Category Archives: Research & Innovation

CFWI Innovation Centre expert tapped to present at Ontario Beer Summit

As lab technologist at the CFWI Innovation Centre, Kelly Byer manages Niagara College’s research labs.

Kelly Byer, research laboratory technologist at the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre, has been tapped to present at the annual Ontario Beer Summit March 10 & 11 in Hamilton, Ont.

Byer’s talk will be part of the Brewing Science + Brewing Operations session and is titled: “Quality is Not a Four-Letter Word.”

The two-day Summit gathers industry professionals to share best practices with the goal of improving “brewery quality, performance, tap room culture and marketing.” All this while celebrating the strength that equality and diversity brings to the craft beer community. Featured expert speakers will explore areas such as brewing science, brewing operations, marketing and sales, and hospitality and culture.

In her role at the CFWI Innovation Centre, Byer is responsible for managing the College’s research labs – facilities, which allow students to explore such areas of food science as microbiology, chemistry, sensory analysis and shelf-life testing. She also works with Ontario craft brewers in the areas of beer analysis, sensory testing and quality assurance.

Byer has a wealth of experience in quality and food safety programs; compliance with regulatory programs and standards; and new product development. She has an Honours Biology degree with a minor in Biochemistry from the University of Guelph; she has HACCP and SQF certifications; and is perusing her Master Taster (Wine) and BJCP (Beer) certifications.

In addition to her post with R&I, Byer is a part-time professor of NC’s Applied Plant Pathology course in the School of Environmental and Horticultural Studies, and Brewing Chemistry in the CFWI.

Byer is also the Innovation Centre’s resident hops expert. She has worked with the Ontario Hop Growers Association (OHGA) to institute benchmarks for the hop market and prepared an annual report for the association to assess the performance of different cultivars over growing seasons.

Niagara College is one of the only analytic labs in Ontario to provide the required hop testing for the hops and craft beer industry.

She is also heavily involved in helping the craft brewing industry in the province. She utilizes the leading-edge equipment at the CFWI Innovation Centre labs – one of the very few labs where the craft beer industry can get their brew analyzed.

To learn more about the Ontario Beer Summit, click HERE.


POSITION AVAILABLE: Project Manager – Greenhouse Technology Network

Project Manager – Greenhouse Technology Network

Applications are invited for the position of Project Manager – Greenhouse Technology Network in the Research & Innovation division located at our Daniel J Patterson (NOTL) Campus. This is a term certain contract position for 35 hours per week ending December 31, 2023. 

The Greenhouse Technology Network (GTN), is a Niagara College-led consortium of three institutions supporting the research and development needs of the greenhouse industry through applied research projects.

The Project Manager, Greenhouse Technology Network (GTN), is responsible for managing a range of projects and related activities to grow the Greenhouse Technology Network, through outreach to business and liaison with partner institutions for project development, funding generation, financial and human resources management, quality assurance, project management and client and supplier relationship management. Reporting to the Manager, Business Development & Strategic Partnerships, the Project Manager is directly responsible for the performance of all partner institutions to ensure successful project outcomes as committed to funders. 

Click HERE to see the full job posting and to apply.

The deadline to apply is Friday, March 6, 2020.


We thank all applicants; however, only those qualifying for an interview will be contacted. 


Milestone planning ahead for new SONAMI project manager

After a career in research and project management, in areas like innovation research or data analytics, organizing the big picture, charting milestones and determining logistics is clearly Sarah Dimick’s happy place. You could say she delights in a robust Gantt chart, in all its colourful bars of glory.

“More than anything, I love planning a project,” she says. “Knowing the end goal and doing the work of figuring out how to fit all those pieces together, so it matches that goal; it’s just a big puzzle I want to solve.”

Dimick’s mastery of all things planning is brought into play in her role as project manager for the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), a Niagara College-led consortium of seven academic institutions supporting manufacturers’ research and development needs through applied research projects.

The award-winning network, which is currently in its second phase after a major reinvestment from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev), includes post-secondary members Conestoga, Fanshawe, Lambton, Mohawk, Niagara and Sheridan colleges and McMaster University. Within the next four years, the consortium is slated to grow to 10 partners and enhance its reach into the manufacturing community.

As project manager, Dimick is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the network, including the oversight of a range of projects and related activities.

