Local grape-drying system helps Canadian winemakers deal with cooler climate

By Lilian Schaer

Vineland – A made-in-Ontario grape-drying system is helping Niagara winemakers work with Canada’s shorter growing season and produce more premium wines in the process.

It was those winemakers who approached researchers at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) in 2011 for solutions to enhance their grapes. The answer lay with a centuries-old grape-drying tradition from Italy called Appassimento that the Vineland team adapted for use in Canada.

“We’ve developed a patented system here at Vineland for drying grapes and reducing their moisture content before making wine,” explains Darren Ward, Vineland’s manager of business planning and commercialization.

The drying process results in less water and more concentrated flavour and sugar in the grapes which, when translated into wine, means greater flavour and aroma complexity. Continue reading

Peeling back the cancer-fighting potential of Ontario-grown onions

By Jane Robinson

Guelph – There’s a new reason to cry when you peel back the layers on a local Ontario onion in your kitchen…tears of joy, that is.

New research at the University of Guelph has found a way to safely extract the free-radical fighting properties of Ontario-grown onions, creating new opportunities for Ontario farmers and the nutraceutical and food production industries.

In the not-so-distant future, you could be enjoying the healthy properties of onions through supplements, additives and creams.

Scientist have long known that onions carry the highest content of quercetin (an antioxidant flavonoid) of nearly 40 different fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids like quercetin attract and neutralize free radicals – the naturally-occurring molecules in human tissue that can lead to cancerous cells.

Suresh Neethirajan, a bioengineering researcher in the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph, is in the final phase of an Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) funded project examining the varying levels of quercetin in Ontario-grown onions. Continue reading

Guelph cider start-up brings local ideas near and far

Revel in a good drink

Revel Cider’s Tariq Ahmed extracts a sample

By Matt McIntosh

Guelph – Revel Cider Company may only be three years old, but its brand already spans the province.

With between 70 and 80 bars and restaurants on the customer list, the company’s hard cider continues to exploit a lucrative market for locally made and sourced craft brews.

“We only sell to bars and restaurants at this point. They’re all over Ontario, from Thunder Bay to Ottawa and London,” said Tariq Ahmed, the company’s founder and sole employee.

The basis for Revel Cider first started fermenting during Ahmed’s time as a farm hand. An old cider press in one of the farm’s outbuildings peaked his interest, so he started brewing as a hobby. That hobby became Revel Cider in March 2013. 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

London company derives green energy and fertilizer from food waste

By Matt McIntosh

London ON – Food waste is a big issue, but StormFisher Environmental, a London-area green energy company, is turning part of the problem into an environmental positive.

Using once-edible food from Ontario processors, grocery stores, and restaurants, the company produces organic-based fertilizer that can be used by landscapers to beautify lawns, and farmers to grow crops. Generating electricity from biogas – a key byproduct of producing the fertilizer – is also a key part of the business.

“Generating biogas and turning it into a renewable fuel is well-known technology, and there’s a real need here for the sustainable disposal of organic waste […] our design fits well” says Chris Guillon, vice-president of StormFisher Environmental.

Each year, the company converts about 80,000 tonnes of food waste into enough energy to power about 3,000 homes, and make 2,000 tonnes of organic-based fertilizer. Electricity is fed back into the provincial grid, while the fertilizer is all locally sold. Continue reading