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 →
Ottawa – If you’ve visited or lived in a remote community in Canada, chances are you weren’t there for the salad.
In many regions that are far from traditional food production systems, fresh vegetables are inconsistent and costly due to the distance and effort required to get them there.
Now, an Ottawa-based company with a focus on food access is helping remote communities grow fresh vegetables 365 days a year, thanks to Containerized Growing Systems.
Corey Ellis, chief executive officer and co-founder of The Growcer, says the company offers plug-and-play hydroponic systems that allow local entrepreneurs to grow vegetables commercially, even when outside temperatures are -50 degrees Celsius.
“We knew that any food production system we developed for the arctic and remote regions would need to be easily dropped in communities that lack road access, and it would have to be ready to use, without relying on skilled tradespeople,” says Ellis. Continue reading →
Guelph – A new genetic test offers a boost to swine litter sizes in Canada. The result of more than 25 years of genetic research has led Prof. Allan King to identify a chromosome abnormality in male reproduction, including boars, that results in smaller litter sizes – and develop a genetic screening process to detect the fertility flaw.
“The abnormal chromosome in boars, male pigs, causes lower litter sizes, typically 3-4 fewer piglets per litter,” explains King, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Animal Reproductive Biotechnology at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College. “Those numbers can add up to $100 in lost revenue, on average per litter. We’ve developed a simple blood test that can identify boars with the abnormal chromosome and rule out the problem before any breeding, ensuring average litter sizes at minimum.”
Approximately two per cent of hogs have the abnormal chromosome, and if used in a breeding program, could also pass the genetic makeup onto the offspring as carriers, carrying on the genetic fertility issue.
Farrowing operations and breeders would be most affected by this genetic abnormality, making the screening test a sound investment in their swine genetics and herd performance. Continue reading →
Guelph – Are skyrocketing land prices preventing you from starting your own farm business? Don’t fret, because crops can be grown in old industrial buildings too – legal crops at that.
Vertical farming – a comparatively new agricultural system – offers some promise for producing crops in novel ways and novel places.
For Oliver Lauzon, a Guelph entrepreneur and past renewable energy professional, vertical farming also offers a chance to continue an environmentally-focused career.
Lauzon and his father, Paul, opened Molly’s Vertical Farming in June 2017. The business, which is named after Lauzon’s Great Dane and based out of a disused 4,000 square foot auto body shop, will produce hydroponically grown Boston and Romaine lettuce for both wholesale and direct local markets. Continue reading →
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 →