Right Now

An interim board of directors (appointed by the Minister of Agriculture & Forestry) currently leads RDAR. These directors, supported by staff and consultants, lifted RDAR off the ground by establishing a framework for long-term success. 

In the Future

A permanent Board of Directors, elected from the membership of RDAR (including marketing boards, commission and associations representing Alberta producers), will lead the organization. The Interim Board is finishing the logistical details before this process is put into place in early 2021.

Left to right: Kelly Smith-Fraser, Tom Steve (Vice Chair), Melissa Downing, Matt Sawyer, Dr. Stan Blade, Dr. David Chalack (Chair), Vance Yaremko, Nichole Neubauer, Dr. Gerald Hauer (Interim CEO). Absent: Brian Otto


Dr. David Chalack

Dr. David Chalack,

David is a veterinarian, Canadian Agricultural Hall of Famer, and partner of Rocky Mountain Holsteins Ltd. He has a strong interest in organization governance and is a member of ICD.D. Extremely active in the meat and livestock industry, David has served on the boards of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede and Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA). With 30 years of sales at Alta Genetics Inc., David brings extensive international insight.

Nichole Neubauer

Nichole Neubauer

Nichole is owner and operator of Neubauer Farms, a mixed farming operation outside Medicine Hat. Innately forward thinking, she received the BMO Farm Family Award and the Century Farm Award, and hosts the Growing Minds on-farm agriculture education program. As of 2019, 20,000 students have visited the farm to learn where their food comes from.

Brian Otto

Brian Otto

About 40 years ago, Brian met with other farmers to kick off a mission of representing Canadian grain producers—and he’s still hard at work. As a fourth-generation farmer, Brian is the founding director and past Chairman of the Alberta Winter Wheat Producers Commission (Alberta Wheat Commission), past chair of the Barley Council of Canada and was a founding director and chair of the Alberta Safflower Growers Association. Brian has sat on many boards as director, including the Alberta Barley Commission and the Western Grains Research Foundation.

Dr. Stanford Blade

Dr. Stanford Blade

Stanford is the Dean of the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences. He has served on many agriculture boards and the University of Alberta Senate, while becoming the founding Chief Executive Officer of the Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions Corporation—an agency that leads and manages innovation in Alberta’s agriculture, food and forestry sectors.

Kelly Smith-Fraser

Kelly Smith-Fraser

Kelly is the current chair of Alberta Beef Producers, and the first woman ever to lead the 50-year-old organization. She’s the past president of the Canadian Maine-Anjou Association and operator of the NuHaven Cattle Company. Coming from a long line of beef producers, Kelly’s niche lies in communications and foreign trade.

Tom Steve

Tom Steve,
Vice Chair

Currently General Manager of Alberta Wheat and Alberta Barley commissions, Tom has held senior positions across the grain industry, government and media. He served as a key strategist in numerous mergers and acquisitions. While working with the agri-business Viterra, Tom led programming that drove sales growth and enhanced farmer relationships.

Vance Yaremko

Vance Yaremko

Vance is the executive director of Smoky River Applied Research and Demonstration Association (SARDA). As director of SARDA, Vance works closely with his board to build strong relationships with local farmers and councillors across the agri-business community in rural Alberta. He has held a variety of roles in the agriculture industry.

Matt Sawyer

Matt Sawyer

Matt promotes agriculture as a business and way of life, farming a mixed operation with his family. His farm was even awarded Alberta’s Outstanding Young Farmers Award for advocacy and good agriculture/environmental stewardship. Matt is a director with Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, and past chair of Alberta Barley Commission. 

Melissa Downing

Melissa Downing

Passionate about all aspects of the cattle industry, Melissa enjoys working with producers to advance sustainable beef production. She’s a professional Agrologist with a Bachelor’s Degree focused in Sustainable Agriculture from University of Alberta, provincial coordinator for the Verified Beef Production Plus program and along with her husband is raising the fifth generation on their family farm.

Leadership Team

Dr. Gerald Hauer

Dr. Gerald Hauer,
Interim CEO

Gerald brings a wealth of experience as the former Executive Director of the Livestock and Crops Research Branch with Agriculture and Forestry and Chief Provincial Veterinarian. He received his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Saskatchewan in 1987, and then in 2011 completed his Masters of Veterinary Public Health Management from the University of Sydney.

