Dr. Saber Miresmailli

Founder, CEO & Chairman of the Board of Directors

Dr. Miresmailli received the 2015 IAFBC Award of Excellence in Agriculture Innovation, 2016 Award of Innovation Excellence from the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce and 2017 BC Tech Summit AgTech Challenge Award. Dr. Miresmailli was an advisor to the BC Minister of Agriculture (Minister Letnick), was a member of the Vancouver Food Policy Council, represents the province at the United Nations’ Climate Technology Center, joined the high forum of SDG at the United Nations and conducted various projects funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates’ Foundation in West Africa to help small-farm holders. Before Ecoation, Dr. Miresmailli was the Chief Science Officer of Sumatics LLC, an international sustainable development corporation based in NYC and he was a member of the innovation and scientific panel of EcoSMART in Georgia. Saber has extensive experience in projects related to the mitigation of GHG emission and sustainable agriculture. Dr. Miresmailli was named in the Top Forty Under 40 in the 2017 BIV list. Under his leadership, Ecoation received the first prize at the NVBC New Venture Competition in 2017 and was the first Canadian Startup to win the GreenTech Innovation Award in Amsterdam in 2018.


Saber received his Ph.D. in Plant Science from the University of British Columbia and conducted his post-doctoral studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  But before he started his academic and business career, Saber grew vegetables first in open fields and then inside greenhouses. He still carries the very first pepper and tomato that he grew on his first farm everywhere he goes.

Maryam Antikchi

Founder, CTO & Member of the Board of Directors

Maryam is the Founder & CTO of Ecoation. She has a B.Sc. in Engineering Physics from the University of British Columbia, and more than 10 years of experience in wireless communication, M2M & IoT systems. Before Ecoation, Maryam was a Senior Software Developer at Sierra Wireless and prior to that, she was a Field Application Engineer at Corinex. Maryam has extensive experience in product development, debugging, field deployment and managing development teams.

Prior to Ecoation, Maryam founded two other companies: CrazyCooz, an educational game, an app for young children; and PointBlue Technologies, an IoT platform for content displacement in rural areas. She conducted several projects with not-for-profit groups such as Scientific Animations Without Borders.  


Dr. Barney Pell

Member of the Board of Directors

Barney Pell, Ph.D. is a leading entrepreneur, investor, and advisor in AI and deep technology companies. He is a Founding Fellow in the Creative Destruction Lab's Machine Learning Track, in which he mentors hundreds of AI startups each year; Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board of Figure 8, the leading Human-in-the-Loop AI platform; Board Director for Ecoation, an AI and Robotics startup for greenhouse agriculture;  and Founder of Moon Express, a startup company building a lunar lander to open up Deep Space for commercial development.  


He was Founder and CEO of Powerset, a pioneering startup in natural-language search that was acquired by Microsoft, where he then served as Strategist of Bing, lead for Bing’s local and mobile search team, leader of Microsoft’s long-range plan for semantics and knowledge, and initiated the projects that became Satori, Microsoft's knowledge graph, and Cortana, Microsoft’s  conversational assistant.  He has worked in R&D at NASA, where he helped put the first AI system in deep space, and at SRI, Stanford and at Cambridge University, where his Ph.D. research pioneered the field of general game playing in AI. 


Dr. Christopher Bissonnette

Member of the Board of Directors

Christopher is an investor and a board member at Ecoation. He has been a neuroscientist, day trader, and co-founder of an adtech startup in Chicago. He is currently the Managing Partner of Pallasite Ventures, an early- stage venture fund with a growing portfolio of more than 55 companies across Canada and the US. Pallasite is currently investing in later seed-stage MedTech companies tackling challenging health issues, from Parkinson’s disease to genetic engineering, while also working on software to empower patents and drive access to medical services. Pallasite is also actively investing in FinTech and business optimization SaaS companies. Chris devotes a significant amount of time to mentoring founders to support the startup tech ecosystem. Chris founded Pallasite Ventures as a vehicle to enable the positive impact of science at a scale beyond what is possible in a research lab. Outside of investing, Chris is also on the board of two foundations that support neuroscience research and medical infrastructure development in British Columbia and has been a speaker at various conferences. Chris holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University in cellular neuroscience and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in stem cell biology.


Dr. Alireza Mohazab

Member of the Board of Directors

Dr. Ali Mohazab has an MSc and a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics and a BASc in Engineering Physics from UBC. He has more than a decade of experience in Vancouver’s tech startup scene and has worked as a software lead, manager and architect at Recon Instruments, and later following a successful exit, at Intel Corporation.


Since 2015, he has acted as a hands-on investor, board member, and advisor for a number of promising startups in Vancouver including picoTera Electronics and Parkizio Technologies, helping them with engineering processes, growing pains, and at times general technical problems. Since 2018, he has been advising and helping a number of startups full-time, working in the diverse areas of Machine Learning, Wearable Technologies, EV Charging, Fintech, and Augmented Reality.


Dr. Mohazab was a seed-round investor in Ecoation and has been an avid believer in the company and their vision since the inception days. He joined the board of directors at Ecoation in January 2019.


Jean-Claude LaChance

Director of Sales

Jean-Claude Lachance is a results-focused sales executive, adept at collaborating with cross-functional teams, with a vast network of contacts across Canada to meet tight deadlines and achieve and surpass annual sales quota. JC has over 20 years of work experience in a high volume and fast paced sales environment. Beyond his stellar career in Sales, JC has his roots deep in farming and agriculture. His family owns and operates a 160-acre farm in Manitoba that has been in the family for well over 120 years. JC has fond memories of his childhood when he could get his hands dirty on the farm. His father, Julien Lachance, was the official miller at the grain commission in Manitoba for well over 30 years and he ran all the machinery and equipment up until his retirement. JC’s early exposure to farming and his interest in Agriculture Economics created a deep sense of appreciation for food and food producers.


