Category Archives: Research & Innovation

Sr. food scientist talks innovation at Summit

Niagara College’s Ana Cristina Vega-Lugo, PhD, senior food scientist with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre, was a panellist at the 10th Annual Food Regulatory & Quality Assurance Summit in Toronto.

Niagara College’s Ana Cristina Vega-Lugo, PhD, senior food scientist with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre, part of the award-winning Research & Innovation division, was a guest speaker at the 10th Annual Food Regulatory & Quality Assurance Summit. The event was held in October in Toronto.

Vega-Lugo was an expert on the panel: Managing Regulatory and Business Driver to Improve Innovation and Competitiveness. Registrants of the panel learned how to identify and manage compliance drivers; maintain GFSI programs with limited resources; leverage consumer insights and trends to create value; resolve challenges in global food supply and distribution; and capitalize on emerging trends to improve core business goals.

The summit was a chance for experts and professionals from across North America to navigate the regulatory landscape; prepare for Canada’s biggest food regulations in 20+ years; adapt to compliance audits to avoid penalties and drive food industry innovation and benefit from growth opportunities.

Presentations from the FDA and Global Affairs Canada offered insight into the trade negotiations that are shaping the industry in both the United States and Canada.

Event goers were also able to meet with top government industry leaders to be prepared for how provincial and federal food regulations can impact businesses in areas such as food manufacturing, chain restaurants and wholesalers.

 

Non-alcoholic distilled spirit an innovative first in Canada

 

In the nascent zero-alcohol spirits industry, Bob Huitema, of DistillX Beverages Inc., is a pioneer. And with the help from experts at Niagara College’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre, he has launched Canada’s first-ever non-alcoholic gin.

After six months of in-depth market research before engaging with NC’s Research & Innovation division more than nine months ago, Huitema has released his alt-gin product, called Ø-Gin (zero gin). The distilled non-alcoholic spirit is under the brand label Sobrii – a nod to the Latin roots of the word “sober.”

True to its name, the inventive cocktail has zero calories, zero sugar and, as the marketing touts: zero hangovers.

In replicating the refreshing flavour profile of traditional gin with juniper notes, Sobrii’s Ø-Gin also includes classic spiced botanicals such as coriander, star anise and allspice. Interestingly, and as a tribute to Canada, is the non-traditional addition of ginseng. (Ontario is the largest producer in the world of North American ginseng.)

“I pride myself in terms of the product that it is very much like the alcohol product,” says Huitema. “In fact, I don’t call it a substitute, because I think it’s actually better.”

He seems to have hit the mark, if consumer enthusiasm is any indication from the 2,000 samples served at his official public launch at the Gourmet Wine and Food Expo in Toronto in November.

“The vast majority of people said it tasted just like gin,” he says, adding his primary target market is anyone who is already drinking the alcoholic version.

“My target is people who drink, but to pinpoint that market further, the commonality is the shared awareness of health – meaning less alcohol is healthier,” he says, pointing out that, according to studies, alcohol consumption is declining globally and in every age group. 

While conducting research into non-alcoholic spirits, Huitema visited the United Kingdom, where the market is three to five years advanced, compared to North America. There are also a handful of zero-alcohol distilled gin manufacturers in the United States and now a couple in Canada.

Although his innovative product is new to the market, Huitema is no stranger to the spirits industry. Prior to entering the entrepreneurial world, he spent four years at Diageo (the second-largest distiller in the world) as strategic accounts director and then marketing/brand director for Guinness.

“I’ve always looked at different projects in distilling,” he says. “I knew enough that I thought this could be a very interesting project.”

Interesting indeed, but challenging nonetheless, especially in producing a distilled non-alcoholic gin when all the flavour is first derived with help from ethanol.

“It’s a difficult endeavour because botanicals love alcohol and generally do not like water,” Huitema explains. “The whole trick is obviously taking the alcohol out and leaving the flavour behind.”

He says the proprietary process involves a unique method incorporating maceration of spices and distillation. 

“Now, if you’re making gin, you carefully distill the botanical and capture the distillate, but I can’t do that because I don’t want all the flavour to go with the alcohol.”

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It was an extremely ambitious goal considering the impact of the alcohol on the flavour and mouthfeel and the fact the characteristic aromatic compounds of gin are being carried by the alcohol, explains Ana Cristina Vega-Lugo, PhD, senior food scientist at the CFWI Innovation Centre. The Centre includes a research team with a strong history of developing non-alcoholic products – most notably the award-winning Hill Street Beverages alcohol-free craft lager.

