Ontario Regional News

Wednesday, 15 June 2016 11:41

Meet Ontario CSBE Members

Anna Crolla (10 year member) received her chemical engineering degree and M.A.Sc from the University of Ottawa. Currently, she works for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs at Kemptville, ON as an Environmental Specialist, with a focus on sustainability. Previously, Anna was a researcher for several years with the University of Guelph working with on-farm waste management, anaerobic digestion, technology evaluation and water quality assessment. Anna’s advice to younger members: ‘Never stop asking questions or looking for answers – we all have the capacity to learn so much more throughout our careers.’

Carl Bolton (35 year member) received his Agricultural Engineering degree from the University of Guelph. He is the owner/operator of his family’s 160 year old seed production and processing farm in southwest Ontario. He continues to serve as a director on several boards, including Ontario’s third largest credit union, Libro Credit Union that serves families, farms and enterprises in southwestern Ontario. Carl’s advice to younger members: ‘Networking is priceless; not only for job seeking, but for innovation and continuous learning.’


Soy has essential amino acids, protein and is a good source of fiber and calcium. But, it turns out; soy also has the ability to naturally protect people from food-borne illnesses like listeria.

A new study from the University of Guelph has found soy can limit the growth of some bacteria, such as listeria and pseudomonas, and it does it better than chemical-based agents. 

"Current synthetic-based, chemical-based anti-microbial agents kill bacteria indiscriminately, whether they are pathogenic or beneficial," researcher Suresh Neethirajan said. The body – and in particular, the intestines – need good bacteria to properly process the food we eat.The compounds in soybeans, however, do not kill off all bacteria, just the bad ones, Neethirajan said.

Natural way to curb bacteria

Soybean derivatives are already used in a variety of products including canned foods, cooking oils, meat alternatives, cheeses, ice cream and baked goods. Suresh Neethirajan, an engineering professor and director of the BioNano Laboratory at the university, said those with soy allergies need not worry about soy being used to prevent bacteria growth. He said their method isolates the active component of the soybean from the protein that causes allergic reactions. The soy isoflavones that are chemically similar to estrogen are also weeded out.

What is left is a compound that naturally stops the bad bacteria. Neethirajan said the problem with the synthetic additives that are currently used is that they can cause health problems.

"You do need good bacteria, beneficial bacteria, in our intestines to be able to properly process the food we eat, so that's why a lot of antibiotic food preservatives, which are made of synthetic chemicals, have ... side effects such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloating, gas," he said.

"Because of the selective specificity [by soy] towards inhibiting the pathogenic bacteria compared to beneficial bacteria, it will eliminate some of the health issues associated with the current synthetic-based food preservatives."

Different varieties, different results

The research isn't just good news for those concerned about the additives to their food – it may also be a boon for soybean producers. Neethirajan is now working to identify which varieties of soybeans are best at preventing bacteria from growing.

"That way we could help the producers of soybeans to choose which varieties they want to grow towards specific end applications," he said. He is also working on a method to extract the specific components that involves "using water at very high pressure to be able to separate these … specific components, so it's very environmentally friendly from the manufacturing perspective."

Neethirajan's study will appear in the July edition of the journal Biochemistry and Biophysics Reports.

Credits: CBC CanadaFood Safety MagazineManitoba Co-Operator

ron macdonald2015Ron MacDonald has been working with Novus Corp (a Guelph Engineering consulting company) to model the on-board environment for shipping hens and broilers from the farm to the processing plant. He has also been collaborating with Prof Trever Crowe, CSBE member and Professor at University of Saskatchewan.

Lorne Heslop, P.Eng., (43 year member) received his agricultural engineering degree at the U of Guelph. Lorne began his career as a design engineer, then chief engineer for a farm machinery manufacturer. He moved into agricultural mechanization research at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), spending almost a decade developing technology transfer and intellectual property policy and procedures for agricultural research. He finished his career as Director, Science Policy, then Director, Science and Innovation with the Research Branch of AAFC. A full experience from the application of engineering through to the policy foundations for science in agriculture. A tremendously enjoyable career! Lorne’s advice to younger members: ‘Be prepared for your career to evolve and change, ensure you are capable of and comfortable with communications, stand by your principles, then share these traits with others.’

