Why He’s Top 40: His business instinct and understanding of technology are helping him transform the forestry industry.
Ask any bright-eyed, ambitious, second-year university student about entrepreneurial opportunities in his or her field of study, and you’ll likely get a range of responses. Less likely, though, is finding those willing to take the leap and make those ideas a reality.
For Chris Kallal, the leap was easy. During his second year in the Bachelor of Science in Forestry program at the University of Alberta, Kallal and classmate Tyler Niles identified an untapped opportunity in the planning, proper development and reclamation of Alberta’s natural habitats after oil and gas developments. So the pair jumped in and founded NiKal Environmental Solutions, now known as Wild + Pine, in 2011.
“We started out operating during the summer months – essentially from May to September or October, or whenever we could skip a week of class,” he laughs. “But there’s something about Edmonton that makes it a great place to launch an idea like that – it’s got this really favourable business environment and entrepreneurial spirit. We put in the time and energy, and it grew from there.”
Since opening, the company has expanded from its roots as a two-person operation to a larger team, operating out of an office in the Edmonton International Airport’s Alberta Aerospace and Technology Centre. Wild + Pine worked with energy industry giants like Shell Canada and ConocoPhilips and pioneered the commercial use of drones in forestry in Alberta.
“There’s so much technology out there, and the industry is ripe for disruption,” Kallal says. “I really want to help lead the generational shift of foresters into a more advanced and technology-driven industry.”