“I’m working on the details of the project, making sure the levers are working.” And, as she points out, there are a lot of moving parts: To date, SONAMI partners, through pooling its technical knowledge and expertise, have worked with 109 businesses to commercialize more than 140 products.

“I’m pleasantly surprised at the level of camaraderie between the institutions because I think it’s very easy to be competitors in this field … which they are, but they’re also willing to pitch in and work together and share best practices, share experiences, and share projects at times, ” she notes. “With SONAMI, it’s not an option to put walls up … everyone’s on that same plane, and I’m really impressed by this.”

Dealing with the various partners in an academic backdrop is literally second nature for Dimick, who comes from a long lineage of educators.

She grew up in a family devoted to knowledge transfer. Her grandfather was a school superintendent and principal, her grandmother and an aunt, were/are? both teachers, and her parents both worked at the same university and in the same business school department, in senior administrator roles.

“Academia is the family business,” she laughs. And aside from a year-long stint teaching English in Korea following university, she jokes that she “managed to escape the family business.” Until now, that is.

She holds two degrees, both from Carleton University: A Bachelor’s degree in Law and Political Science and a Master’s degree in Legal Studies.

And she’s quite at home with innovation, information services and public policy areas, after spending a decade at the Conference Board of Canada, an Ottawa-based think tank, as a researcher in their Technology and Innovation group. Her focus areas there included innovation ecosystems and identifying an interconnected and essential role for education institutions in those environments.

“We were working with groups who were interested in commercialization, groups who were interested in manufacturing.”

Ironically, one of her first projects there was doing research for the Ontario Partnership for Innovation and Commercialization (OPIC), in which she ultimately recommended advanced manufacturing as a path for the province.

“You could say it’s coming full circle,” she notes. “It gives me an interesting line of sight into the policy behind and the thinking of why commercialization and advanced manufacturing is important and how this can contribute to Ontario and to Canada and be part of a thriving economy.”

Dimick’s savviness for project management was reinforced at her most recent position as director of research at Analytics, an innovative data-analytics start-up in Niagara. During her time there, among many things, she mentored five cohorts of co-op students, with a constant stream of ramping up, training, and executing myriad projects.

“I learned how to manage all those personalities and for a lot of them it was their first time in the workforce.”

Her leadership expertise was recognized with a Brock University award as an Outstanding Co-op Supervisor.

While she’s had many years of experience in project management, she finally decided to make it more official and earned her PMP (project manager professional) designation last summer.

“In all my jobs, the one thing I’ve loved is project management.”

Besides being a self-described ‘Type A’ personality, she points to her affection for charts and lists. Which, of course, are just precursors to planning and solving the challenge du jour.

“I think in another life I would have gone into an engineering field,” she says. “I’ve always liked building and putting things together, whether it’s a conceptual puzzle or real physical puzzle, it’s still something I really enjoy.”

Indeed, at the St. Catharines home she shares with her husband and two daughters, she’s the one with the toolkit, and there’s not an Ikea product that she can’t assemble.

 To learn more about SONAMI, visit the website:



RFP: Survey on advanced manufacturing

RFB Survey

Closing date: Fri. Feb. 14 at 3 p.m.

As part of its work to support advanced manufacturers across Southern Ontario, the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) is commissioning a study/survey designed to help shape the industry.

The Niagara College-led SONAMI, has put a tender out for an Analytic Research Report. It involves survey development and execution within the manufacturing ecosystem in Southern Ontario (beyond the Golden Horseshoe). This survey will need to leverage existing research previously conducted for SONAMI to benchmark key indicators of industry health and growth.

Expected outcomes include: A detailed analytical research report that explores the state of advanced manufacturing ecosystem in Southern Ontario; analysis that includes recommendations for future activities for SONAMI, as a network, and for SONAMI partners.

This analysis will inform tools and services that are of strategic importance for SONAMI partners to offer SMEs. Further, the Service Provider will need to facilitate up to three presentations of the results of the work, including one recorded webinar.

For detailed information click HERE.

No hibernation for Research & Innovation

While hiding away, keeping warm and planning for the winter months might seem like perfectly reasonable ways to spend cold January and February days, this is not the case for the busy employees of Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division.

In the weeks and months ahead, our researchers and innovation experts may be spotted at events throughout Niagara, the neighbouring GTA and beyond. As our reputation for excellence in applied research grows, so too do our invitations to present our findings, and to outline the award-winning approach we take when putting together projects that benefit our industry partners and empower our students to become successful graduates and future employees.