Travis Rops (<1 year member) is in his final year of Mechanical Engineering, Co-op at the University of Guelph. He will finish in April 2016. He recently became a CSBE member, while attending a Careers Night at the U of G. He grew up on a cash crop farm outside Sarnia, Ontario where they cultivated corn, wheat and soybeans. Through co-op work terms he received training in HVAC design, quality control and project management/coordination. After graduation, he plans to begin training for pressure vessel design as per ASME Section VIII. As a young engineer, Travis would like to tell seasoned members that ‘When looking to hire recent Engineering grads, focus less on the major we chose and our marks, and instead speak with our previous employers. We’ve all become accustomed to learning new concepts rapidly and are eager to prove our abilities in the real world’.

Luke Dugard (<1 year member) is a recent graduate of Mechanical Engineering, Co-op, at the University of Guelph. He recently became a CSBE member, while attending a Careers Night at the U of G. Luke grew up on a cash crop farm in Durham, Ontario, but often helped with milking at their neighbour’s dairy farm. His latest Co-op job was working in the research and development department at MacDon industries. He was responsible for conducting field testing on swathers and draper headers across Midwestern North America and Australia. As a young engineer, Luke would like to tell seasoned members that ‘Experience is an essential part of any successful engineering team, but with the speed at which our industry is changing, you may be surprised at the new perspectives a young professional can provide’.

Stephen Clarke (33 year member) received his agricultural engineering degree at the U of Guelph. He is currently employed by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs at Kemptville, Ontario (www.omafra.gov.on.ca). He is the provincial engineering specialist for on-farm energy systems, energy efficiency, and conservation, including alternative and renewable energy systems. He also works on biomass for heat and crop storage. Steve was raised on a beef farm in Northern Ontario and now lives in Eastern Ontario with his wife Carol Anne. Mr. Clarke is the recipient of 2007 Canadian Society for Bioengineering John Clark Award for his contributions in the fields of Electric Power and Processing, and Energy. Steve’s advice to younger members: ‘Ask a senior engineer to be your mentor’.

Jan Jofriet (42 year member) received his engineering degrees first in Amsterdam, Holland, then here in Waterloo. He was a professor at the University of Guelph for many years and is now retired. His area of expertise is (and was) structures, mechanics and mechanical behaviour of materials. He embraced numerical analysis since the late 60’s, but always remained cautious about accepting its results. Jan’s advice to younger members: ‘Treat every job as a new problem that warrants looking at all possible solutions, including those that appear ‘way out’. Don’t be afraid to take a calculated risk’.

Suresh Neethirajan Picture 1

Dr. Suresh Neethirajan, Director of the BioNano Lab and an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering was an invited speaker at the prestigious Royal Canadian Institute (RCI) for the Advancement of Science on February 4, 2016 at the Noel Ryan Auditorium, Mississauga. RCI is Canada’s oldest continuously functioning scientific society founded by Sir Sandford Fleming in 1849. The goal of RCI is to reach out to foster science literacy and science culture in Canada. Almost one in every 50 citizens of Toronto is a member of the Royal Canadian Institute. Dr. Neethirajan’s talk was titled “Good Things Come in Small Packages: Rapid Detection of Avian Flu”.   

Webcast of Lecture: http://bit.ly/1VVLK6m

RobertHunter Sunnybrook Prize

A University of Guelph bioengineering student has won the prestigious 2016 Sunnybrook Research Prize worth $10,000.

Robert Hunter beat out nine other finalists from across Canada. He presented his research on using biosensors for diagnosis, management and tracking of diabetes to a judging panel on Jan. 8, 2016 at the Sunnybrook Hospital of Toronto.

“My initial reaction was one of complete shock; there were a lot of great presentations from students from all over the country,” Hunter said.