“The goal was to move away from flavoured water towards a non-alcoholic product that would offer a consumer experience,” Vega-Lugo says.

The initial stages of development took place at the beverage labs at the CFWI Innovation Centre and then a small number of trials were completed at the NC Teaching Distillery to adjust methods and formulation at a larger scale.

Niagara College is not only home to an award-winning Research & Innovation division, but the College’s trailblazing Daniel J. Patterson Campus, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, includes Canada’s first commercial Teaching Winery, Teaching Brewery, and Teaching Distillery, as well as Eastern Canada’s first Commercial Beekeeping program.

“Their expertise was instrumental in terms of being able to sell a product that was not only superior tasting but something I can commercially scale and replicate safely.”

~ Bob Huitema, DistillX Beverages Inc.

It’s significant to note that beverages containing less than 0.5 percent alcohol are not only considered “non-alcoholic” but are also considered a food product and must adhere to strict guidelines. This has required Huitema to obtain food handling certification and a food manufacturing licence.

Angela Tellez-Lance, PhD, a senior food safety expert at the CFWI Innovation Centre, was also brought on board to advise on a food safety risk assessment since the risk of microbial growth is higher, adds Vega-Lugo.

Huitema says he’s purposefully controlling for a number of variables by producing hand-crafted, small batches at a craft distillery in Stratford, Ont., a rich agricultural region where he grew up and which inspired his product.

“I really wanted to do something that speaks to that same natural environment: no sugar, no calories and no artificial flavours or sweeteners.”

He speaks highly of his experience with the research team at the CFWI Innovation Centre and gained a crucial boost of confidence from receiving valuable guidance throughout the project.

“Their expertise was instrumental in terms of me being able to sell a product that was not only superior tasting but something I can commercially scale and replicate safely.”

For Rachel Gerroir, a graduate of NC’s Culinary Innovation & Food Technology program, it was an incredible experience to be involved with such a unique project, she says. As a research associate, she worked alongside experts in the Innovation Centre to develop the process after many trials and experiments.

“It was a very exciting project and of course, very challenging as it’s the first of its kind in Canada,” she says. “I learned how to manage a project from start to finish. This included sourcing ingredients, macerating botanicals and distilling, organizing tastings, and adjusting the product to meet client expectations.”

The Sobrii Ø-Gin spirit is currently available at several Toronto locations of Cocktail Emporium for $35 a bottle, as well as online at sobrii.ca. Huitema is also working on getting included on the shelves at select retailers and on restaurant menus.

“It’s thrilling to see the product in its packaging and to know that it’s being sold on store shelves,” adds Gerroir. “It’s incredibly rewarding to see it go from our small lab scale to large-scale production and commercialization.”

This technical service project is just one example of innovation from the College’s CFWI Innovation Centre, which offers a full suite of services to support industry innovation and commercialization of new products and processes. To read more about what the Centre offers, visit their website.

Where Are They Now?: Rachel Gerroir

Rachel Gerroir is a 2019 graduate of Niagara College’s Culinary Innovation & Food Technology program and spent two years with the Research & Innovation division, first as a Research Assistant, then Research Associate with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre. Rachel is now employed as a Research Assistant with the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) at Brock University.

Tell us about where you work:
CCOVI is an internationally recognized institute focused on research priorities for Canada’s grape and wine industry, while also offering education and outreach programs for that community.

Describe your role and what you like about it:
My job involves working alongside researchers and graduate students on research projects aimed to help industry in various aspects of grape growing and winemaking. One of the projects I work on involves going to local vineyards to sample grapes and analyze the tannin concentration of the skins and seeds on a weekly basis until they are harvested.

The objective is to create a historical database of tannin development in many different varietals throughout the harvest season in Niagara’s wine region. This will facilitate best tannin management practices and informed decision-making throughout the winemaking process. I enjoy being able to go out into the field, and I’ve even had the chance to help with a harvest, which was a completely new experience for me!

How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?
Research & Innovation was a fantastic learning environment and a great place to interact with clients and work on real products. I was able to see the challenges that small- and medium-sized businesses were facing and find the best solution for them. The hands-on lab experience and knowledge of various pieces of laboratory equipment have been most influential in preparing me for my current role. Working on many different projects simultaneously also helped me learn to organize and prioritize my time efficiently.

