Operational Staff

Dave Ross

Chief Executive Officer

Dave provides leadership and strategic direction to the development of the Centre in its emerging role, both nationally and internationally. He is a trained engineer, with 26 years’ experience of agri-technology in both the cropping and livestock sectors, encompassing a broad range of technology areas. He has been involved in the R&D of a number of novel and patented developments across the agricultural production sectors. Some of these have been fully commercialised and he has assisted with spin-out and new company formations.

Kirk Siderman-Wolter

Chief Operating Officer

Kirk has an extensive career ranging from work in central government to social enterprise and innovation companies. He has worked from audit to board level in the private, public and charities sectors all round the world, and has held posts with the Ministry of Justice, BEIS, the Home Office and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. A Chartered Accountant, he also holds an MBA from the London Business School and is a Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts. His undergraduate degree is from the University of Guelph, Canada’s largest agricultural university.

Lisa Williams

Director of Business Development

Lisa has vast experience in the agri-food sector, having spent over 20 years working in the industry in a variety of different roles. More recently, Lisa headed the agri-food division of Promar International, with a focus on business development, project delivery, implementing systems, PR and team management. At Agri-EPI Centre Lisa will focus on engaging with members and promoting agri-tech solutions so that all aspects of the agriculture and food supply chains can reap the rewards and benefit from the improvements to their own businesses and supply chain.

Dr Shamal Mohammad

Chief Technical Officer

Dr Shamal Mohammed is a leading expert in digital agriculture with a strong passion for transforming the industry by developing novel and practical solutions, using smart technologies, to help farmers and producers optimise food production and minimise adverse environmental impacts. Shamal worked for Origin Enterprise PLC, AHDB and, more recently, Agrii where he was a Head of Integrated Crop Technology and later Regional Manager for soil, nutrition and precision agriculture. Currenty, being based in Cranfield, Shamal works with Agri-EPI partners to lead the journey to innovate technology in the agriculture sector by providing farmers and producers with a wide range of scientifically robust and commercially viable capabilities.

Claire Cunningham

Transformation & IT Manager

Claire has a degree in Management with Marketing and has had a varied career within health, IT and membership organisations. Claire has a keen interest in the culture of dynamic environments and is looking forward to improving the systems within Agri-EPI and facilitating change within the business to improve the delivery of our mission.

Duncan Forbes

Head of Dairy

Duncan Forbes has great record of experience in the Dairy industry. After several years in practical farming, Duncan moved into farm management consultancy and worked over twenty years as Managing Director at Kingshay. In this role for Agri-EPI Centre in Somerset, he is focussing on the development of the dairy research and demonstration facility for 180 cows combining robotic milking and feeding in a state-of-the-art building with precision grazing.

Emily Laskin

Projects Assistant

Emily is a graduate from University of California, Davis with a degree in Biological and Agricultural Engineering. Growing up surrounded by farmland in Northern California as well as having spent many summers with her family in England’s Lake District sparked a passion for local and sustainable food production from an early age. Whilst at university she focused on projects involving food science and technology and indoor vertical farming. She is excited to join the technical team at Agri-EPI supporting the success of projects on the satellite farms and Innovate UK funded research projects.

Emma Nicolson

Executive Assistant / Office Manager

Emma comes from a PA background at the Scottish Parliament, where she worked for four years. After the Scottish elections in 2016, she moved to the Health Service and worked for four medical directors as Personal Assistant before taking a couple of years out to travel South East Asia and Australia. In Australia, Emma worked in several different Assistant roles in both Brisbane and Sydney before heading back to Scotland. This year she returned to Scotland as PA in the NHS and supporting different projects. Emma will be joining Agri-EPI to support the Management Team and the Edinburgh Northern Hub.

Fiona Unrau

Northern Hub Administrator

Fiona joins us from Bush House’s reception as the Northern Hub Administrator. Before this, Fiona spent 34 years working for Heineken and Scottish and Newcastle breweries. During this time, Fiona worked as a PA/Administrator for Marketing and Finance Directors and their teams. Fiona’s most memorable moment at Heineken was hosting a VIP group attending the UEFA Champions League final in Madrid. In her new role, Fiona will support Emma Nicolson with the day to day administration of the Northern Hub, as well as providing admin support to Northern Hub colleagues.

Francesca El Jorr

Marketing Officer

Francesca is a Marketing with Brand Management graduate from the University of Stirling, who has experience working in the Higher Education sector. In her role as Marketing Officer at Agri-EPI Centre, she supports the Centre’s efforts in raising its online and organisational profile in the Agri-Tech industry. Agri-Tech is a new industry for Francesca, but she is looking forward to learning more about the impact that Agri-Tech has on both national and global food production, for both farmers and business owners.

Freddie Reed

Projects & Technical Manager

A mechanical engineering graduate with background in agriculture, engineering and intellectual property. Freddie is one of the team working with our satellite farms and is currently project managing a number of our Innovate UK funded projects both in the UK and overseas.

Gavin Dick

Head of Farm Network

Gavin has a broad working experience in agriculture, having managed a large farming enterprise in Aberdeenshire including combinable crops, seed potatoes, pigs, poultry and 650 dairy cows producing milk for ice-cream through a robotic milking system. He then moved to manage an estate in Perthshire specialising in pedigree beef and combinable crops, as well as a country house hotel with shooting and fishing interests. Gavin moved to SAC then AHDB where he worked with farmers in a Knowledge Exchange role to broaden their business management skills and joins Agri-EPI Centre to oversee all Satellite Farm Network activity.