“I didn’t think about it as a competition, more as a chance to share my work and ideas. This is the mindset I had going into it, so I felt very relaxed.”

The annual competition is intended to recognize excellence in undergraduate research and promote careers in biomedical research.

Hunter works in the University of Guelph’s BioNano Lab led by engineering professor Suresh Neethirajan. He plans to pursue graduate studies in bioengineering.

“Winning this prestigious and highly competitive Sunnybrook Research Prize is a remarkable achievement, and raises Guelph’s research profile at the national level,” Neethirajan said.

“This award will help Robert to continue to excel in academics and research. Enabling our students to get the best research experience at Guelph is truly rewarding.”

Hunter used microscopic materials to develop an inexpensive hand-held biosensor that rapidly detects diabetes in a user-friendly home test. It can distinguish between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes from the same droplet of blood.

It’s the second year in a row that a Guelph student was named a finalist. Last year, Guelph student Evan Wright, who also works in Neethirajan’s lab, made the final round.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015 09:46

Meet Ontario engineers Mark, Micheal, and Doug

Mark Armstrong, P.Eng. (20 year member) received his Agricultural Engineering degree at the University of Guelph. He founded Armco Solutions Inc. that specializes mainly in two areas; energy savings ideas for new and more efficient technologies in agricultural, commercial and industrial applications; and solutions for indoor air quality in the same sectors. Mark’s advice for younger members is to ‘Find a niche that the industry needs, but not everyone else is doing. Work on expressing your ideas and remember that presentation is very important.

Michael Toombs, MSc., P.Eng. (27 year member) received his Engineering degree at Concordia University and his Masters at the University of Guelph. He works for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs at Guelph. He has held several positions with OMAFRA, but now is Director of Research and Innovation focusing on research priorities for the agricultural, food and rural affairs sectors and on research infrastructure renewal. Two examples; the new $25 m Elora dairy research facility, a joint project between the Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario, University of Guelph, and the Ontario dairy; and the new $10 m research greenhouse at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. Mike’s advice for younger members; ‘Be resourceful, proactive and bring more than the technical to the table’.

Doug Trivers, P.Eng. (29 year member) received his Engineering degree at the University of Guelph. He is the owner/operator of Dayson Agricultural Ventilation Ltd. (daysonav.com). Doug was raised on a small Ontario mixed farm and developed an aptitude for “things mechanical” and agricultural. He decided on Engineering since he was good at math and science. After graduation he worked as an OMAFRA Livestock Energy Specialist; great training to learn the importance of customer service and gain skills in control strategies and energy management. He took a leave after 10 years to test the private sector, and as the ”Remington” story goes “I liked it so much, I bought the Company (20 years ago)”. He provides turn-key ventilation systems to growers for on-farm storage of mainly potatoes, carrots, onions, rutabagas and squash. He specializes in ‘free-cooling’, taking advantage of the cool air available in Canadian evenings and winters. His advice for new members is simple…’READ; a wealth of knowledge is available in trade publications and on association websites to assist learners or entrepreneurs’.

Up until recently, dairy farmers have been hindered in quickly detecting possible reasons for a reduction in milk production among their herd. One such reason is sub-clinical ketosis (SCK) when an affected cow appears to be well but only becomes observably under stress when SCK becomes full ketosis affecting major organs, or it could be other metabolic diseases. The only true method of detecting these abnormalities was by taking vials of the affected cow’s blood and sending samples to a lab for diagnosis. However, Bionanolab of the School of Engineering has advanced this procedure by putting the ability to diagnose a cow’s health in the hands of farmers themselves, thereby saving crucial time in detecting certain bovine metabolic irregularities, and thereby providing earlier treatment.

By detecting certain enzymes in blood, the newly developed device can pick out these biomarkers present in miniscule amounts and help identify diseases. A combination of the device’s unique composition of electrodes, a plant enzyme, and the correct amount of electric current were discovered by the Bionano research team to be the winning formula used collectively in the device known as a “Gryphsens”.

