Please share a little about yourself and your role at Ardent Mills.My name is Kent Juliot and I have had the privilege of serving
Ardent Mills as Vice President of Research, Quality, and Tech
Services. I have 37 years of experience in the food industry within
quality, food safety, food production, and research on everything
from soup to nuts.
How does volunteering with Partners in Food Solutions help
Ardent Mills employees live out their purpose?
Ardent Mills’ four core values are trust, serving, simplicity, and
safety. While PFS helps us accomplish all of these, ‘serving’ stands
out and our teammates have embraced volunteering for PFS
projects as one of the key ways of living out our value of service.
How can volunteering with Partners in Food Solutions help
Ardent Mills employees develop new skills and/or grow as a
Our volunteers have so many stories of how they grew through
their PFS experience. It is always fun to hear from other team
members about what they’ve learned from other volunteers at
other companies that would not be possible without being part of
PFS. Others tell stories of gaining self-confidence, helping others in
Africa, and gaining new skills that they contribute to their day-to-day
job. Growth in technical and/or people skills is almost guaranteed
when signing up as a PFS volunteer.
If someone is interested in volunteering but may be hesitant to
start, what would you say to them?
If you are right out of school or have decades of experience, your
knowledge can help someone in Africa. If you are willing, there is a
spot for you at PFS. Even if you may not be an “expert”, someone
else on the project team may know or someone in your network
may be able to help. Just jump in!
What is the most important thing about Partners in Food
PFS is a practical way to share knowledge that serves others. With
PFS, you get to share your skills and see exactly what the impact is.
It is so much more rewarding to see for yourself that you have made
a direct impact in people’s lives that need help.
“I’m incredibly grateful to be part of an organization that strongly promotes volunteer work,” said Susana Godoy Bailey, administrative manager at Ardent Mills. Originally from Venezuela, Susana has been with the company for eight years and most recently moved to Canada to serve in her current role at the Streetsville, Ontario flour mill. “I was very excited to have the chance to contribute in any possible way to making a positive impact in someone’s life,” said Susana. “Also, the chance to learn from other cultures was a huge motivation for me to volunteer with PFS.”
Susana started volunteering with Partners in Food Solutions in March 2021 and a few weeks later was matched with client Reel Fruit in Nigeria as their Client Lead. Client Leads work with one client at a time, serving as their project manager to ensure project teams are supported and projects get completed in a timely manner. “My favorite part about being a Client Lead is definitely witnessing the incredible teamwork dynamic between the customer, volunteers, and PFS,” she said. “This experience is such a lesson in life and to witness the progress of the project from the beginning to its completion is an incredibly rewarding experience.”
Earlier this year, Susana took on her second Client Lead role with PFS client Zatwa in Côte d’Ivoire. “Susana has been so proactive in understanding Zatwa’s two projects and ask-an-expert,” said Bernadette Arthur, PFS program associate in Ghana. “Susana wields great emotional intelligence, a clear sense of direction, and an eye for detail and administrative tasks. On one project call for Zatwa, she helped the project team set S.M.A.R.T. goals to reach the project deliverables, which increased the productivity of the project team. I was very impressed with her ability to make the team feel comfortable and share concerns and questions.” As a program associate, Bernadette is responsible for supporting the West Africa portfolio which includes Ghana, Nigeria, and Côte d’Ivoire. Bernadette’s portfolio alone includes 40+ clients and 85+ different services. “Client leads like Susana are vital to helping break down a project into more manageable pieces. My relationship with client leads is a partnership. They help us deliver the best services to our clients and ensure our volunteer teams are having a meaningful experience working on the project.”
Now that she has overseen several projects, Susana said, “Volunteering can be done if you have the time and the passion to do it. Having all the expertise isn’t needed because there is a team of PFS staff, volunteers, and the client all working together to make sure everyone feels supported and is successful in their role. Volunteering with PFS is truly an incredible experience and by serving together we can make incredible things happen.”
Born out of a love for providing their community with delicious, nutritious, and high-quality food, husband and wife duo Rajan and Priti Marwaha started Sai Energy & Logistics Services in Iringa, Tanzania. Established in 2014, Sai Energy and Logistics Services initially started as a bakery and then later diversified its product portfolio after realizing the potential demand for dairy products like mozzarella and ricotta cheeses, snacks like potato chips and cashew nuts, and other sweet treats.
After years of success in the market and gaining a deeper understanding of local and global consumer trends, Rajan and Priti noticed a need not yet being met locally. “After extensive research, we saw a window of opportunity in adding gluten-free products to our growing product portfolio,” said Rajan. “We learned that approximately 31.8% of Tanzania’s children under the age of 5 years are malnourished and 51.3% of children in our region of Iringa suffer from this. In addition to continuing to provide our current product portfolio of nutritious products, we wanted to develop new specialty breads and biscuits from gluten-free sweet potato flour to help solve the issue of malnutrition and create awareness of how to opt for living a better and healthy life.”
