Wearable monitor for horses evolves from student project to global distribution

horse-wearing-a-device-2-webBy Lilian Schaer for AgInnovation Ontario

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Cambridge – A chance meeting through a marketing project at Conestoga College has led to the development of a wearable monitoring device for horses – similar to the popular Fitbits used by people – that is now in use around the world.

SeeHorse is both an activity monitor and a health tracking device that can track all of a horse’s vital signs, including temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate. And if something is not quite right, the system sends an email alert to anyone who needs to know about a change in the horse’s condition.

Once attached to a horse’s halter, bridle or on a belly strap, the device can be synced to a smartphone or tablet and the information it gathers around the clock can be seen in the accompanying app in real-time, or viewed later as historical data.

“Everything is automatically collected and stored according to date and time so data can be extracted in report format and emailed to as many people as you like from veterinarians, trainers and riders to owners and barn managers,” explains SeeHorse co-founder and competitive equestrian Jessica Roberts. Continue reading

New propagation trays improve tree health and growth

darby-mcgrath-webBy Kelly Daynard for AgInnovation Ontario

Vineland – The differences between two young oak trees in a greenhouse at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) are immediately noticeable. Not only is one twice the size of the other, but its root base is much thicker.

Both trees were planted into the same growing medium on the same day last April. The difference is that the smaller one was grown in a traditional black plastic plug tray, common in the nursery industry, while the larger one was grown in a revolutionary new propagation tray designed by Vineland.

Dr. Darby McGrath is a nursery and landscape research scientist who has been at Vineland since 2013. A lot of her work in the past has focused on urban tree projects – with a special interest in growing trees that will survive and thrive along Canadian highways or urban boulevards.

“Those are challenging plantings,” McGrath explained. “It’s the opposite of what a tree would want.” Continue reading

What’s in healthy soil?

New research looks at how soil health changes over time

graduate-student-erin-wepruk-and-dr-amanda-diochon-webBy Lisa McLean for AgInnovation Ontario

Thunder Bay – Do the best yields come from the healthiest soil? Not necessarily. But new research suggests farm management practices can impact soil health – and improve a crop’s chance of thriving when times get tough.

Dr. Amanda Diochon, a professor in the Department of Geology at Lakehead University, is part of a multi-partner research study that aims to develop an improved soil health test for Ontario.

The project focuses on how different management practices impact soil health from four Ontario sites – in Ottawa, Delhi, Elora and Ridgetown. For Diochon’s part, she’s tracking how components of organic matter change over time. Continue reading

Ontario company takes world’s first plant-based carbon black substitute to market

atul-bali-holding-carbon-black-filler-web By Lilian Schaer for AgInnovation Ontario

Leamington – Using specially grown crops and agricultural plant wastes, a local company has commercialized the world’s first plant-based substitute for carbon black.

Black plastic gets its colour from carbon black, a co-product of oil refining that is both non-renewable and deemed a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency on Research on Cancer.

There has been no alternative until now, with Competitive Green Technologies’ development of BIOBLAKR®, a bio-carbon using patent-pending technology invented at the University of Guelph’s Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre. Continue reading

Growing Forward 2 brings new life to Ontario pear-growing

This story comes to us from the Agricultural Adaptation Council.

pear-on-the-tree-webBy Lilian Schaer

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Jordan, Ontario – It’s the new variety that has brought pear growing in Ontario back from the brink of extinction. And it’s funding from Growing Forward 2 (GF2) that the president of the Vineland Growers’ Co-operative credits with helping make that happen.

Cold Snap™ pear was launched in Ontario last fall – a hardy, disease-resistant new variety that stays crisp and juicy even when the fruit changes colour from green to yellow, unlike standard pears that become soft and mushy as they ripen.

Michael Ecker says Ontario’s oldest farm co-operative – it marked its 100th anniversary in 2013 – accessed funding under two different streams of GF2 to help make Cold Snap™ a reality in Ontario.

“Our first project gave us support to determine what market is out there and what is needed to grow new pears in Canada,” he explains. “The second project gave us the funding to get the new pear into consumers’ hands. We can grow something new, but getting it onto the store shelf and educating consumers takes money and hard work.”

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