A New Tool on the Farm

Through the implementation of a hand held sensor, a dairy farmer can rapidly detect whether a cow has sub-clinical ketosis or other metabolic diseases through a small amount of blood being taken and having the sample analyzed in real-time through interfacing with the Internet by a smart phone. Such technology not only allows a dairy farmer to rapidly determine a cause for a reduction in milk production, but it also allows early detection of metabolic diseases that can then be treated, facilitating a cow to return to its normal milk volume levels in a shorter period of time. The cost saving of such early detection is substantial for small and larger dairy herds.

In the case of larger dairy herds, this Canadian invention that uses a unique electrochemical measurement of samples can be engineered for use with in-line robotic milking machines to monitor a herd individually, yet collectively, to avoid the repetitive and time-consuming method of testing each cow separately. The sensor, developed at Guelph’s Bionano laboratory of the School of Engineering by a team headed by Dr. Suresh Neethirajan is able to detect minute electrochemical activity in biological fluids that indicate biomarkers for certain irregularities and diseases. These markers flag slightly elevated levels of non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA), and a ketone prevalent in cows, β-hydroxybutyrate (BHBA), that at higher levels can both signal the early onset of ketosis and other metabolic diseases.

A Critical Time Line

Historically, the calving period is a stressful time for cows, described as a time of negative energy balance (NEB), when the onset of ketosis or other metabolic diseases are most prominent. Although the levels of NEFA and BHBA are miniscule at the beginning, early detection can reduce complications and a faster recuperation period, otherwise a later detection could lead to fatty liver, ketosis, displaced abomasum (twisted stomach), and inflammation of the uterus or a retained placenta. Dairy farmers are highly cognizant that charting a cow’s NEFA and BHBA levels is the litmus test for the animal’s overall health. One of the great advantages of testing for on-farm dairy cow diseases using our developed biosensor is that it not only significantly reduces the stress on the animals due to relying on a drop of blood instead of vials sent, but also provides instant test results.

The Lab Comes to the Barn

Traditionally, these levels are determined through expensive and lengthy tests performed in laboratories. Through electrochemistry and nanotechnology the University of Guelph’s Bionano team has made it possible for dairy farmers from all scales of operation to ascertain for themselves their herd’s health. Although humans have similar devices for measuring glucose levels for diabetes, the cow’s organism presents a further challenge by having 11 major blood groups versus four. The challenge was developing the sensor’s electrode that could simultaneously detect both NEFA and BHBA in variable metabolic conditions that can include a number of interfering components, which could alter the test results. Ability to detect multiple disease biomarkers from just a droplet of blood sample that could be used by untrained farmers is unique.

A Plant with the Answer

An issue the University of Guelph team had to surmount was the insulating property of GO that hindered the electrochemical function crucial for the biosensor. A particular enzyme from the soybean plant was integral in solving this problem and was incorporated into the dual electrodes. Although lipoxygenase is found in animal and plant species, using soybean lipoxygenase-1 (SLO) was itself a first for catalyzing direct electrochemical oxidation of NEFA in conjunction with graphene oxide nanomaterial. The result is a biosensor that has a dual function of detecting NEFA and BHBA in less than a minute on-site by the dairy farmer using a small sample of whole blood. Dairy cattle are an investment that must be kept in prime condition to maintain optimal production levels, and the Canadian biosensor is the latest tool for dairy farmers and large scale operations to monitor the health of their herds. The dual sensor can be an important part of routine screening used by farmers in the dairy barn. 


