environmental Science in Environment and Business with a diploma in Human Resource Management from the University of Waterloo.

Sean Murray

Sean Murray is owner of Nor’Wester Maple Company and Canada West Maple Products. He was born and raised in Northern Ontario and grew up fishing, hunting and spending time in his grandfather’s vegetable garden. It was his attachment to Northern Ontario forests and food that led him to create the two maple syrup businesses, located in Municipality of Neebing and Thunder Bay. Creating a syrup business outside of the common maple syrup production regions of Quebec and Central Ontario required a re-thinking of forest management legislation, and Sean has continuous dialogue with various levels of government to ensure forest can be used harmoniously for both forestry and food production.

Kim Jo Bliss

Kim Jo Bliss is the Manager of the Ontario Crops Research Centre in Emo, where she has worked since she started as a summer student in 1988. The Centre does field crop research for the University of Guelph as part of the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance. Kim Jo has lived in the Rainy River District most of her life and fell in love with farming at a young age as she spent most of her time with her grandmother, who was a farmer. Today, she lives on the farm her great grandfather moved to in 1926 from Arnprior, Ontario, and has a herd of 50 beef cows, a small flock of sheep, as well as other livestock including goats, rabbits, and alpaca. She finishes beef and sells all her lambs locally to family and friends. Kim Jo is active in her community, sitting on numerous boards for both agricultural and non-agricultural organizations.

Denis Castonguay

Denis Castonguay is the general manager of Cooperative Régionale de Nipissing-Sudbury Limited. Cooperative Régionale has over 4,000 members with services that include selling seed, crop protection and nutrients, grain storage and marketing, feed manufacturing, fuel and propane, and retail sales. Denis was raised in the Sudbury area and holds degrees in computer science and commerce with a specialization in cooperative management from Laurentian University. His career experience includes retail banking, credit management, health care, small business consulting and community development.

Norman Jaehrling

Norman Jaehrling has been the CEO of White Lake Limited Partnership (WLLP) for over five years, leading the business out of a period of uncertainty to become a diversified venture with direct gross revenues of over $2 million annually and over $50 million with its related companies. He is an accomplished community economic development practitioner, entrepreneur and executive with over 30 years of experience in facilitating, developing and financing community and economic development opportunities for Northern Ontario rural and Indigenous communities. Norman also represents WLLP and the community on the boards of directors of numerous related ventures and co-ventures.

Robin Craig

Robin Craig is the inaugural Director of Research & Innovation at Collège Boréal in Sudbury, Ontario. Responsible for the strategic development of the college’s applied research and innovation portfolio, she manages a variety of research and partnership engagement activities across the college’s seven Ontario campuses. She also holds adjunct appointments at Laurentian University and l’Université de l’Ontario français. Before joining Collège Boréal, Robin held faculty and staff positions at Laurentian University and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Indigenous People’s Health, where she led major funding initiatives and knowledge mobilization activities related to social sciences, humanities, research ethics, public health, Indigenous and Francophone research.

To learn more about this project please contact Thora Cartlidge at