Category Archives: food

Better food through better data communication

By Lilian Schaer

Guelph – Vast amounts of data are being collected on Canada’s farms through the advent of precision agriculture technology and the Internet of Things (IOT).

Many types of tools, equipment and devices gather data on everything from crop yields to how many steps an animal takes in a day. However, much of that data is underutilized because it’s collected by systems that don’t or can’t communicate with each other.

The need for better decision-making on farms through better data use resulted in Ontario Precision Agri-Food (OPAF), a partnership of agricultural organizations led by Ontario Agri-Food Technologies (OAFT) that’s developing an open agri-food innovation platform to connect and share data. Continue reading

Variety is the spice of life

Blendtek Fine Ingredients President Steve Zinger (left)and Vice President Rob Bianchin in the Blendtek warehouse that houses hundreds of ingredients like organic high oleic sunflower oil (pictured)

By Matt McIntosh

Cambridge, Ontario – Blendtek, an innovative local food ingredient company, is expanding the public palate by making novel and otherwise unique ingredients more accessible– and traceable – for food processors.

With hundreds of ingredients now in their warehouse, Rob Bianchin, vice president of Blendtek, says the goal is to help food manufacturers develop better products using non-traditional ingredients. More specifically, that means using alternative products to adapt to changes in taste, as well as shifting perspectives on nutrition, traceability and environmental sustainability.

“This is really about food innovation and using cutting edge ingredients, technologies and processes to develop more nutritionally dense options and alternatives for consumers,” says Bianchin. 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

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

The Growcer brings year-round food production to hard-to-feed places

By Lisa McLean

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