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?
Sobrii non-alcoholic gin beverage was a product I worked on in my final year at Research & Innovation. It was great to be able to work on a product that’s the first of its kind in Canada and be able to try competitive products from all over the world. I learned how to manage a project from start to finish. This included sourcing ingredients, macerating botanicals and distilling, organizing tastings, and adjusting the product to meet client expectations. It all started with small lab-scale distillations and ended with running commercial scale-ups at the Niagara College Teaching Distillery.

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?
The practical, hands-on approach to learning where you could take what you’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to what you do in the science labs or kitchens. Coming from university, I also appreciated the smaller class sizes as they allowed you to dig deeper and ask more specific questions related to course material.

“The hands-on lab experience and knowledge of various pieces of laboratory equipment have been most important in preparing me for my current role.”

Most memorable experience at NC?
The culinary labs were some of my favourite courses because they brought food science into a practical environment while allowing you to use your creativity. Bringing home all the delicious food wasn’t so bad either!

A faculty member who influenced you?
Many members of faculty influenced me positively over the three years, especially Peter Rod, for sparking my interest in wine, and Dr. Amy Proulx for her ongoing encouragement and motivational support.

A mentor at R&I?
I learned something from many members of the research team, whether it be teachings through the product development process, how to use pieces of lab equipment, to how to manage expectations in the workplace. It was a great learning environment.

What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?
Work hard and be open to projects of all sorts; there’s something to learn in every one of them.

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?
To keep an open mind and be willing to participate in new experiences. If you have the opportunity to learn something new, always take it.

Proudest achievement since graduating?
Learning something new and building on my experience every day in a challenging and rewarding environment.

Interests outside of work?
Baking, hiking the beautiful trails of the Niagara region, visiting local wineries, and travelling.

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?
It’s the will, not the skill.

Scientist turned brewmaster helps shape beer culture

Niagara College professor and notable brewmaster Adrian Popowycz is a true believer in the esprit de corps that binds the craft brewing industry. His is an enthusiasm for camaraderie he received at the beginning of his brewing career some 15 years ago.

Likewise, he has worked tirelessly to foster knowledge among the collaborative culture, with a strong regard for the quality of the brew in order to support the craft industry as a whole.

“All ships rise with the tide… while it’s cliché, it’s true,” says Popowycz. “If we don’t all try to make the best beers that we can, the wind can get taken out of the sails (and sales) really easily.”

As a scientist (he has a BSc in chemistry and a MSc in organic chemistry), the technical attributes central in producing a consistently quality product are his mastery. And it’s these standards of excellence that he imparts to his students in NC’s Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management program.

“I always joke with the students that everyone can make a great beer once; to do it consistently is another thing.”

The multi-award-winning brewer was one of the College brewing program’s earliest champions, serving as the inaugural chair of the NC’s Professional Advisory Committee (PAC). He was also one of the first chairs of the Technical Committee for the Ontario Craft Brewers (OCB), an organization that represents more than 100 small, independent, and traditional brewers in the province.

While working as a brewmaster in the Ontario craft industry, Popowycz was instrumental in advocating for quality and technical issues prior to arriving at the College in 2017 when he accepted a faculty position.

He has also played an important role in increasing brewing quality as a research lead with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre, part of the award-winning Research & Innovation division at NC.

To this day, Popowycz remembers the taste of his first beer, some four decades ago. The crispness of the malts, subtle fruitiness of esters, bitter finish and a clean aftertaste that left him wanting another sip.

“I got to the point where I started to re-evaluate what I really wanted to do.”

Everything about the brew captivated both his scientific and creative sides. He just knew he wanted to be part of that world. But, alas, there was no path – or craft beer industry – to that world at the time. With a head for science and palate for hops, he experimented with home brewing.

Popowycz then followed a chemical science path, a career that would take him far from beer.

Meanwhile, during his years at the University of Montreal during the late 1980s and early ’90s, some great early microbreweries had hit the scene, he remembers. Yet he stayed committed to his path in chemistry and, ultimately, a lucrative and interesting career in the biotechnology field.

After graduating, and with a thesis in what he describes as “glow in the dark Mr. Bubble,” Popowycz ended up at the California headquarters of a billion-dollar pioneer biotechnology company. At the time, it was the world’s leading manufacturer of instruments used to analyze DNA, and even supplied a sequencing machine used by the Human Genome Project (the global project to map all the genes in the entire human DNA genome).

Armed with his chemistry training, he was delivering highly technical presentations to other scientists and prospective clients of the biotechnology instrumentation. He was even tapped to give a talk at Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) to a group of rocket scientists who were looking at equipment from different instrumentation companies to help detect life on the planet Mars.