Humaira Raza


Humaira is an Accounting and Finance graduate and has worked in various sectors including Banking & Finance, Industry and Practice. She is currently studying towards her ACCA qualification to become a Chartered Accountant. Based at our Northern Hub in Edinburgh, she is responsible for daily processing of financial data, setting up financial reports and providing financial support to all organisational teams. Humaira believes that communication between all Hubs is key in ensuring the accounts run smoothly.

Jane Smernicki

Communications & Policy Manager

Jane comes from a journalism and communications background and is primarily responsible for growing and managing Agri-EPI Centre’s media profile. She has been involved in several sectors over the past 20 years, including charity, housing and higher education but, prior to joining the Agri-EPI Centre team, she spent eight years leading communications at Scotland’s Rural College, where she developed a very strong passion for communication supporting successful rural economies.

Katherine Cools

Business Development Manager (Cranfield)

Kate has a background in crop physiology and biochemistry and gained her PhD in postharvest crop storage in 2010. Kate worked in academia as a postdoctoral research fellow at Cranfield University before moving into industry R&D as an independent consultant. Kate is part of the Agri-EPI Centre team based at the Cranfield Hub, managing current projects and developing new business around the Agri-EPI Centre assets at Cranfield University.

Les Hurdiss

Hub Operational Manager

Les started his career as a systems analyst with GKN Sankey working on the MICV project, now the Warrior Armoured Vehicle. He joined Ford in a commercial role and became the youngest manager of a dealership in the UK.
He spent 20 years with Banks’s Brewery / Marston’s in regional operation roles, heading up the catering division, moving to Carlsberg to become UK Customer Operations Director. He went on to oversee the Ministry of Defence’s outsourced Facilities Management across RAF stations in West Midlands and Wales for ISS (Mediclean / Compass) based at RAF Cosford. Les will have a key role engaging SMEs, PhDs and clients with our Midlands Hub.

Lesley Joyce

Head of Finance

Lesley is an experienced Financial Planning and Analysis Leader who has successfully managed finance teams in sectors ranging from the Service sector to Research, Development & Innovation for over 20 years. Lesley brings a wealth of expertise in managing finances through public/private partnerships such as the Catapult Network and has worked closely with Regional, National and European funding bodies such as BEIS, Innovate UK and the European Commission. Lesley is highly skilled in understanding the complex mechanisms of public Grants and has managed portfolios worth in excess of £300m.

Naomi Smitten

Project Manager

Naomi has a varied career starting in Finance, Accounting, Project coordinating and recently since qualifying she has moved into Project Management.
Naomi is based in the Midlands Hub and plans to add to her collection of projects.
Majority of her roles have been focused on but not limited to Agriculture.
Naomi has on farm experience in Dairy/Poultry & Honey Bees which drives her passion to assist the Agricultural Industry by continuing to grow her experience, knowledge and qualifications.

Philip Cassidy

Livestock, Food and Aquaculture Project Manager

Based at our Northern Hub in Edinburgh, Phil is looking forward to contributing positively to the growth and development of the Agri-EPI Centre. He will be project managing the Tail Tech and the newly launched Opti-beef projects. Phil’s additional responsibilities cover establishment of a food analysis laboratory and aquaculture initiatives.

Rebecca Lewis

New Business & Proposals Manager

Rebecca has a background in consulting in the international agri food supply chain, spanning all sectors but especially dairy, livestock and horticulture. Prior to this she worked in dairy farming and has a degree in Agriculture. Rebecca has a broad understanding of agriculture and food supply chains and looks forward to helping to bring partners together to create innovative projects that will effect positive change to deliver value for farmers, consumers and the supply chain.

Simone Foister

Research and Development Scientist

Also based at our Northern Hub, Simone is a University of Edinburgh graduate and is in the final stages of completing her PhD in pig behaviour and welfare at the University of Edinburgh and Scotland’s Rural College.

She joined Agri-EPI Centre to work on the TailTech project which aims to develop an early warning system for tail biting. Her role is to analyse data derived from 3D cameras and to develop statistical models that identify key risk factors.

Stephen Burns

Senior Project/Technical Manager

Stephen started off as an Electronics Engineer before specialising in Product Development and Project Management. He is currently leading the team in delivering the Satellite Farm Network as well as taking on responsibility for delivering the company’s commitment to Health & Safety.

Suzie Brown

HR Manager

Suzie is an experienced HR generalist with a background in the higher education and voluntary sector. She is responsible for all general HR functions within the company and ensures AEC has the staff needed to meet the organisation’s strategic goals. She also leads in the development and implementation of internal policies and procedures.

Yoni van Breukelen

Marketing Manager

Yoni leads the Marketing and Communication activity to enhance Agri-EPI Centre’s presence within the UK and intercontinental Agri-Tech industry. The agricultural sector is new territory, but Yoni has an all-round background in Marketing and Communications, working for companies offering various specialised business-to-business services in different sectors: Human Resources, IT and Higher Education to name a few.

To find out more about Agri-EPI Centre please get in touch.