Author Archives: AgInnovation Ontario

Sliding scale market brings fruits and vegetables to all

By Lisa McLean

Guelph – Hundreds of varieties of fruits and vegetables grow in Ontario each year, but many Ontario residents still face barriers to accessing those foods. Now, an innovative food accessibility program in Guelph is making it easier for its community members to buy fresh produce.

The SEED – a community food project that delivers community programs to address food insecurity – offers weekly, affordable fresh food markets with items priced on a sliding price scale. The markets, running a few hours each week now in two neighbourhoods in Guelph, offer a large selection of fresh fruits and vegetables to residents who may face income, transportation or other barriers to eating well.

“When people come to the market, they choose what they want to pay,” says Becca Clayton, community food markets coordinator at The SEED. “On the reduced end of the scale, we price items as low as we can offer while still covering our costs. The upper value of the scale is retail value. Customers can pay the retail end or the reduced rate, or anything in between — no questions asked.”

While the community market has been operating in a downtown location at the Guelph Community Health Centre for less than a year, the program is already expanding. A second site, in a so-called “food desert” (located a significant distance from grocery stores) in Guelph’s east end opened in April 2018. Continue reading

Sterile insect technique promising in fight against greenhouse pepper pest

photo by Lilian Schaer, AgInnovation Ontario

By Jane Robinson

Ontario’s greenhouse pepper growers are struggling to control a very problematic invasive insect, but have very few effective options. Pepper weevils are threatening the province’s $420 million greenhouse pepper industry – a high value crop that covers about 520 hectares (1,285 acres) in Ontario.

University of Guelph researcher Dr. Cynthia Scott-Dupree is testing a genetic control strategy that could bring much-needed hope to growers.

“Pepper weevils began causing substantial economic losses in Ontario in 2015,” says Scott-Dupree, a professor in the School of Environmental Sciences and Bayer Chair in Sustainable Pest Management.  “There really aren’t any effective insecticides that control the adult, and the direct damage caused to the pepper is invisible until you cut it open.”

Adult female pepper weevils lay a single egg in a puncture wound on the surface of the pepper. When the egg hatches, the larvae chew into the pepper to feed. The adult emerges inside the fruit, feeds on the pepper a little longer, mates and then exits the fruit. And the cycle starts all over.

Scott-Dupree started working on sterile insect technique (SIT) about five years ago to control a leafminer in Ontario-grown chrysanthemums. She was then approached by Bruce Power about the potential to use gamma radiation to mitigate insect pest problems in Ontario agriculture.

“I steered them to the pepper weevil issue as I knew that growers were stuck for solutions,” she says. Continue reading

Using sensors, block chain for better animal welfare in transit

By Lilian Schaer

Guelph – A new sensor-based tracking system for livestock could provide peace of mind for farmers, food companies and consumers that animals are being treated humanely during transport.

Transport Genie monitors microclimate conditions inside livestock trailers and provides that information to users along the supply chain using block chain technology.

Block chains are a digital ledger of all transactions in a supply chain – information is passed along digitally as an attachment to the chain instead of through a paper trail and the permanent links between the blocks eliminate the possibility of data tampering.

“The devices currently monitor conditions like humidity and temperature inside a trailer, but could in future also track things like CO2 levels, acceleration and breaking to ensure livestock arrive at their destination safely, alive and healthy,” explains Kristen Celotto, part of the Transport Genie development team. “And if animals are injured or die in-transit, the sensors can indicate what went wrong and when.” Continue reading

Research institute helps make Ontario wines world class

By Tiffany Mayer

St. Catherines, Ontario – The glass is half full when it comes to grape and wine research in Ontario. And it’s only getting fuller thanks to the efforts of Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI).

The research institute, established in 1996 in partnership with the Grape Growers of Ontario, the Wine Council of Ontario, and the Winery and Grower Alliance of Ontario, has tackled significant vineyard and winemaking issues, elevating local tipple to world-class status in the process.

It’s done so by taking on the multi-coloured Asian lady beetle, which can taint an entire vintage, and kept many bottles of wine tasting their finest in the process. It has 20 years of research dedicated to icewine production and authentication to ensure integrity for Canadian versions of the sweet nectar.

The effects of climate change on grape growing, sparkling wine production, and resveratrol and the Ontario wine industry also get serious research attention at CCOVI to the benefit of Ontario vintners and grape growers. Continue reading

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