Mountain Hazelnuts is a dedicated team of agricultural, business, and development professionals determined to build a world-class, triple bottom-line venture and a major player in the global hazelnut market. The Company directly employs over 600 people and provides income generation opportunities for many other service providers and contractors.
CREATING EMPLOYMENT AND BUILDING CAPACITY
Mountain Hazelnuts invests in capacity development and mentorship. Since 2009, the Company has grown from a small business to one of Bhutan's largest companies, through hiring people who have the energy, talent, and dedication to make significant contributions to their communities. Many employees have grown from entry level roles to running large teams and developing innovative solutions within their area of specialty. The Company uses its training programs to attract quality employees who want to learn professional skills and to create a replicable model for other companies.
From nursery workers and field monitors to highly trained technical specialists and coders - the team is as diverse as its challenges. Thus, training programs range from natural sciences, such as soil chemistry and integrated pest management, to workplace productivity and developing management skills. All focus on personalized development.
EMPOWERING WOMEN, FULFILLING POTENTIAL
Promoting female leadership and gender equality is particularly important to success, both within the Company and in the communities. The Women’s Leadership Initiative mentors Mountain Hazelnuts’ growing number of female managers. Close to half of the employees are female, with a workplace culture that emphasizes equality and respect between men and women. Effective female managers and successful women farmers become powerful examples to their communities and create positive multi-generational impacts.
Daniel Spitzer, Chairman & CEO
Daniel has founded and led several companies in Asia that have successfully combined financial objectives with social and environmental goals, including Plantation Timber Products Group (PTP), which he built into China’s largest sustainable forestry company. PTP established $200 million of new facilities to process logs grown by 700,000 farmer partners in deforested Himalayan foothills and vulnerable river regions in the interior of China.
Daniel started his career in finance, and was Partner & Managing Director of a major private investment fund and Managing Director of a global merchant bank. He received a BA from University of California, Berkeley and an MA from Stanford University.
TERESA LAW, CFO
Teresa worked in banking for 20 years, including senior roles for JP Morgan and Citibank in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, and the USA.
Prior to joining Mountain Hazelnuts, Teresa served as Chair of a development organization that works with HIV-impacted communities in China through social programs and income generation schemes. She received a BA from Westmont College and an MBA from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business.
DR. SEAN WATSON, MANAGING DIRECTOR
Sean has been based in Bhutan for five years, where he oversees Mountain Hazelnut’s agricultural operations. He has worked with the Company since 2006 on a range of assignments in China and Bhutan, including orchard development, land surveying, and environmental analysis. Sean has twenty years of experience working on agricultural and infrastructure projects, focusing on environmental, logistical, and operational issues. He received a BSc from University of Bristol and Ph.D. in Genetics from University of Sheffield.
KADOLA, NATIONAL COORDINATOR
Kadola leads Mountain Hazelnuts’ Outreach and Advocacy work throughout Bhutan. Previously, he spent over forty years with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests, most recently as Senior Administrative Officer of the Renewable Natural Resources Research Center at Wengkhar in Eastern Bhutan. He played a key role developing apple, potato, mango, and rice cultivation techniques during his time with the Ministry. He is fluent in several local languages and is considered by many in the Ministry to be one of the most effective community outreach and mobilization experts in the country. He has also served as interim Dzongda (Governor) for Mongar District.
Lhatu serves as a Director of Mountain Hazelnuts, playing a key role in stakeholder relations and strategy. He spent eight years with the UN Development Program, where he was Operations Director for Bhutan. He also served in various other capacities, including Marketing Director at Bhutan Agro Industries Ltd. Lhatu was elected as a Member of Parliament in the National Assembly, where he served from 2008-2013. He earned a BCom in Commerce and a postgraduate degree in Business Management and Specialized Marketing Management.
Yangchen Pelden, Planning and Human Resources Manager, has wide exposure and experience in development projects in Bhutan, other Asian countries, and Europe. Yangchen joined Mountain Hazelnuts after working on various poverty alleviation and gender issue related programs, most recently as Officiating Head of the National Women’s Association of Bhutan. She received a BA from Rohilkhand University in India and advanced training in Denmark, Japan, South Korea, and other countries.
