Category Archives: innovation

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

A new solution to cleaning wastewater on shrimp farms

By Jeanine Moyer

Guelph – Ontario shrimp farmers could soon be going green – with algae. New research is using algae to naturally clean recirculating saltwater on shrimp farms. Still in the early development stages, the new, highly efficient process of removing nutrients and carbon dioxide from recirculating saltwater is being tested at the University of Guelph.

“It’s not a new idea,” admits Andreas Heyland, lead project researcher and integrative biology professor at the University of Guelph. “But we’ve been able to select highly efficient algae strains, which can be grown on the recirculating water.”

In-land shrimp farming has grown in Ontario in recent years with the demand for local shrimp in closer proximity to the marketplace. As a result, farmers are looking for new ways to manage nutrient build-up in the production system; conventional methods don’t produce much revenue and saltwater can’t be easily disposed in the environment. Continue reading

Finding the right light to grow better plants – on Earth and in space

By Lilian Schaer

Guelph – It’s an unremarkable building from the outside, tucked away on a side street on the University of Guelph campus. What’s inside, though, is most remarkable – and may well be lighting the way for future human life in space, as well as better life here on earth.

Not only are researchers in the Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility working on how to best grow food away from Earth, they’re also experimenting with using light to improve the production of medical marijuana and cancer-fighting tobacco plants, helping nurseries reduce water and fertilizer use on their trees and shrubs, and finding low cost solutions to growing more compact bedding plants.

PhD candidate Dave Hawley is using basil and strawberry plants in experiments designed to find the best LED light combination for use in small, low atmosphere growth chambers that will not only simulate but actually improve upon real sunlight – and resulting in better flavour and ultimately helping feed people on long space journeys. Continue reading

Just label it

Paper labels and automation tech makes Essex County company an international success

By Matt McIntosh

Windsor – Product traceability is critical for food processors, and an Essex County company specializing in agricultural automation has been helping them sustainably improve for 27 years.

“Automation was almost non-existent in agriculture 30 years ago, but there was obviously a need for it,” says Joe Sleiman, founder and president of Ag-Tronic Control Systems, an automation technology company based near Windsor.

“We started by looking at ways to help local produce growers improve efficiency, and do so in a more sustainable way. Now we have clients throughout Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and we’re in the process of expanding to South America, Europe and Australia,” he says.

Together with his wife Samia, Sleiman started Ag-Tronic Control Systems in 1991 to market and improve his own automation equipment. At the time, that included a height control system for tomato harvesters, tractor guidance equipment, and a plant watering system. Continue reading

DNA doesn’t lie: new technology authenticates food ingredients

Steven Newmaster

By Jane Robinson

Guelph – Now that scientists can barcode and catalogue the unique DNA sequence of any living being, they’re putting the technology to the test to authenticate food products.

University of Guelph professor Steven Newmaster is helping food manufacturers verify the products they use don’t contain any adulterated ingredients.

University of Guelph scientists invented DNA barcoding in 2003, starting with animals and plants and identifying more than 60,000 plant species to date. Newmaster, the director of the Natural Health Products (NHP) Research Alliance at Guelph, wondered how the catalogued information could be used by the food and NHP industry.

He began by using the previous barcoding work to create new libraries of DNA information for commercial plant species used in agriculture and food. Now, he’s successfully created a new tool to deal with food fraud – the practice of using lower cost substitute ingredients in the food industry – that will soon be installed by food manufacturers for on-site testing.

“With a shrinking food supply and a population headed to nine billion, there is tremendous pressure on the supply chain, and contamination or substitution of ingredients may become more tempting for some companies,” says Newmaster. Continue reading