OBPC Recognizes Dr. Naresh Thevathasan

Norm Richardson (L) and James Fisher (C) from OBPC present Dr. Naresh Thevathasan (R) with a Certificate of Recognition.

On March 19, 2024, Ontario Biomass Producers Co-op (OBPC) presented Dr. Naresh Thevathasan with a Certificate of Recognition, in honour of his dedication and contribution to the Ontario Biomass Industry, and his commitment to excellence in research, education, and market development.

Naresh recently retired from his position as an Associate Professor at the University of Guelph where his research mainly focused on carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling dynamics in temperate agroforestry systems and purpose-grown biomass crops research and development.

An Enthusiastic Supporter and Researcher

There’s no better way to summarize the impact Naresh has had on those around him than by sharing the following words from Norm Richardson, Vice President Research Operations for OBPC.

“I’m not entirely certain what or when OBPC’s first encounter with Naresh was. It certainly goes a long way back. As long as I can recall, he has been our primary link to the University of Guelph (U of G). He has always been an enthusiastic supporter of anything related to herbaceous and woody biomass, so naturally he got along well with all of us. He has contributed time, and many other resources, to support many facets of the industry. He has led many research projects, supported OBPC in kind and financially, and especially with the meal for our AGM for many years. He knows any great meeting of the collective requires a good feast! He has connected us with many researchers, faculty, students and market opportunities, not only within U of G, but abroad as well. His drive for knowledge transfer is second to none.

I have always found him extremely approachable. Always wanting to know more about whomever is in his audience while always making sure to connect the dots for future collaboration, whilst not wasting an opportunity to pass along knowledge to others. I did not attend U of G myself, but I can tell you just spending a few hours in the company of Naresh has enlightened me to the gift received by students under his tutelage. 

One of my favourite continued experiences with Naresh were the many times he was so excited about whatever equipment we were looking at. My first memory of this was when he first approached me about how to harvest the plots at the grass research station in Guelph. He had his students bag the material by hand the previous year and it was hard to transport, among other things. He had asked me if I had any ideas as to how he could make this easier. I told him about how we could use a small square baler for this and his eyes lit up like a kid in a candy store. When it got to the site, he had to check it out top to bottom and then took pause when I pointed out we needed windrows, as the plots had been cut with a sickle mower and were laid out flat. He said, “we don’t have one…so what are we going to do?” There has never been a problem that I have encountered with him that he couldn’t solve! He thought for a moment and then, like any commander of an army, he set his students to work with rakes! Faster than I could bale behind them they had all the plots in rows ready for the baler. As the students completed the raking, he had them chase the baler with the pickup truck loading the bales and hauling them into storage. The harvest was complete, giving a very proud educator and his students an enjoyable moment of rest and comradely sitting on the bales they had just squirrelled away. They definitely appreciated the raking was a lot easier than the work they had done the previous year, so much sweeter the victory of a successful harvest!

This went on repeatedly for a few years. The second year on I brought a discbine, which solved the raking issue, and was the result of another “so what are we going to do” opportunity. The U of G sickle mower was on the fritz and I think the students were thinking scythes might have been on the possible options list for their future! I think it really gave Naresh a moment in the sun, getting to walk in the shoes of the farmer, plus it was just a lot of fun to get another machine out to see it in action. I don’t know if he has ever had the chance to attend a full-scale harvest and see a big baler in action, so maybe this year I should invite him out to one of our fields and actually get him behind the wheel. We definitely need to get him out in a magnum series tractor with a big baler! He needs a pic of him behind the wheel for his wall lol. 

His excitement for machinery only grew as years went on. When he stood beside our 3×4 high density baler and self propelled forage harvester at the KTT event we held at my farm he exclaimed “wow, that’s a big one!”

His many trips out to the field sites with his students were always exciting. Fresh faces getting to interact with Producers for the first time, or PhD students returning to discuss final thoughts for their thesis. He always takes every opportunity to engage with all parties, which is why his contributions have been so important. It was never just about the research, or his students. It is always about the whole. From what’s under the soil, channeled through the students and presented in papers and KTT projects, Naresh has continued to bring people and organizations together to further the collective.

I have immense respect for Naresh and have learned a great deal from my time with him. I am excited to see him move forward into the next stage of his life, while in the same breath I am truly saddened for this chapter to be coming to a close.

I could go on and on. Every interaction with Naresh has been an opportunity, to which I would say I likely learned something at each occurrence. I am sure even in retirement, Naresh will not miss an opportunity to brighten the mind of anyone he comes into contact with! It has truly been a gift to spend time with such an incredible individual.”

Leaving Behind A Legacy

As a researcher and educator, Naresh has been responsible for a great many research studies and presentations. Many of these resources can be found on the OBPC website.

Fellow researcher, Mahendra Thimmanagari, a Bioproducts Specialist with OMAFRA, added, “I am glad to work with Dr.Naresh and his graduate students in number of biomass crops research projects and all the scientific publications published from research are valuable for biomass growers and the industry. He certainly is a dedicated researcher and delivers all the projects outcomes within the time frame. I always enjoyed working with Naresh.”

Dr. Adam Gillespie from the University of Guelph will be taking over Naresh’s role with OBPC, and true to form, Naresh made sure to oversee a smooth transition. OBPC wishes Naresh all the best with his future endeavours.

Presentations and recordings from the 2024 OBPC AGM, including Naresh’s, can be found here.

Ontario Biomass Producers Co-Op