“It was all very humbling,” he recalls. “These are the same people talking on behalf of NASA on the Discovery Channel!.”

He rose rapidly through company ranks, in sales, busting quotas with record numbers.

Still, he moved to a few other small biotechnology companies, where he amassed experience with business development and management. All the while, Popowycz found himself immersed in the burgeoning beer scene in SoCal (Southern California).

“There was so much good craft beer going on, so I was enjoying some good beer, and visiting breweries,” he says, adding that the bug from his youth was pulling at him.

“I got to the point where I started to re-evaluate what I really wanted to do.”

And so, at 40 years old, he packed up and left the beach for Berlin, Germany and home to one of the world’s oldest and best beer schools. The renowned Versuchs- und Lehranstalt für Brauerei in Berlin (VLB), translated means “research and teaching institute for breweries,” was founded in 1883.

The school’s Technical University Berlin (TUB) offered an accelerated one-year certified brewmaster program, in English.

While he roomed in a frat house, Popowycz took his beer education very seriously. And it’s an experience there he describes as “the best year” of his life.

Albeit modest about graduating with the highest marks of any class at the time, he describes his fortune as having the opportunity to study under the renowned professor, the late Karl Wackerbauer, PhD.

 “He was one of those key people in brewing science and education,” he says. “I used to joke that he has probably forgotten more than I’ll ever know.”

Even now, Popowycz remains one of only a handful of VLB graduates in Ontario.

“We’re having an impact on brewing culture at the College. So we have to help shape that culture.”

It was also at VLB that he says shaped his principles surrounding the camaraderie that exists in the industry. Brewers will always help other brewers.

He took this maxim with him as he made a respected name for himself in Ontario’s craft beer industry. He arrived in 2004 to Toronto’s Black Oak Brewing as brewmaster and was involved in many beer “firsts.”

After a stint with Great Lakes Brewing, Popowycz served as brewmaster and director of operations for Cool Beer Brewing before heading to Niagara College.

While he’s also a coordinator of NC’s brewing program, Popowycz teaches many of the technical and management courses on the roster.

“It’s what’s fun for me in terms of bringing in a lot of that stuff you can’t learn from the books – the real-life experience that hopefully, you can transmit,” he says.

“We’re having an impact on brewing culture at the College. So we have to help shape that culture,” he says, adding that this culture of cohesion only makes sense because it helps the entire industry grow.

While he has worked in the relatively small industry of craft beer (with approximately 300 breweries in the province), Popowycz is quick to point out he is not biased towards a brewery’s size.

“It doesn’t matter what size you are; we’re brewers… I’m brewery focused,” he explains. “To me, it’s all brewing, whether large-scale or not. I’ve never looked at it differently.”

In his work with the Research & Innovation division, Popowycz brings his technical insight to each project. Last year he was able to consult on a large-scale project – managed by Kelly Byer, lab technologist at the CFWI Innovation Centre – that saw a review of 1,000 craft beers for quality and consistency for some 50 members of the OCB.

“It doesn’t matter what size you are; we’re brewers… I’m brewery focused,” he explains. “To me, it’s all brewing, whether large-scale or not. I’ve never looked at it differently.”

The analysis was presented by Byer at the OCB annual conference, in a report called “The Ontario Craft Beer Quality Review,” to serve as a model to the industry.

Given his role as chair of the OCB’s Technical Committee, Popowycz was able to act as an ambassador and liaison between the College and the brewers’ association.

As a cornerstone, he always stresses the significance of quality in the industry, especially as the industry, with advances in technology, continues to evolve.

“In some ways, it’s really different now than it was before, it was more cowboy at the time – Wild West,” he explains. “There’s still a lot of that creativity going around, but because it’s grown so much, the expectations – from consumers and even government – of quality and the importance of documentation and good manufacturing practices are even more critical.”

 “I like that these projects are practical…it’s not an ephemeral exercise,” he says. “I also like that the intellectual property flows back to the customer. That’s a big deal from having been from organizations that value IP… to me, it’s really important.”

The framework for the projects within Research & Innovation, he says, offers students valuable experience to understand these quality standards, while also working with real deadlines and dealing directly with industry partners.

 “I like that these projects are practical…it’s not an ephemeral exercise,” he says. “I also like that the intellectual property flows back to the customer. That’s a big deal from having been from organizations that value IP… to me, it’s really important.”

Currently, he’s putting his technical prowess to the test during an applied research project, managed by the CFWI Innovation Centre, to develop a gluten-free beer for an industry partner.

