Category Archives: innovation

Mobile business solution makes traceability easier, more affordable for farmers

By Lilian Schaer

Elora, Ontario – New data capture technology is making traceability and food safety risk management easier for Canadian beef, dairy, bison, goat and sheep farmers.

Go360 bioTrack, an initiative of AgSights, offers expanded data collection and management capabilities. It helps farmers track everything from livestock inventory numbers and animal movements to pedigree, reproduction, health, and body condition scoring information.

“We are using technology to take away headaches for people by making traceability and record-keeping simple,” explains AgSights General Manager Mike McMorris. “The latest version offers a lower cost entry point and some big improvements in terms of functionality.”

The base version that simply helps farmers keep track of their cattle inventory numbers is free. A small monthly subscription fee allows for tracking of animal movements from farm to farm or from farm to market, an increasingly mandatory requirement for Canadian livestock farmers. Continue reading

Consumer preference work contributes to Ontario apple cider strategy

What’s in a cider?

By Lisa McLean

Vineland – Ontario consumers are thirsty for more hard apple cider, and the province’s apple sector is poised to deliver. But first, researchers are profiling consumer preference to be sure the industry serves up cider that hits the spot.

The project developed in response to research needs identified in the 2016 Cider Research and Innovation Strategy is a partnership with the Ontario Craft Cider Association and the Ontario Apple Growers. The strategy aims to see seven million litres of Ontario craft cider come to market by 2020.

“Our work is about developing a better understanding of who the cider consumer is, and the sensory, flavour and taste profiles they’re looking for in a cider,” says Amy Bowen, Research Director, Consumer Insights at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland).

Bowen used Vineland’s trained sensory panel to develop a lexicon of 22 sensory attributes to describe taste, aroma, flavour, mouthfeel and colour of hard apple ciders. The same panel then applied those attributes to 50 cider brands currently available to consumers through the LCBO and Ontario cideries. Continue reading

Harnessing physics for better seed germination, higher crop yields

By Matt McIntosh

Waterloo – Physics, the science of the cosmos, is critical to our understanding of the natural world – and on a more practical agricultural level, it might be able to help improve crop yields.

According to entrepreneurs and former University of Waterloo students Amir Zhumagulov and Ilyas Ashirov, physics – or a force within the science called electromagnetism – can be used to stimulate grain seeds into earlier and more productive growth.

If done at the right time, Zhumagulov says electromagnetically stimulating grains like wheat, corn, and rice can hasten germination time and facilitate early root development. In turn, this gives farmers a more uniform and early crop, which can translate to higher, more consistent yields.

“Every seed comes with its own nutrients so it can start growing,” says Zhumagulov. “Before planting, low-frequency electromagnetism can be used to stimulate how fast enzymes in the seed begin breaking down the starch and proteins contained within it, giving the seed a more vigorous start. Faster root development also comes from increases in protein synthesis within the seed.” Continue reading

Cosmetic and health products generate new markets for Ontario sweet corn

By Lilian Schaer

Guelph – A local biotechnology company is expanding its operations to meet growing global demand for its sweet corn-derived glycogen product.

Mirexus Inc., a University of Guelph spin-off company, is building a $6.8 million research and production facility that will have the capacity to produce 16 tons of its trademarked flagship product PhytoSpherix annually.

PhytoSpherix is nano-particulate form of glycogen, currently offered as a key ingredient in personal care and cosmetic products with a particular focus on anti-aging. The product is certified natural, non-toxic, food grade, and biodegradable, making it safe for human use in food and cosmetics. In the long run it has much potential for medical applications as well, such as a nano-carrier or transport system in the body to carry drugs to targeted areas like cancer cells.

To feed the expanded production, Mirexus will need 4,500 acres of sweet corn production per year, creating new market opportunities for farmers. All the sweet corn used to make PhytoSpherix is currently sourced from Ontario, which the company plans to continue doing, says President and CEO Dr. Phil Whiting.

“These are new markets for farmers that aren’t driven by the commodity cycle, and we are using sweet corn varieties available on the market today,” he says. “Forty per cent of the dry corn kernel is the material we use, and that’s what lets us harvest this economically, because there is a lot of it.” Continue reading

Agri-food development centre proves if you build it, they will come

By Jeanine Moyer

It’s been nearly two years since the Ontario Agri-Food Venture Centre (OAFVC) opened its doors to grow the agriculture and food industry in Eastern Ontario and the results are outstanding.

“Our clients are winning international food awards, creating new processing opportunities for local farmers and generally boosting the food and farming industry in our area,” says Trissia Mellor, Agriculture Manager with Northumberland County and OAFVC.

Designed with farmers in mind, the not-for-profit, small batch food processing facility supports fresh thinking and value-adding opportunities to increase farm revenue. OAFVC specializes in services and on-site features for recipe development, food-processing start-up and expansions, research and development and test batches and packaging. Continue reading