Jessica Jones Athena Digital Leaders

Growing Leadership in AI, Machine Learning and Data Science


Jessica Jones Ava Technologies

Jessica Jones is an energetic, forward-thinking foodie. She is also the VP of Plant Science & Innovation at AVA Technologies, a Vancouver-based company developing a smart, AI-powered indoor garden to overcome limitations on gardening skills, environmental conditions or home space.

A green thumb on autopilot

The AVA Byte indoor garden monitors the health of plants 24X7, including information such as temperature, humidity, water level and pest detection. This data is used to share timely gardening advice via smartphone applications and home systems such as iOS, Android, Alexa and Google Home.

“We live in a world where AI takes the guesswork and hassle out of growing amazing food without herbicides, pesticides and GMOs. This merger between technology and agriculture makes it possible for all of us to play a part in food security and sustainability by growing our own healthy food.”

– Jessica Jones, VP of Plant Science & Innovation at AVA Technologies

Bridging the gap between technology and agriculture

Working in a “technology meets plant science” company required Jessica to augment her knowledge of agriculture with computer science. Learning to communicate at a technical level was key to moving AVA’s innovation forward. In July 2021, Jessica applied for the Athena Digital Leaders program and was accepted into the three-month SFU Data Fellowship course.

One of the most exciting draws for Jessica was the practicality of the program. She did not just learn, but also applied her knowledge to her daily work. The course design supported the acceleration of industry-led innovation projects and collaboration amongst technology and business mentors, academia, researchers and peers.

Jessica’s project focused on using data science and machine learning to:

  • Proactively spot popular pest attacks
  • Confirm whether a seed successfully germinated, and
  • Identify any plant issues such as yellowing leaves or tip burn.

“The SFU Data Fellowships course offered through the Athena Digital Leaders program helped me to lead and succeed at AVA. It boosted my confidence to speak up in our male-dominated engineering meetings and ask the right questions. It also helped me to generate new ideas of how our company can leverage artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science within the AVA Byte product. This was the perfect combination of mentorship, project management skills and foundational technical knowledge.”

Creating a supply of diverse talent

The Athena Digital Leaders program is led by AInBC, in collaboration with Finn AI, KPMG, Northeastern University – Vancouver, Simon Fraser University, the Immigrant Employment Council of BC, the University of British Columbia, Variational AI and the Vancouver Economic Commission. Since launching the program in July 2021, 22 self-identifying women and new immigrants have been accepted into the training program and 15 industry organizations have also partnered to hire students for work-integrated learning placements.


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