Vijay Mital

Advisory Board Member

Vijay is the Corporate Vice President of AI Architecture & Strategy at Microsoft and prior to that was CVP of ambient Computing & Robotics at Microsoft for close to two decades. Before Microsoft, Vijay was the vice president of Namei2 Technologies for two years and prior to that he was the founder and CEO of Order Care Inc. and Melting Point Inc. Prior to his industry career, Vijay was a visiting Full Professor, first in Canterbury Business School, and then in the Department of Computer Science of the University of Kent.

Vijay is working on the intersection of computer vision, deep neural networks, and autonomous electro-mechanicals. Creating the products and services that will transform how people work and interact in physical workplaces, b2c spaces, and public environments.  He brings unusual combinations of experiences on the problem, almost meandering pairings that have now taken a special significance. Industrial automation + productivity systems. Mechanical systems + computer vision models for interpreting how people handle objects. Cloud + massive real-time edge for the IoT of visual things. Systems of record + search. Compliant workflows + ad hoc logic added by end users. Business process reengineering + NUI. Examples of the breadth represented in 110+ patent filings (50 or so granted), mostly as lead inventor.


Aaron Bickell

Advisory Board Member

Aaron received his degree in Agricultural Economics and a diploma in Leadership from the University of Guelph in Canada.  Serving agriculture for over 25 years, Aaron has been active in the greenhouse, winery, berry, and food processing industries— providing customers with financing, strategic and business planning, technology and innovation guidance, and automation and robotics solutions to grow their businesses.  For 7 years Aaron maintained senior level management and sales leadership role in Canada's leading agriculture finance company before venturing out on his own to bring European technology and innovation to North American food producers. As Owner and Managing Director of Formflex Canada and Viscon Group NA, Aaron is actively involved in the majority of North America’s largest greenhouse expansions across many crops.  Aaron’s companies specialize in automation solutions and advanced growing technologies for greenhouses primarily, as well as field producers, and food processors all over North America. Aaron is a successful entrepreneur with demonstrated business leadership that has led both his companies to industry-leading growth and profitability.


Shalini Trefzer

Advisory Board Member

Shalini is on the advisory board and holds operational leadership responsibilities at Ecoation. 
Since 2016, Shalini has been an active advisor and project execution specialist in Europe for several start-ups and scale up AI & data companies. She is based in Switzerland and speaks German. 
She has a B.S. in Environmental Resources Engineering. After initially working on hazardous waste management projects in civil engineering consulting, Shalini embarked on her career in Technology during which she served as engineering program manager of Cisco System's CRS-1 terabit routing product. Additionally, she worked as operations manager in drug development at Novartis where she later served for 5 years as finance-responsible for a $100M - $120M of annual R&D spend at the Fortune 500 drug maker. 
Shalini has certifications in project management (Stanford, 2004) and the business applications of AI (MIT CSAIL 2018) and, is a Project Management Professional (PMI, active since 2008). Also in 2018, she was a contributing editor and senior advisor to a leading global affairs media network who are the producers of the official publications of the IMF/WorldBank/G7/UNGA summits. 
She cooks with tomatoes on an almost daily basis!

Industry Partners


Casey Houweling​

Industry Advisor

Casey Houweling is a visionary. From the time he was a small boy pruning and picking his father’s vegetables, Casey has known what he wanted to do with his life. He wanted to be a farmer, but not a traditional one. Now in his 50’s, he heads one of the most technologically-advanced and environmentally-friendly greenhouse operations in the world.


“Growing the best tomatoes doesn’t come easy,” he likes to say. He is quick to add that there are no shortcuts in craftsmanship. A man known for his work ethic, Casey’s dedication to quality is rooted in his deep respect for his father’s commitment to quality. The passion for growing the best tomatoes is in the blood. It’s as simple as that, and those who know the Houweling’s operation can attest to the fact that craftsman’s care extends beyond Casey Houweling. It permeates the entire operation – from seeding and propagation through sales and service.


In a world where companies expand through broad and sometimes reckless diversification, Casey believes in specializing in one business – greenhouse tomatoes. The specialist philosophy isn’t new; it’s quite simple, really. He believes that focus and attention to one category (tomatoes) versus an array of fruits and vegetables are critical to enhancing one’s know-how. Ultimately, know-how and passion are the keys to quality.


Peter Quiring

Industry Advisor

Peter Quiring is the founder and president of  NatureFresh™ Farms. Peter is a visionary entrepreneur who created multiple companies from the ground up and established himself as one of the most proactive and forward-looking growers in the hearth of the tomato production in North America. Here is how he describes himself in his own words:  In 1993, I was unemployed but had an opportunity to get into the business. I had enough money to buy a welding machine, a grinder, a torch AND pay my bills for 2 months. I started up a machining business and grew it into South Essex Fabricating – the forerunner to NatureFresh™ Farms. Today, I own and run 4 vertically-integrated companies, all of which greatly influence the North American greenhouse evolution. My name is Peter Quiring.


Kees Stijger 

Industry Advisor

Kees Stijger is a tomato grower in Westland, Netherlands. He grows specialty tomatoes namely yellow and orange tomatoes on the vine. Besides their amazing colour, these tomatoes are very tasty and flavourful.