Category Archives: production

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

From waste to wealth: transforming greenhouse waste into energy

Animesh Dutta

By Jane Robinson

Guelph – When Animesh Dutta ponders the problems of the world, he lands on energy security, food security and climate change. The University of Guelph researcher’s latest project holds promise for addressing all three.

As professor and director of the Bio-Renewable Innovation Lab in the School of Engineering, Dutta focuses on taking waste from farms or food processors and finding the best solution to convert it into renewable energy that will maximize the economics.

When he started working on bioenergy, Dutta saw the benefits of creating a renewable source of energy that didn’t interfere with food production.

“The economics don’t seem to be there for using feedstock for bioenergy,” he says. “You have to purchase the raw product and farmers want a price for their biomass crop that is higher than the value of the bioenergy it makes.” 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

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

New boar genetic screening test can boost litter sizes

Allan King

By Jeanine Moyer

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