Category Archives: production

Guelph vertical farm brings leafy green production to industrial property

The Great Indoors

By Matt McIntosh

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

A new greenhouse tomato for all to love

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

Horticultural research centre marks 10-year anniversary

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

When the time is ripe: New, natural formula helps farmers manage harvest time

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

Canadian farmers seeking new crops could consider growing okra

By Lilian Schaer

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