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

Promising new Ontario tender fruit varieties identified

By Lilian Schaer

Vineland ON – Five new tender fruit varieties currently being tested at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) are showing promise and getting closer to becoming available on the marketplace.

The Tender Fruit Evaluation Committee (TFEC), which started in 2012 and includes growers, tree nurseries, fruit marketers and retailers, has selected two peach and two apricot varieties along with one yellow plum variety as showing the most potential from among approximately 30 selections that are part of a five year new variety development program.

Since 2014, more than 2,000 peach, nectarine, pear, plum and apricot trees have been planted at 18 commercial grower sites across Ontario.  The trees come from the University of Guelph and the former Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada breeding programs through license agreements with Vineland.

“We are seeing some interesting varieties. From on-site testing at commercial grower orchards, we have found that they’ve survived the climate, and the fruit quality is good, so we’re looking to advance those in coming years,” explains Michael Kauzlaric, Technology Scout and Grower Outreach at Vineland. “We’ve been planting trees every year since 2014 and we’re hoping to get some more evaluations in 2018 to further cement the idea that these varieties have merit.” Continue reading

Innovative farmer wins award for soil conservation practices

Eric KaiserBy Lilian Schaer

Napanee – Eric Kaiser has spent a lifetime transforming 14 former Loyalist settlement properties into a large, productive egg and field crop farm business – and always with a singular focus on the environment and innovative, sustainable soil conservation practices.

His efforts have earned him the 2017 Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA) Soil Champion Award, which is handed out annually to recognize leaders in sustainable soil management.

“There is no one practice that defines conservation farming, it’s a management system and every component has a part to play,” says Kaiser, who has a civil engineering degree from the Royal Military College. “Sustainability has many components, but the preservation of top soil must be the final result.” Continue reading

New portable sensor detects food allergens in minutes

Suresh Neethirajan

By Jane Robinson

Guelph – An estimated 2.5 million Canadians report an allergy to at least one food, according to Food Allergy Canada. Peanut allergies alone affect the lives of approximately two in every 100 Canadian children.

As the list of food allergens continues to grow, there is a genuine need for a quick and accurate allergen test whether you are scrutinizing every snack for your child, or conducting randomized testing on a food production line. Current allergen testing can take hours, when minutes can make all the difference.

A new technology developed at the University of Guelph successfully shaves valuable hours off accurate testing, and will soon be widely available in Canada.

Prof. Suresh Neethirajan has developed a new test that accurately pinpoints and quantifies the presence of food allergens. Designed to deliver results in a matter of minutes, the test can be used by consumers, restaurants and food manufacturers for on-site testing in a user-friendly format. Continue reading