Board of Directors


For the advancement of women

Our board members are proud to live and work in Manitoba and are highly qualified with formal education, training and experience. Using relevant data to drive evidence-based decisions, they work selflessly to improve the ag and food processing industries and the professional lives of the women poised to enhance those industries.

Maryam Bafandkar


I provide advice on all matters about artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies and lead workshops and webinars about precision/digital agriculture and AI technologies. I welcome inquiries from all members, women and corporations alike.  For me, there is no such thing as small questions. I am happy to talk to you about how AI can solve your farm’s challenges. Whether you have an application, or need to know more about it, or want to develop one, or need solutions for your on or off-farm work, or just general curiosity, I will be happy to talk with you. 

I have a Masters degree in Applied Computer Science from the University of Winnipeg. I work for Protein Canadian Industries (PIC) as AI Specialist Program. I’m also an instructor at the University of Winnipeg, teaching the Big Data Platforms course. I worked on Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning projects in digital agriculture and health applications for more than five years. Additionally, I have designed and developed machine learning algorithms and deep learning models to identify similar plants, such as weeds and crops. I love developing AI applications, teaching, and inspiring people to improve the agriculture and food industry with AI solutions. 

Laura Lazo


My role involves providing leadership to the Board, overseeing the overall operation of our organization, developing relationships within MWAF and with stakeholders, representing MWAF at industry events, raising our organization’s profile, liaising with MWAF’s Secretary on day-to-day developments and with Board Directors on the initiatives that pertain to their roles.

I have a Ph.D. in biology from Dalhousie University and experience in research, consulting, university teaching, publishing in scientific journals and presenting at international conferences. Currently, I have my own company, Careers in Agriculture and Food, offering HR services specialized in the agriculture and agri-processing industry.

Inspired by the people that make up this industry, I devote my experience and passion to advocating for agriculture, diversity, inclusion and equity to contribute to the fulfillment of our industry’s capacity. Having adopted a servant-leader management style, the values that drive me and MWAF are collaboration and service. I am also MWAF’s Co-Founder.

Jaleesa Miller


I offer free financial advice and mentorship in an atmosphere of trust and confidentiality. I put my experience in finance to provide members with a one-on-one friendly consultation focused on their financial well-being. I am happy to answer any questions and provide guidance on a wide range of matters such as budgets, financial planning, financial institutions, personal and farm finance, loans, investment, how to get out of debt and others.

If you are a business owner in the Agriculture industry or are interested in a career in finance, I have your best interests at heart and am happy to answer any questions you may have. I am also the lead in delivering workshops about business and finance.

I developed a passion for agriculture at a very young age, growing up on a farm in South Eastern Manitoba. I studied Agri-Business at Lakeland College in Vermilion, Alberta and have been in the agriculture banking industry for the last 12 years, most recently at RBC Royal Bank in Winnipeg as an Agriculture Account Manager. I strive to support farmers and business owners to work towards their farm or business goals and dreams. I enjoy connecting with like-minded women in the agriculture industry, which led her to MWAF.

MariJo Patino


My responsibilities include constructing the board meeting agenda in partnership with the board chair; taking meeting minutes, developing governance, and by-laws and adding policy decisions to the policy manual; overseeing the list of board directors and membership; providing safekeeping of all official contracts and records, all financial matters and report to the board of directors about MWAF’s financial health; liaising with staff responsible for the financial management of the organization; and, assuming a leadership role on board committees or initiatives related to financial matters.

Laura and I started MWAF as we both saw a need for a space where women could come together to support each other in our business and career goals. I enjoy connecting with our members, hearing their stories, and supporting their ambitions. Besides volunteering at MWAF, I work as a market research consultant for organizations in the agriculture and technology sector. I am also an In-Country Analyst for Euromonitor International. I love all-year-round outdoor activities such as camping, cycling, hiking, skating, and cross-country. Reading non-fiction novels and playing board games with my three kids are my favourite ways to relax. I have a master’s degree in Agribusiness and Agricultural Economics from the University of Manitoba in Canada (2012).

Yuan (Linda) Zhou


I joined the MWAF board to share my passion for advancing women’s involvement and achievement in the agriculture and food industry. I strive to help MWAF achieve its mission in matters pertaining to the organization’s growth and sustainability, including membership, partnerships and reducing the organization’s environmental footprint.

Seriously curious. Multi-lingual agricultural economist (MSc., University of Manitoba), with 8+ years’ research experience in agricultural and food policy, program evaluation as well as sustainable development. I work as a research analyst at Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC). I am serving as a Councillor at the Canadian Agricultural Economics Society (CAES-SCAE) as well as leading the Ad Hoc Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) committee. I am an all-weather cyclist and runner as well as an Ashtangi. I also boulder, compost and participate in endurance sports.

Zheting Zhu


I offer research services related to Agribusiness, Agriculture Economics and Agricultural policy to support MWAF’s advocacy and growth as an organization.

I joined the MWAF board to help women achieve career and business success and try to narrow the gender gap in the agriculture and food sector. I am a data analyst with three years of experience in economic analysis and policy evaluation, mainly in the agriculture and food industries. I am a research assistant and hold a master’s degree in Agribusiness and Agricultural Economics. Currently, I am a Ph.D. student in Economics at the University of Manitoba. My research interests focus on price discovery of agricultural products, the agricultural futures market and international trade.