Better food through better data communication

By Lilian Schaer

Guelph – Vast amounts of data are being collected on Canada’s farms through the advent of precision agriculture technology and the Internet of Things (IOT).

Many types of tools, equipment and devices gather data on everything from crop yields to how many steps an animal takes in a day. However, much of that data is underutilized because it’s collected by systems that don’t or can’t communicate with each other.

The need for better decision-making on farms through better data use resulted in Ontario Precision Agri-Food (OPAF), a partnership of agricultural organizations led by Ontario Agri-Food Technologies (OAFT) that’s developing an open agri-food innovation platform to connect and share data. Continue reading

Variety is the spice of life

Blendtek Fine Ingredients President Steve Zinger (left)and Vice President Rob Bianchin in the Blendtek warehouse that houses hundreds of ingredients like organic high oleic sunflower oil (pictured)

By Matt McIntosh

Cambridge, Ontario – Blendtek, an innovative local food ingredient company, is expanding the public palate by making novel and otherwise unique ingredients more accessible– and traceable – for food processors.

With hundreds of ingredients now in their warehouse, Rob Bianchin, vice president of Blendtek, says the goal is to help food manufacturers develop better products using non-traditional ingredients. More specifically, that means using alternative products to adapt to changes in taste, as well as shifting perspectives on nutrition, traceability and environmental sustainability.

“This is really about food innovation and using cutting edge ingredients, technologies and processes to develop more nutritionally dense options and alternatives for consumers,” says Bianchin. Continue reading

GreenTech keeps coffee hot, but not too hot

From left – Michael Floros, Suresh Narine and Michael Tessier of Trent University

By Lisa McLean

Peterborough – When the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning in 2016 about the connection between drinking very hot beverages (above 65 C) and esophageal cancer, researchers at Trent University had an unlikely solution: soybeans.

Within months, they developed a travel mug that uses a unique soy-based material inside its walls to cool beverages to safe temperatures within minutes, and maintain the temperature in a perfect range for several hours.

Dr. Suresh Narine, professor in Physics, Astronomy and Chemistry who also heads up the Trent Centre for Biomaterials Research (TCBR), has been experimenting with energy storage properties in lipids. He says the research team developed the material in response to a challenge: how to use biomaterials to store energy, and control how that stored energy gets released.

“We figured out how to design materials that melts or crystallizes at specific temperatures,” says Narine. “It stores the heat when it melts, and when the material crystallizes, it gives that heat back.” Continue reading

From waste to wealth: transforming greenhouse waste into energy

Animesh Dutta

By Jane Robinson

Guelph – When Animesh Dutta ponders the problems of the world, he lands on energy security, food security and climate change. The University of Guelph researcher’s latest project holds promise for addressing all three.

As professor and director of the Bio-Renewable Innovation Lab in the School of Engineering, Dutta focuses on taking waste from farms or food processors and finding the best solution to convert it into renewable energy that will maximize the economics.

When he started working on bioenergy, Dutta saw the benefits of creating a renewable source of energy that didn’t interfere with food production.

“The economics don’t seem to be there for using feedstock for bioenergy,” he says. “You have to purchase the raw product and farmers want a price for their biomass crop that is higher than the value of the bioenergy it makes.” Continue reading

Fine wine grapes take time

Wine grape trials show promising early results

By Lisa McLean  

Vineland, Ontario – When Dr. Helen K. Fisher retired as viticulture research scientist at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland), there were a few loose ends to tie up.

Namely, what to do with her research on advanced wine grape selections for cold climate wine growing regions.

“Breeding work for wine grapes is a very slow process,” says Fisher. “Not only are you trying to find a plant that fits a climate, but it also needs to fit into a wine profile wineries are looking for.” Continue reading