Monday, 14 September 2015 13:46

Meet Ontario engineers Ron, Harold, and John

Ron MacDonald, P.Eng. (34 year member) received his Agricultural Engineering degree at the University of Guelph. He works part time now as a contract consultant with AMEC Foster Wheeler (AMECFW) and Agviro Inc. The first 20 years of Ron’s career was a mix of mechanical and electrical engineering as it applied to agricultural/biological engineering, primarily in the energy and HVAC fields. Work morphed into food and industrial process engineering the last 15 years. Ron’s advice to younger members, ‘Stay in key areas of professional membership(s) and become involved, especially by attending national and international conferences. Until you become active, you will never believe the axiom “you get more out, that you put in”. For more information email Ron at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Harold House, MSc., P.Eng. (37 year member) received Agricultural Engineering degrees at the University of Guelph. He recently retired from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs as dairy and beef engineering specialist. He planned new facilities, renovations or additions to existing facilities and advised on farmstead planning, barn layout, cow comfort, animal welfare, ventilation and manure handling. He took special interest in dairy farm automation, calf housing and ventilation and worked with veterinarians and other agribusinesses on troubleshooting. Harold plans similar consulting work through his new company StocTec in collaboration with DairyLogix www.dairylogix.com. Harold’s advice to younger members ‘Connect with other members in your field of interest as much as possible. You need someone to bounce ideas off of, collaborate with, be mentored by, and challenge you.’

John Ogilvie, PhD, P.Eng. (57 year member) is a charter member of CSBE, Fellow in both CSBE and ASABE and very active in Society matters during his long and distinguished career. He has been retired 20 years from the School of Engineering, University of Guelph, and is now Professor Emeritus. He had been Director at the School www.uoguelph.ca/~jogilvie. John received his BSc (Agr) in 1954, MSA from U of Toronto in 1960 and his PhD from Purdue U in 1971. Before retirement, John taught engineering design. (Hugh Fraser, former student remembers John’s computer skills being legendary long before virtually anyone knew what a computer even was!) John’s advice for younger members: ‘Keep up your attendance and participation at CSBE and ASABE technical conferences.’

Sam Bradshaw (15 year member) is a graduate of the University of Guelph. Sam is a Certified Technician under the Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists (OACETT) and worked alongside agricultural engineers much of his career. He has a farm background and currently works as an Environmental Specialist with Ontario Pork www.ontariopork.on.ca and Farm & Food Care Ontario www.farmfoodcare.org . He deals with all environmental aspects of farming including; manure application and handling, building environments, soils, and environmental regulations. His advice to younger members; ‘Always be ready to accept new challenges’.

Terrence Sauvé. MSc. P.Eng. (9 year member) received his bioresource engineering degree at Macdonald (McGill) and masters in environmental engineering at the U of Ottawa. Terrence works for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs at the Alfred Resource Centre www.omafra.gov.on.ca. After graduation, potential employers wondered what a bioresource engineer did. Now his job fits perfectly with his degree; biomass combustion, biogas optimization, safety of farm machinery and promoting and updating guidelines for using wood pellets for heating in Ontario. His advice to younger members; ‘Don’t be afraid to travel to network and find work, and be kind since you never know what contacts you can build and what “older folks” can teach you. This adds to invaluable “life” experience.’

Chris Kinsley, M.Eng., P.Eng. (15 year member) received his environmental engineering and masters of engineering degrees at McGill University and works for the U of Guelph. He recently transferred from Alfred College campus to Ridgetown College Campus. www.orwc.uoguelph.ca. Chris is a Researcher and Professor and his work focusses on the development of technologies to treat and valorize both rural and agri-food wastewater sources as well as manures and organic residuals. His advice to younger members; ‘Be open to new opportunities and challenges, both within the engineering discipline and within the larger socio-economic context of the work we do.  The soft skills (communications, negotiation, management) are often as important as the core technical competencies we learned at University.’

Thomas MacPherson, P.Eng. (38 year member) received his agricultural engineering degree at MacDonald (McGill) and works at Agrodrain Systems Limited www.aslcontractors.com ASL owns and operates a 2,300 acre cash crop farm and installs subsurface drainage on farms mainly throughout Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec. Tom has done a little international drainage work on salinity control and a land reclamation project in Scarp Mardan, Pakistan. His advice to younger members, ‘Enjoy and use this opportunity of learning new things to the fullest extent possible’

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