“There are very few gluten-free beers around, so it’s extremely exciting,” he says. “But it’s also a big challenge because fundamentally, a lot of your options for making this don’t work as well as barley.”

“It takes a particular mindset and inner peace to do research because things don’t work all the time. This type of perseverance pays off. It  teaches you a temperament and also what you’re capable of, and what your limits are.”

Barley, as a gluten source, adds to the palatable texture and mouthfeel, so it’s difficult to replace and has technical hurdles to overcome. “We’re trying to find a way to make something that tastes really nice, tastes like beer.

“There’s also scale-up, which provides further challenges,” he notes. “We’re making good headway on this, and I’m pretty excited.”

In working on these research-based projects, Popowycz also gets a certain type of satisfaction, separate from his role as a professor. And it’s a field for which he’s aptly suited.

“It takes a particular mindset and inner peace to do research because things don’t work all the time. This type of perseverance pays off,” he muses. “It teaches you a temperament and also what you’re capable of, and what your limits are.”

Given his journey thus far, it’s highly likely there’s not many limits ahead.

New SONAMI network manager continues family legacy in public service

At Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division, Kithio Mwanzia takes on the role of network manager for SONAMI (Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing), an NC-led consortium of academic institutions supporting the manufacturing industry.

Ambassadorship, in all its forms, is deep-rooted in Kithio Mwanzia’s family.

The son of a former Kenyan ambassador to the European Union and the grandson of one of the first Chamber of Commerce presidents in the Kenyan Republic during post-colonialism, Mwanzia grew up around public policy, community service and business advocacy.

Today, after serving for three Ontario Chambers of Commerce, he continues the legacy for public stewardship in his new role as network manager for the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing (SONAMI), a Niagara College-led consortium of academic institutions providing a pool of resources and expertise to support the manufacturing needs of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

SONAMI has recently entered its second phase after a significant reinvestment from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev), on the heels of a successful first phase. The award-winning network is a partnership between Conestoga College, Fanshawe College, Lambton College, McMaster University, Mohawk College, Niagara College, and Sheridan College – with plans on growing to 10 partners, enhancing its reach to help SMEs innovate.

“With this expansion, the network will not only help SMEs remain competitive, but it will also continue to provide more students with the opportunities to gain essential skills by working on leading-edge applied research solutions for industry partners,” he explains.

      

As network manager, Mwanzia oversees the performance of all partner institutions to ensure successful project outcomes, while also helping manufacturers adopt cutting-edge technologies into their operations so they can create innovative new products. As well, he is responsible for working with the SONAMI steering committee to devise a plan for sustainability beyond the five-year funding envelope from FedDev.

True to his lineage, Mwanzia also sees his role as an ambassador for the SONAMI network – as an emissary of sorts between SMEs needing help with research and development, and the academic institutions who are at the ready to engage.

“I see ambassadorship in four key areas: between industry-academic partnerships; between the institutional collaborations working together around common goals; for high-quality student experiential learning and also for economic prosperity and business success,” he says.

In laying this foundation, he is establishing relationships within the seven advanced manufacturing ecosystems (chambers, economic development corporations) surrounding each academic institution to get a clear picture of the needs of the SMEs and how the array of technology capabilities from each SONAMI member can best match those requirements.

“I’m understanding the culture of these ecosystems, how they want to function, what their ambitions are, and how we can help them achieve these goals,” he says. “Each network member has specialized capabilities, and I’m identifying companies that can be connected with our academic partners.”

“With this expansion, the network will not only help SMEs remain competitive, but it will also continue to provide more students with the opportunities to gain essential skills by working on leading-edge applied research solutions for industry partners.”

Mwanzia’s commitment as an economic champion has a strong history, having worked 12 years in the chamber of commerce milieu.

Most of those years were in management positions and in a variety of capacities. He was director of Public Policy and Government Relations, first at the St. Catharines – Thorold Chamber of Commerce, then the Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce, where he later served as interim chief executive officer. Prior to returning to the region – and Niagara College – he spent four years as the president and CEO of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, earning the title of one of the youngest chamber CEOs in the country – at age 29.

Mwanzia was honoured with several awards, including the Top 40 Under 40 Awards for both Guelph and Niagara, and the David Betzner Award for Volunteer Service.

During his career, he had the vantage point of observing first-hand the R&D challenges that can hinder growth and innovation for smaller manufacturers.