With limited knowledge in the development of gluten-free products, Sai Energy & Logistics Services enlisted the help of TechnoServe, USAID, and PFS to get them started. Joining the project team from Ardent Mills were Bakery Plant Manager Dewaine Schaecher and product developers Jerome Davis and Jacob Mattson. With 60+ combined years of experience in R&D and baked goods, these volunteers made the perfect team to help Sai Energy & Logistics Services bring their new product concept to life.
“Initially our team was a little hesitant in dealing with such highly experienced individuals on the project team,” said Rajan. “But by the end of the project, the transfer of knowledge, especially on the technology behind making these products, and the ease of communication between us and the project team became our favorite part of the project!” Rajan said that his team learned a lot from the Ardent Mills volunteers including how to measure the right proportion of ingredients, how to improve product shelf-life through monitoring pH levels of doughs, the right methods of mixing ingredients, and innovations and alterations of their existing methods.
Rajan said the gluten-free sweet potato project for biscuits has reached the final stage and has been accepted by consumers so they are now are developing strategies to upscale production. Additionally, the company is working on the product’s packaging design and they hope to launch the new product later this month.
Please share a little about yourself and your role at Cargill.
I work in the Growth Ventures team for Cargill Protein-North America (CPNA) where I am the Director of Emerging Products and Solutions. My role focuses on identifying, incubating, and commercializing new business opportunities in emerging spaces like carbon, digital, and e-commerce. I originally joined Cargill in 2017 straight out of business school with the corporate strategy team. I have also worked in digital innovation and startup partnerships for Cargill-Digital Foundry and in strategy/mergers & acquisitions for CPNA.
What was your main motivation for volunteering with PFS?
Two factors motivated my interest in PFS once the opportunity was presented. First, I studied international development in undergrad and studied abroad in South Africa where I had the opportunity to support community development through entrepreneurship in a township near Stellenbosch. PFS’ dedication to capacity-building in Africa felt like a spiritual continuation of this experience.
The second motivation was my fairly recent entry into Cargill via its corporate strategy team in 2017 (around when I joined PFS). I was new to both the functional role, strategy development, and food/ag, and saw volunteering with PFS as a development opportunity that would help me learn more about project management and the industry.
What is your favorite part of volunteering with PFS?
The two companies I have worked with (Kentaste and Full Spoon Limited) both operate in markets where Cargill has little or no presence (coconuts and peanuts, respectively), so it has been fun to learn more about both from the client company’s founders. In addition, both clients have needed help with food safety projects, which is a new functional space for me to learn at a high level.
What would you say to a colleague who is interested in volunteering with PFS, but hesitant to start?
Dive in! There are a lot of companies with projects that need the type of food/ag expertise companies like Cargill can provide.
Located on the west coast of Africa in Ghana, Agicare, a maize processing company, dreams of becoming the preferred manufacturer and distributor of livestock and poultry feed in West Africa. Since 1968, Agricare has been producing feed using locally grown maize from hundreds of farmers to supply the local poultry and livestock industry. But, in order to grow their business and sell their products throughout the West African market, Agricare needed to improve its quality management systems and gain an advanced food safety certification.
“Obtaining a HACCP Certification is an important step in growing our business,” said Alice Tuvor, quality assurance manager at Agricare. “It will ensure our customers that our products are safe and high-quality for both domestic consumption and export and will help us create more jobs and provide more market space for local corn farmers.” Supporting Agricare in this endeavor was Ardent Mills Technical Service Manager Stephanie McIlwain. Stephanie has worked at Ardent Mills for ten years in various quality and operations roles and has had the pleasure of working at seven different mills. She currently works with Ardent Mills customers on the technical solutions team. “I really wanted to use my skills to benefit food companies with limited access to resources, and be a part of improving the quality and safety of the global food supply,” said Stephanie. “I was glad I could be a part of Agricare’s journey.”
Guided by Stephanie’s support, Agricare has reviewed implementation methods for critical control point monitoring, identified hazards from a risk assessment, conducted a standard operations procedures review, and added an implementation process. “It’s important for us to partner with Partners in Food Solutions because of the access to additional professional experience and expertise,” said Alice. “My favorite part of the project was simply learning from the volunteer team.”
In addition to serving others and improving the safety and quality of the global food system, Stephanie said she also learned something new. “Working with a diverse group of people and learning about Agricare’s operations was my favorite part of the experience,” said Stephanie. “I enjoyed getting to meet new people from other companies, and hearing other people’s ideas and perspectives is always interesting.”
Since the project ended in April, Agricare is now preparing for its HACCP audit which will take place this summer. With a better understanding of their controls and monitoring system, and all SOPs documented, Agricare feels confident that they will pass their upcoming HACCP audit.