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 →
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 →
Tree in front with fruit sprayed; trees to the left and right not sprayed
By Lisa McLean
Vineland – Why do the best fruits seem to have the shortest shelf life? It’s a challenge that plagues fresh fruit markets around the world, and has real implications for consumers and fruit growers.
Now, new research from University of Guelph has led to the development of a product that extends the shelf life of fresh fruits by days and even weeks, and it is showing promise in food insecure regions around the world.
“In people and in fruit, skin shrinks with age — it’s part of the life cycle, as the membranes start losing their tightness,” said Jay Subramanian, Professor of Tree Fruit Breeding and Biotechnology at the University of Guelph, who works from the Vineland research station. “Now we know the enzymes responsible for that process can be slowed.”
The secret, according to Subramanian, is in hexanal, a compound that is naturally produced by every plant in the world. His lab has developed a formulation that includes a higher concentration of hexanal to keep fruit fresh for longer.
Subramanian’s research team began experimenting with applying their formula to sweet cherry and peaches in the Niagara region. They found they were able to extend the shelf life of both fruits and spraying the formula directly on the plant prior to harvest worked as well as using it as a dip for newly harvested fruit. Continue reading →
Guelph – When Josh Whitehead and Caroline Pilon started selling homemade kimchi at the Guelph Farmers’ Market about 12 years ago, they were simply doing something they loved.
Word spread about their Korean-style fermented sauerkraut and their business quickly grew.
“We stumbled into making food for the retail market,” said Whitehead, co-founder of Green Table Foods together with his wife Caroline. “We didn’t set out to try and change trends. I’d been making kimchi since I was about 15 years old, and we just wanted to make something we loved.”
Their first big customer was the Ontario Natural Food Co-op, looking for a private label to manufacture organic sauerkraut. They formulated three recipes that fit the organization’s requirement for 100 per cent organic and 100 per cent Ontario, and started manufacturing in 2009.
Kimchi and the other fermented vegetables may be newer foods for North Americans, but according to Whitehead, it is one of the oldest food categories in existence. No cooking is used to produce their products, retaining more of the vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants of the raw ingredients and Green Table Foods work with a wild fermentation process.
“We use a slower fermentation method that uses the ambient bacteria that are naturally found on vegetables to create our products,” Whitehead said. “The flavours in the finished product reflect where the vegetables came from. It’s like wine that way.” Continue reading →
Sharbot Lake, ON – Five years ago, Mike Mckenzie set out to make delicious food.
His distinguished taste for salami and smoked meats, combined with his drive to acquire meat-making skills led to the creation of Seed to Sausage, a meat processing, retail and distribution company in Sharbot Lake, a small Frontenac County village north of Kingston.
Mckenzie follows his own suite of guidelines – to make the most delicious food he can, prioritize quality and consistency, source certified humanely raised meat and local products, and use as few additives as possible. These business and product requirements have quickly become the recipe to success for Seed to Sausage.
Building the business took time. Before settling in Eastern Ontario, Mckenzie’s travels and love of meat saw him sampling salami wherever he went, refining his taste and preferences. Continue reading →