This month The Professional Edge chats with John Jonasson, P.Eng., founder and president of Greentree Engineering, an agricultural processing consulting firm in Tisdale.
Tell us about your personal and professional background.
I grew up on a farm just outside of Star City and went to Star City high school. My current office is 15 minutes drive from there.
Why did you choose to go into engineering?
I was always mechanically inclined as a kid, and enjoyed tinkering with mechanical and electrical things, so engineering seemed like a natural fit.
What was your biggest challenge in college?
My college career took an unusually long time – nine years in fact. I got married and we had a baby while I was in college, which made college life very hectic. On alternate years I took some time off to earn money for college and to start a family. Plus, at one point I switched from chemical to civil engineering, which meant my course program reverted to the beginning of second year.
What was your first job after college?
The same job as I had during summers in college. I worked for a feed processing firm in Zenon Park. The area around Tisdale was something a hub for alfalfa processing at the time. My post-college employer moved the plant location at one point, an intense project which required a lot of engineering and hands-on technical work early in my career.
What do you feel was your single greatest accomplishment as an engineer?
The creation of Greentree Engineering. It’s unusual to find an engineering firm in small town Saskatchewan and there are many challenges associated with that. For instance, it’s difficult to attract technical personnel to small town. However, there are also many advantages to operating in a small-town environment. We owe a lot to the support we’ve received from our customers across Western Canada in keeping us constantly busy through the years.
What are your interests outside of work?
In high school and college, I played guitar with various local rock and country bands to help pay my way through school. We played at least a couple of weekends per month.
I still enjoy doing gigs from time to time. These days, we play three or four times a year for fun.
Do you do any volunteering in the community?
I am on the board of directors for a local organization called Plus Industries that provides employment for mentally challenged adults. The clients are trained to do work in recycling, yard care, snow removal and so forth to help keep them actively involved in community. We are proud to have helped create Greentree Home in Melfort in cooperation with Plus Industries.
Have you ever met anyone famous?
I bumped into Joni Mitchell at the Sheraton Hotel during a music festival in Saskatoon. She was very gracious and friendly. Greentree Engineering is involved in the protein fractionation project owned by Hollywood director James Cameron of Avatar fame. I met him briefly during the plant opening, and we talked about his deep-sea exploration.
What is your favourite vacation spot?
My family and I went on a dream vacation in Sicily. It was a wonderful experience. Every aspect – the food, the history, the scenery, the people – was just amazing. It’s the most appealing place in the world. We will return as soon as we can.
Who has had the greatest influence on your life and career?
My dad had a major influence on my career direction. He was smart and read a great deal on a wide range of subjects. He encouraged his children to pursue technical careers.
Professionally, I would have to acknowledge Dexter Beach who was a pioneer in the design of oilseed processes. Many of the process techniques we use today, most notably in the canola oil business, derive from the engineering work he did. He was my P.Eng. mentor after I graduated from college.