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 →
Vineland – Farmers interested in adding a new crop to their production line-up may want to look at okra as an opportunity.
That’s according to researchers at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) who have been working with the crop for the past five years and have some very promising results from two years of field trials with three okra varieties.
“We know okra can be grown commercially in southern Ontario and that yields of 20,000 kg per hectare are possible,” said Vineland research scientist Dr. Viliam Zvalo.
Canada imported over six million kilograms of okra in 2015 – an increase of 43 per cent since 2011 – so the market demand for this new crop, popular especially in South and Southeast Asian cuisine, is there.
Zvalo is particularly excited about three additional varieties Vineland has been able to source from East West Seeds from Thailand. The company is a key player in the okra seed market in countries like India, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand where much of the world’s okra is grown.
“We planted some of these varieties in June last year and were amazed by the yield potential,” he said. “I believe they may outperform the varieties we’ve been using so far and we are quite optimistic they’ll do very well here.” Continue reading →
Vineland – Canada’s first sweet potato variety is expected for release next year. And now work is underway to ensure Canadian farmers can also access sweet potato cuttings – called slips – right here at home.
To help meet booming Canadian demand for sweet potatoes, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) is developing new varieties that grow well in Canada’s cooler climate and shorter growing season.
About 1,700 acres of the healthy tuber are currently grown in Canada – mostly in southern Ontario’s Norfolk County – but they’re all longer season varieties from the southern United States.
That’s also where Canada’s growers are getting their sweet potato slips every spring to plant their crops, but they can be in short supply and quality could be compromised.
“Canadian sweet potato growers use U.S. propagators and breeding programs because we don’t have the infrastructure and varieties here,” said research scientist Viliam Zvalo of Vineland. “Also, slip propagation has to be started in March when the ground could still be frozen in Canada. Our challenge is to figure out how we can produce them here so we can supply Canadian growers with quality slips at a reasonable price.” Continue reading →
Vineland – Immigrants coming to Canada bring with them not only their own culture and food, but also distinct floral preferences. As Canada’s demographic makeup changes, this means new opportunity for flower growers in this country.
Researchers at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) in collaboration with Ontario grocery chain Longo’s have identified a particular opportunity for jasmine – Jasminum sambac specifically – and are now working with flower grower Westbrook Floral to bring the first Ontario-grown jasmine plants to market this spring.
“There is a very different flower culture in Asia compared to the Western tradition, especially with Hindu and Buddhist religions,” said Dr. Alexandra Grygorczyk, a consumer insights researcher at Vineland. “Flowers have very specific meanings and new Canadians are very specific about what they want.” Continue reading →
Vineland – The Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland), driven by demand from nurseries and grape growers, is leading the charge to find new table grape varieties for the Ontario market.
To date, Ontario’s main homegrown fresh table grape is Sovereign Coronation, a semi-seedless blue grape that’s ready for market over a six to eight week period in late summer and early fall.
“It’s challenging to have such a short season with only one variety. That’s what led growers and nurseries to ask if there is anything else out there that could extend their season and provide retailers with different grapes,” explains Michael Kauzlaric, Technology Scout and Grower Outreach at Vineland.
That demand by Ontario grape growers prompted Vineland to begin scouting for varieties that could grow well in Ontario’s climate as well as meet taste, quality and appearance needs. Continue reading →