DR. GURBAKHASH KAHLON
Dr. Kahlon, who oversees nursery operations, brings extensive experience in agriculture and management experience. He received his BA, MA, and PhD in Pomology from Punjab Agricultural University, where he then worked for over twenty years, ultimately, as Head of the Department of Horticulture. He interrupted his academic career to serve as General Manager of PepsiCo’s major citrus project, in which he worked with thousands of smallholder farmers to grow four million citrus trees. He also led the introduction of seven fruit varieties he developed including mango, litchi, pear, peach, plum, grapes, guava, and citrus.
An engineer by training, Peter oversees Mountain Hazelnuts outreach and orchard management divisions. Previously he served as a project manager and consultant on major agriculture and environmental projects throughout Asia, including managing field operations for H.J. Heinz Global Agriculture. Peter received a BS from the University of Nottingham with a First Class Honours degree in Civil Engineering.
Jigme Gyeltshen, Finance and Administration Manager, has extensive experience managing corporate accounting and operational finance for national organizations. Prior to joining Mountain Hazelnuts, Jigme worked with Royal Thimphu College, Bhutan’s first private university, establishing its accounting system and control procedures. He also spent nine years at Bhutan Postal Corporation Limited as Chief Accountant and System Administrator, where he implemented their national ERP system. Jigme led the Company's conversion to International Financial Reporting Standards, as Mountain Hazelnuts became Bhutan's first company to embrace this global accounting standard.
Tenzin Choden manages the Quality Control division, which serves as an in-house consultancy and internal auditor, improving all departments, ranging from nursery operations and outreach to Financing & Accounting. She began her professional career with Mountain Hazelnuts, and has moved up the ranks quickly as she has learned how to work with various teams and stakeholders to maintain consistently high standards throughout the Company. She earned a BSc in Nutrition and Dietetics from Bharathiar University in India.
Sonam Wangdi oversees construction for Mountain Hazelnuts: he and his team built and maintain all structures, from greenhouses to the office. After a long and diverse career in store management, procurement, and logistics, he spent six years working in construction before joining Mountain Hazelnuts as one of the earliest employees. He is responsible for numerous design innovations related to the Spanish-style greenhouses in the nurseries.
Sonam Rabten manages the team of Regional Extension Officers, who provide technical and agronomic support to farmers. Prior to joining Mountain Hazelnuts, he worked as a reporter for “Bhutan Today.” He holds a BSc in Botany from the North Eastern Hill University in India and an MA in Social Change and Conservation from the Future Generations Graduate School in the USA.
Kinley Wangchuk is the deputy manager of Mountain Hazelnuts’ main nursery in Lingmethang. He grew up on a small farm nearby, where his parents still live. After finishing twelfth grade, he worked in various roles before hearing about the newly-formed Mountain Hazelnuts. He joined the Company as one of the first employees, and had to take on many unfamiliar operational responsibilities. Kinley has taken each new challenge in stride, developing a solid knowledge of nursery management, inventory control, and environmental oversight.
Pema Dechen serves as the Company’s Planning Officer, playing a key role in political and media relations and corporate management. She received a BA in Economics and Geography from Sherubtse College in Trashigang, Bhutan.
Pema Tenzin was Mountain Hazelnuts' first Bhutanese employee after graduating from Srinivas Institute of Technology in India, where he received a BS in Computer Technology. After joining the Company as Outreach Coordinator, he now manages more than 100 employees in his capacity as Chief Monitoring Officer. Pema has received extensive overseas training in Sustainable Agriculture and Products conducted by the Danish Agricultural Advisory Service.
DR. ANDREW WATSON
Andrew is Mountain Hazelnuts’ Chief Scientist, and has advised the company since its inception. He has spent more than forty years developing and managing significant agri-businesses in twenty countries. He has worked with major international food companies such as H.J. Heinz, Pepsi Foods, and Simplot. Andrew has spent half of his time working for Mountain Hazelnuts since November 2005. He received a BSc from Cambridge University and a PhD from University of California, Berkeley.
After working for Mountain Hazelnuts in Bhutan for four years, Justin now serves as a Director of the Company. He started his career in agriculture as a Fulbright and Trustman Scholar researching sustainable farming in Himalayan villages. Later, Justin helped develop the Asian operations of a leading global textile firm, where he gained operational experience. He served as a White House Fellow during 2013-2014. Justin received an AB from Harvard College and an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.
Joel has worked in IT for 28 years, including leading roles in several innovative startup companies in Silicon Valley, New York City, and Los Angeles. Before Mountain Hazelnuts, Joel worked at multinational wireless semiconductor company Qualcomm to develop their cloud computing strategy. He received a BS in Computer Science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.