“At the time, there weren’t many funding solutions for businesses … they would identify a project, but engaging in an application process could last several months if not a year,” he explains. “SONAMI is designed to be able to move at the speed of business.”

To his SONAMI post, Mwanzia also brings a global world-view instilled by living in several countries during his younger formative years.

Being born in New York while his father was posted as the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kenya, his family moved to Khartoum, Sudan; then Brussels, Belgium; and later returned to Kenya, where Mwanzia completed high school.

In deciding on his post-secondary education, he chose Brock University because, as an international student, he was looking for a place he believed had a “good sense of community.”
While there, Mwanzia earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a master’s degree in Public Policy – a designation he received while also working full time.

His university experience was not without controversy. He entered the race for vice-president of University Affairs, with the Brock University Students’ Union (BUSU), but was tossed out of the election because the returning officer ruled that international students were ineligible to run for executive positions.

“I thought that seemed strange since all of us were there as part of a collective commons, so why would there be a population that isn’t allowed to participate in the election at the highest level?”

And so, Mwanzia spent time researching and discovered such a ruling was in fact, not correct. He threw his hat back in and was elected to the executive. He was 20 years old at the time.

He went on to become the first international student also to be elected as president and chief executive officer and chair of the Board of Directors with BUSU. He later received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award from his alma mater in 2018.

This tenacity, to Mwanzia’s friends, earned him such adjectives as “dynamic, passionate, and driven.” In both Niagara and Guelph, and through the networking pursuits linked with his chamber positions and his extensive volunteering for non-profits and boards, Mwanzia became well-known and recognized in various circles as a confident leader and a policy-making powerhouse.

Yet he is quick to note that while his professional life demands a certain deliberate composure, there is more than meets the eye.

“I can come across as a little serious because of the nature of my work, but I’m a pretty fun-loving guy,” he quips. “I enjoy socializing, good conversation and a good laugh.” The latter is evident by his signature baritone laugh, reminiscent of James Earl Jones.

 “I can come across as a little serious because of the nature of my work, but I’m a pretty fun-loving guy.”

This juxtaposition aside, those not in his social crowd may be surprised by his other chosen field had he not had diplomacy in his blood: the live stage.

To his delight, he got a small taste for theatrics a number of years ago when he was part of a community engagement program with Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Shaw Festival, and he had the chance to read a scene with a professional Shaw actor. He was hooked.

It’s the high-pressure environment of live theatre that calls to Mwanzia. “There is no take-two in theatre,” he explains. “The actor or actress has to deliver and captivate your imagination in one try.”

This was not his first time in a stage performance. Back in Kenya, he landed the lead role of Captain von Trapp in his high school’s production of the musical The Sound of Music (the irony is not lost on him). While he fit in rehearsals between his rugby games and practices, his co-star, a Swedish exchange student who played Maria, took things more seriously and actually went on to have a notable acting career.

“But I can still sing ‘Edelwiss,’” he points out proudly.

When he is not volunteering around Niagara, or taking in the theatre, he socializes outside – mountain biking or kayaking with friends during warmer weather. He did make a commitment to himself to pick up a winter hobby this year – so a pair of snowshoes is waiting by his door, for when the time is right.

In the meantime, he is on the lookout for that perfectly suited stage role in a community theatre group.

To learn more about SONAMI, visit the website: sonamiontario.ca

 

Niagara a hotbed for applied industrial research: Financial Post

Jacob Morris, an NC Mechanical Engineering Technology graduate and former Research Assistant with Research & Innovation and Gordon Maretzki, Centre Manager, Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) work on a specialized prototype inside the advanced manufacturing research labs.

Titled “Niagara’s secret superpower in manufacturing,” the Financial Post newspaper carried a story on Dec. 2, 2019, that highlighted Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division.

The article listed several reasons Niagara has been “one of Canada’s most robust industrial communities for more than 100 years, and one of the most desirable places to locate a manufacturing company.” It lists access to international markets; its large group of small- and medium-sized manufacturing firms; a collaborative manufacturing community through the Niagara Industrial Association (NIA) and its hub for applied industrial research, “thanks in large part to the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC)” at Niagara College.

Students and faculty at WAMIC work together to develop new products and processes for industrial clients in Niagara and across Ontario, developing a new generation of highly-skilled workers and developing real-world solutions for established companies, said Gordon Maretzki, Centre Manager at WAMIC.

The sponsored story, through the Niagara Region Economic Development, appeared in the Financial Post and will also run in upcoming issues of the Toronto Sun and National Post newspapers.

Read the story  HERE