When Hannah Tait BBA'22 convocates this October, she'll have already made a good impression in the world of Agtech. Developed alongside fellow U of R grads and current students during the 24 Hour Startup Powered by Cultivator challenge this past June, Tait’s ProdYous app — which connects home gardeners with consumers in search of fresh, local produce — is getting a lot of attention. Hannah speaks with Degrees about food security, working collaboratively, and the importance of taking risks.

Food sustainability has grown as a topic of concern in recent years. What sparked the idea to develop an app that connects urban gardeners with local consumers?

I was formerly the University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU) president, which had some food security programming, so I had some experience there. I’ve also volunteered a lot with the Regina Food Bank. Through those experiences, I was noticing gaps. Right now, produce supply chains are unable to meet people in terms of the price, quality, and accessibility. I viewed this as a social problem because people were not getting access to the food that they needed. But it’s also a business problem because consumers do not have the product that need – either they can’t access it or they can’t afford it. So, there’s a gap in the market.

The app has three main pillars: One is to introduce people to gardening; two is education for urban producers; and the third is as a really easy way for people to buy, sell, or donate produce —which provides flexibility. That was something that we were really excited about.

Would the app make accessing fresh produce more affordable?
At the grocery store, there might be limited options on what you can buy and for what price. And that price is set by big grocery store chains. If, say, a neighbor has extra tomatoes, sometimes they’ll post those (on social media) and they just want to get rid of them. So that could be a donation option. Others might want to sell their produce. And that price point would be a lot more flexible. We don’t have the supply chain costs. We don’t have to pay for gas to transport produce from California or Mexico. We’re still discussing the price point for subscriptions. We think subscriptions would make this revenue-positive, even in the first year.

How do you see the model developing? What does the future hold for ProdYous?

Myself and the rest of the team* have a lot of community networks and partnerships already developed within the food security space. We’re hoping to engage with what’s already happening and then introduce the technology side to make it more efficient.

One term that we’ve been using is ‘social enterprise.’ I’m personally very interested in getting venture capital and that type of investment. It would help us develop in a sustainable way while making sure that communities are being fed. We’re looking at a social enterprise model which means operating as a for-profit company, but when you make that profit it goes back into the community towards meaningful causes. We’re looking at working with incubators and different community partners to really get it rolling, and we’d be looking at spring launch next year.

How did your time at the University of Regina play into your success as a burgeoning Agtech player?

When I started at the U of R, I really didn’t know many people at all. I graduated from high school in Australia, so when I moved back to Regina, I didn’t have any kind of network. Starting in my first year, going through the UR Ambassador program, I got to meet so many great people. That’s where I initially met my development partner c. So, growing my network in my first year and then going through the business school, and having the opportunity to work on case competitions, like JDCWest, developed my business and presentations skills. When it came to putting myself out there more, say to run for URSU president, it felt like I had the support and the skills to make it happen.

Something else that’s really unique about the University of Regina is how accessible all these community leaders are. When you sent them a message, they’re going to reply and they’re going to help you. It was the same with my professors. It’s not in their job description to go have coffee with a second-year business student to give them advice on applying for jobs but that’s what they do. It felt there was a really strong commitment to students from the business and arts faculties.

What advice would you give to undergrads or recent grads who are interested in following your lead?

Build your network of likeminded people. And I’d tell people to take big risks! If you told me five years ago that this is what I’d be doing, I would have said ‘no way!’ You need people who will support you and pick you back up with you fall down. And you need to take those big risks. Nothing is going to change unless you take those risks.

*Hannah Tait would like to acknowledge the team behind ProdYous, including: Zakiyyah Noorally, BSc’22; Yug Shah, BSc’23; Baran Erfani, BSc’24; Yazdan Ranjbar BSc’25; Christopher Jason; and Caitlin Cmoc.

**This interview was condensed for length.

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The University of Regina has lost one of its most distinguished alumnus. Ken Sunquist passed peacefully at the Ottawa General Hospital on June 8, 2022. Sunquist was a recipient of the 2013 Alumni Crowning Achievement Award in the Lifetime Achievement category and received an honorary degree from the U of R in 2016.

Sunquist graduated from the University of Saskatchewan, Regina campus, with a Bachelor of Administration degree in 1970. After working as assistant clerk to the Executive Council of the Government of Saskatchewan and executive assistant to the Premier, he moved to the federal civil service. Sunquist had a 40-year career in the Foreign Service and had postings in Jamaica, Indonesia, Serbia, United States, China, and Korea. He served as acting ambassador to China in the 1990s, and was ambassador to Indonesia from 1998 to 2001. Sunquist later served as an assistant deputy minister in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and was Canada's first chief trade commissioner from 2003 until 2011.

"The quality of education at this campus is outstanding and made it possible for me to contribute on the larger stage."

Upon his retirement in 2011, Sunquist continued to work as a business advisor and management consultant with governments, universities, and businesses. He also served on a number of boards, including CARE Canada, Forum for International Trade Training and Trade Facilitation Office Canada.

