Biodegradable clips curb greenhouse plastic use

By Lisa McLean

Guelph – Ontario’s greenhouse sector has made significant advances in water, nutrient and energy technology to manage the year-round, high-efficiency production of crops like tomatoes, peppers, herbs, berries and a wide variety of green vegetables.

Yet, despite its positive environmental track record, the sector remains a high user of plastic, especially in the form of small clips that support tomato plants in the greenhouse. Those clips are an integral part of greenhouse tomato production, but often end up in landfill because they can contain tomato vine residues.

Now, new research at the University of Guelph aims to substitute plastic clips with bio-based biodegradable ones – enabling easier composting of tomato vines and other crops at the end of their life span, reducing land filling and lowering the greenhouse sector’s carbon footprint.

“Currently, polypropylene is the main plastic used to produce these support structures, but this is a petroleum-derived plastic that is non-renewable and non-biodegradable,” says Prof. Manjusri Misra of the University of Guelph’s biological engineering and plant agriculture departments.   Continue reading

Producing local flowers to meet a growing floral flavours food trend

By Lilian Schaer

Vineland – Flowers don’t usually spring to mind when Ontarians think of locally grown food, but that could soon be changing.

Professional chefs have been using them for years and now researchers at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) have teamed up with Freeman Herbs of Beamsville to look into what consumers prefer when it comes to edible flowers.

“Edible flowers are used primarily as a garnish, mostly commonly in salads, but also in ravioli, sushi or baked goods,” says Dr. Alexandra Grygorczyk, consumer insights research scientist at Vineland. “There are different flower-eating traditions in different cultures, but it is becoming more mainstream as the foodie culture becomes more popular.”

Grygorczyk led consumer preference research into edible garden plants like strawberries, raspberries and gooseberries several years ago that also included options for edible flowers. More than a third of respondents indicated they would prefer buying edible flowers for their garden over more traditional plants like strawberries and raspberries. Continue reading

Redefining “super food”: this corn-based water additive fights fires

By Lisa McLean

Firefighters commonly use petroleum-based foams and gels to get fires under control, but the lasting effects of those products – on soil, waterways and the firefighters themselves – has recently been called into question.

Now, a new competitor is on the market, and it’s proving as effective as traditional foams – made entirely from edible products, including Ontario corn.

Napanee-based company FireRein is the brainchild of veteran firefighter Quincy Emmons and Napanee entrepreneur Steven Montgomery. In spring 2018 the company announced a deal with U.S.-based technology holding company Ethonus to develop applications for Eco-Gel™ within the U.S. military.

“Eco-Gel is a proprietary water additive that is instantly transformed into a firefighting hydrogel when introduced into a water stream at the required concentrations,” says Rui Resendes, president and CEO of FireRein. “In fighting class A and B fires, Eco-Gel is proven to extinguish fires in half the time of traditional foams and gels.” Continue reading

Smarten-up your farm with the Internet of Things

By Lisa McLean

Kitchener – What if monitoring temperature controls was automated, and a grain bin itself could warn suppliers of low levels?

That’s the theory behind an emerging category of technology called “the Internet of things (IOT),” and it’s leading to better business outcomes for farms and food business across Canada.

Kyle Arbuckle, of Kitchener, Ontario-based blueRover, says agriculture and food is one key area of focus for the company, which serves clients across North America.

In agriculture, blueRover is developing new ways to give farmers cost-effective ways to be pre-warned on any non-optimal conditions on the farm and through the cold-chain.

“We focus on the business of perfect food safety and other business outcomes that will help business mitigate risk, increase compliance, decrease cost and differentiate their business amongst competitors,” says Arbuckle. Continue reading

Ontario research leads to more sustainable lawns

By Tiffany Mayer

Michael Brownbridge has great respect for the lowly lawn.

For starters, grass has remarkable survival skills. During droughts, those brown blades that look dead have simply gone dormant until the next generous rainfall returns them to resplendent green.

Lawns kick out moisture on hot days which cools urban environments. They also act like sponges that hold moisture after heavy rains and release it slowly to benefit trees and other plants growing nearby.

Then there are all the pollutants grass traps.

“It’s one of the most phenomenal plants on the planet,” Brownbridge said. Continue reading