Category Archives: markets

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

Guelph cider start-up brings local ideas near and far

Revel in a good drink

Revel Cider’s Tariq Ahmed extracts a sample

By Matt McIntosh

Guelph – Revel Cider Company may only be three years old, but its brand already spans the province.

With between 70 and 80 bars and restaurants on the customer list, the company’s hard cider continues to exploit a lucrative market for locally made and sourced craft brews.

“We only sell to bars and restaurants at this point. They’re all over Ontario, from Thunder Bay to Ottawa and London,” said Tariq Ahmed, the company’s founder and sole employee.

The basis for Revel Cider first started fermenting during Ahmed’s time as a farm hand. An old cider press in one of the farm’s outbuildings peaked his interest, so he started brewing as a hobby. That hobby became Revel Cider in March 2013. Continue reading

A new greenhouse tomato for all to love

Vineland developing flavourful new tomato based on consumer insights

By Lilian Schaer

Vineland – There’s a plant inside the greenhouse at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) that could change the tomato eating experience forever.

It is part of ongoing research by a Vineland team of plant breeders, biochemists and consumer specialists to discover a more flavourful greenhouse tomato.

It turns out that only about 60 per cent of consumers are satisfied with the flavour of one of the standard tomatoes grown by most commercial greenhouse growers – five tomatoes on a cluster attached to a section of vine.

Greenhouse tomatoes are big business in Canada – worth $544 million in 2016 according to Statistics Canada figures – with the majority of production in Ontario. So, the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers turned to Vineland, the only greenhouse vegetable breeding program in Canada, for help.

“Flavour is a complex trait – tomatoes are amazing chemical factories and that’s what determines their flavour,” explains Vineland biochemistry research scientist David Liscombe. “There is great range in their flavour and although a lot of that is determined by genetics, the environment impacts the chemistry as well.” Continue reading

Horticultural research centre marks 10-year anniversary

Industry and consumer focused innovation drives Vineland success

Vineland Research and Innovation Centre building

By Lilian Schaer

Vineland – It’s been 10 years since a new horticultural research facility in Niagara Region was launched as the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland).

Since then, Vineland has been turning heads across Canada and internationally with its needs-based innovations. The organization reflects the entire horticulture value chain from farmers to consumers, and they’re not afraid to take big steps to help the industry solve problems.

“We started by understanding what needed to be done and how we needed to work to make a difference, which is real results with real impact from acres in the field to shelf space in the store,” says Vineland’s CEO, Dr. Jim Brandle.

Asian eggplants at Vineland

Addressing the labour intensive nature of horticultural production was a need identified early on. Today, machines designed in Vineland’s robotics program and built in Ontario are coming into use in fruit and vegetable greenhouses, which Brandle says will go a long way in helping to keep growers competitive, as well as boost the local manufacturing and automation sector. Continue reading

Food and customer trends shape Harriston Packing growth

By Jeanine Moyer

Harriston ON – Harriston Packing Company Ltd. is a testament to the old adage that the customer is always right.

As the small town family business celebrates 50 years this year, second generation co-owner Mark Oelschlagel says listening to his customers has been the key to growth, especially in recent years. Over the past decade, local food trends and changing customer buying habits have shaped a new direction for the meat processing and retail company.

Today, the family business located in Harriston, ON is stronger than ever. Oelschlagel continues adjusting the company business model to keep up with his customers, and his results are paying off.

“Direct-to-customer wholesale and retail sales have grown six times in the past ten years,” says Oelschlagel, who is also seeing the trend extend to custom processing for farmers as farm gate sales increase. Continue reading