New K Sunquist#1

He was the recipient of numerous professional awards including Minister of Foreign Affairs Award of Excellence for Policy, Public Service of Canada Award for Excellence in Management, Public Service of Canada Award for Excellence in Policy and Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Within the first two years of his studies, Sunquist decided he wanted a career in public service. He always looked back on his time at the Regina campus as formative to his success.

"The quality of education at this campus is outstanding and made it possible for me to contribute on the larger stage," he said in a 2016 interview. "The faculty challenged me to meet my goals. My dean, Wes Bolstad, encouraged my interest in public policy and from the second year on I was committed to the public service."

Sunquist is survived by his wife Carolyn, sons Stephen and Sean, daughters-in-law Susan and Kate, grandchildren Kira, Trevlyn and Elliott, sister Susan, and brother Tim.

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When SaskPower welcomed Rupen Pandya BA'91, MA'99 last June as their new president and CEO, they knew they were getting a community-minded, team player with deep local roots. Degrees magazine posed five questions to the U of R alumnus about what excites him about his new job, the importance of having a local perspective, and the value of community


It's an interesting time to be involved with the energy sector. What drew you to the job?

First of all, let me say how honoured I am to serve as president and CEO of SaskPower. This is a really exciting time to be in the energy sector. There's a dramatic energy transition underway that is going to have profound implications - not only for the corporation, but for how power is produced in the province. At the same time, we're seeing increasing demand for more energy options from our residential as well as industrial customers.

It's such a critical and challenging public policy change in the province right now, and that was one of my considerations when I was thinking about my career. I came from a more than 25-year career in provincial public service. I was a former provincial Deputy Minister of Finance and Secretary of the Treasury Board. In that role, you get to see all of the work of government going through your office because of the nature of the position. There are tremendous opportunities to make sure the "planes land" if you will - to make sure we are creating good public policy. What's taking place on the power front right now will have significant implications for economic growth in Saskatchewan going forward.

SaskPower has built its existing generation transmission over a period spanning nearly a century. The energy transition underway will require substantial changes to our system in a very short order of time, compared to the history of the corporation. Whether it's 2030 or 2035 or 2050, those dates are just around the corner and there's a significant amount of work to do.

It's a really exciting time to be involved in the sector, with lots of innovation and opportunity for rethinking the organization as we continue to serve the people of the province with reliable, sustainable, cost-effective power.

What do you think are the characteristics that make a good leader, and what do you feel you bring to your leadership role, personally?

I think great communication skills, great values, being empathetic, having integrity, transparency, trust, and being creative - those are all cornerstone qualities of leadership. I like to think of myself as a values-based leader. I fundamentally believe that the "what" of our work is important - in this case, in an energy transition to net-zero electricity. But what is equally important is how we do our work.  That has to be with integrity, transparency, and empathy.

I've been lucky throughout my career. I've been drawn to really challenging opportunities where I feel I can make a difference. Empowering teams so they can be creative and collaborative and outcomes-oriented is foundational to success in any organization.

How do you feel your time at the University of Regina prepared you for your professional life?

I would say it was foundational to my professional accomplishments. The university experience and quality of education were outstanding.  In terms of the skills I learned and the mentorship, the close relationships I built with professors across multiple faculties - skills like leadership, teamwork, critical thinking, the coaching and mentoring that I received from not only professors, but my colleagues who were studying alongside me were really profound in shaping who I am.

My brothers and sisters were all first generation to the university system, and something that my mother and father impressed upon us was that we made sure we were maximizing all the opportunities that were available to us. My dad used to say "it's really important in life that you're opening as many doors as possible. You never know what opportunities lay on the other side of it." This was something that we all took to heart, and for me, university was the key to opening many of those doors.

You come from a family with several people involved in cultivating community in the city. How has that influenced you?

I love my family. It's quite large family - five brothers and sisters, including myself. When we first came to Regina, my father opened the city's first Indian restaurant, called the India Inn. All of us worked together at the restaurant. We then opened a bigger restaurant on 11th called Café Ashani, and my brother also got into the restaurant business and opened a place on Broad St - it was a bakery, actually.

In the evenings my sisters would convert the place into Café A Gogo. At the time it was one of very few live music venues in the city. Singer-songwriters would come in, and my sisters put candles and tie-dyed tablecloths on the tables.

Being surrounded by such creative people has been inspiring. I remember some professors from the university would hang out at the Café A Gogo. It was an intersection of people who'd come to experience a cultural event - whether it was an out-of-town or local artist. It was a really unique community that developed in the city.

What does having that local perspective bring to your work?

My father was really committed to public service through acts that supported people in our community. I remember from a young age, helping newcomers to the province. We didn't have our own car, but we would load into the station wagon of a family friend to go to the airport to pick up new people who had come to Saskatchewan, to help them. That really imprinted on me and was why I decided to dedicate my life to public service - it was around some of the values that my father instilled in me.

In all of the jobs I've done, I've always been very mindful of that, in terms of making sure that the policies that we're developing are communicated clearly with the public, and that they understand the whys and hows of what we're doing. This province means everything to me. My family is here - all my brothers and sisters except for one are still in Saskatchewan. I want to make sure that everything we do, everything I do in this role - with all my colleagues in the corporation are going to contribute to making Saskatchewan the best place to live and work - this is my home.

* This interview has been condensed for length

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