David Cochrane

David Cochrane,
Chief Financial Officer

David completed his accounting designation in 1997 and MBA in 2003. As the former Chief Financial Officer for Innovative Housing and Boudreau Developments, David brings RDAR years of experience in both industry and not-for-profit sectors.

Clinton Dobson

Clinton Dobson,
Research Director

Producer-led research is what drives RDAR. Since day 1, Clinton has worked alongside founding members to build RDAR and its innovative research program. He brings a wealth of industry knowledge, as the former Director of Agriculture and Forestry Innovation Agriculture Grant section, and the former senior manager of research and policy with the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA). He has a wide range of experience in agricultural research, and has his M.Sc. Agriculture and B.Sc. Agriculture from the University of Saskatchewan.

Lydia Talpash

Lydia Talpash,
Operations Director

Lydia has nearly 20 years’ experience in private and public sectors, with strategy, business management and organizational transformation as her specialties. She holds a B.A. (with Distinction) and a B. Comm. from the University of Alberta. She brings a wide range of experience to this role, which includes overseeing RDAR’s corporate functions including organizational governance, marketing & communication, HR, information management and technology.

Executive Support

Heather Crosby

Heather Crosby,
Executive Assistant

As an Executive Assistant with an Office Administration Diploma (Executive Secretary specialization) and over 23 years of public service experience, Heather is excited to play a role in the future of Alberta’s agriculture. She joins RDAR after working for Alberta Agriculture and Forestry in the Livestock and Crops Research Branch. 

Research Team

Alexis Brown

Alexis Brown,
Program Coordinator

Although Alexis was born and raised in Alberta, she spent a great deal of her life in Texas and New Zealand, which has added to her diversified skills. She holds a BA and a BSc in Agriculture from the University of Alberta, and after returning to Canada, worked there in the Department of Physics in Financial Administration. 

Brian Karisa

Brian Karisa,
Research Program Officer

Brian believes in close collaboration with the agriculture industry to support research and ensure the sector remains competitive and sustainable. Brian holds a PhD in Animal Science and a Bachelor’s Degree in Veterinary Medicine, and brings extensive expertise in animal health, livestock production and the application of modern technologies. 

Nancy Tout

Nancy Tout,
Research Program Officer

Nancy joins RDAR with 21 years of private industry experience within the Seed and Crop Protection businesses of Syngenta Canada, including 12 years as Head of Research & Development.  She holds a Honours B.Sc. degree (Biology) and Ph.D. in Microbiology and Immunology. Nancy thrives on the complex challenges and opportunities associated with accelerating innovation to advance modern day agriculture through a customer-centric lens.

Nathan Anderson

Nathan Anderson,
Program Coordinator

Nathan is passionate about research and working in agriculture. He brings hands-on experience collaborating with agricultural societies and producers across rural Alberta. Nathan was the former program and events coordinator for the Alberta Association of Agricultural Societies and worked on Open Farm Days. With a B.A Recreation, Sport and Tourism, Nathan looks forward to advising on the research and grant process, and working to strengthen relationships with RDAR members, producers and agricultural organizations across the province.

Trevor Prout

Trevor Prout,
Research Program Officer

Trevor’s wealth of agriculture experience centers on the livestock sector and extensive grant management experience. With a BSc. in Food Science and Technology from the University of Alberta (awarded the Sterling Medal for outstanding academic achievement), Trevor has worked in multiple meat product development positions, program management in the poultry industry, and grant management with the Alberta Meat and Livestock Agency (ALMA) and Department of Agriculture and Forestry.


Janada Hawthorne

Janada Hawthorne,
Communications Lead

Janada is passionate about advancing the voice of Alberta’s agriculture, and will contribute with her expertise in brand development, project management, social media, digital advertising, and public engagement. No matter the task, she creates meaningful ways for organizations to connect, inform, and inspire. Janada holds a Master of Corporate Communication degree (marketing specialization) from Bond University in Australia, as well as a B.A. in Political Science from the University of Alberta.


Chao Wang

Chao Wang,
Financial Accountant

Chao holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from NAIT. In 2019 she completed the CPA program and received her designation. She has spent the past five years working in public practice, gaining a wealth of experience providing accounting services for both non-profit organizations and profit-oriented companies.