For example, representatives from the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) will provide an interactive display of machine learning and 3D scanning technologies at the Building Connections conference, put on by Niagara Health and happening in early February.  

Later that month, the WAMIC team will join the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre, and the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre at the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention, in Niagara Falls. Not only will the R&I team have an interactive display on the trade show floor, featuring products and innovations in the agri-food space, but several staff and industry partners will also be prominent as invited speakers in several afternoon sessions.

And when we aren’t busy attending external events, you can find us on campus hosting a variety of key outreach partners who wish to learn more about our resources and equipment, such as the South Niagara Chambers of Commerce, who will tour our food and beverage labs as part of their monthly membership meeting, next month.

To keep up with our news and events anytime, visit

Finding new solutions in digital marketing

Pic’s Motor Clinic is the largest lawn repair and equipment company in Niagara. Operating in Fonthill by the Groen family for more than 40 years, they have achieved success with traditional advertising, such as radio and print.

However, given the changing landscape of the digital marketing world, the company wanted to evaluate and optimize their advertising methods and turned to the Business & Commercialization Solutions team at Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division for their expertise.

For Pic’s Motor Clinic co-owner Dave Groen, it is apparent a new demographic needs a different marketing plan.

“The younger generation of potential customers are not in tune with historically-effective marketing,” he notes. “The many unique digital marketing platforms are more effective and relevant to the younger demographic.”

The research team set out to first define the target market for Pic’s, audit and analyze its current marketing efforts and then provide recommendations on which social media platforms to utilize best, says Artem Mekshun, who worked with R&I as a research associate with the Business & Commercialization team during his studies at NC. Mekshun graduated last year from the Bachelor of Business Administration (International Commerce and Global Development) program.

After a thorough competitive analysis was conducted in order to identify the best practices of the lawn repair and equipment industry, the team took these findings to define the target market for the industry partner. They then outlined the digital promotional channels and tactics in order to reach the desired market.

“Being on social media opens tremendous advertising opportunities for small businesses,” Mekshun says, adding that compared to traditional advertising channels, social media can offer far less expensive, but more targeted and even more effective, advertising solutions.

“Moreover, considering that potential customers are spending more and more time online, being on social media is no longer an option but rather a requirement. Modern customers want to connect with products they purchase and chances are they will be checking out the products online before making a purchase,” he explains. “So, small businesses should be out there to tell potential customers their story, tell them their ‘Why My Product?’ ”

However, it’s not always an easy task for some small businesses who may not be familiar with social media to jump in and instinctively know how to navigate the various platforms. Often, says Mekshun, small business owners may post just for the sake of posting, without a specific plan.

For Pic’s, Mekshun gathered a host of photographs from the company and developed a three-month social media content plan, offering examples of posts that tell a specific story.

“One picture speaks better than a thousand words,” explains Mekshun. “It’s not enough for us to just write a recommendation about what type of content a client should develop; it’s essential to illustrate it as well, especially if the client is not familiar with social media.”


The Groen brothers, Dave and Steve, have been involved in the family business – Pic’s Motor Clinic – since their childhood.

“If they do have some sort of an illustrated benchmark to rely on, they can develop much better content when they start doing it on their own.”

As well, training and methods on how to measure advertising effectiveness were provided to the client.

Having a comprehensive roadmap is beneficial for Pic’s. “It has been a pleasure working with [the research team] during this project,” says Groen. “Their experience in this field is evident in the thoroughness of the final report and their assistance along the way.

“From our own research and knowledge of our industry, we thought that our website and traffic was good, and this research has confirmed what we were thinking it was,” he says, adding his company will likely look to hiring a third party initially to enact the specific recommendations provided by the R&I team.

As for Mekshun’s personal development working on the research team, he says he valued the opportunity to utilize his analytical skills when examining the data from the industry partner’s website.

“Also, by developing recommendations on an effective social media usage for the client, I have gained a lot of useful knowledge and learned some interesting social media tricks that I didn’t know before,” he adds. “Now, I am using these acquired skills to promote my own web-store of toys through Instagram and it is doing exceptionally well.”

This project received funding support by the Ontario Centres of Excellence through the College Vouchers for Technology Adoption program.

The Business & Commercialization team offers a full suite of solutions to assist industry partners. To learn about other success stories, visit the website.