AAFC invests in development of precision tree fruit farming system
May 20, 2022 By Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
On May 19, Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of agriculture and agri-food, announced an investment of up to $560,425 for Institut de recherche et de développement en agroenvironnement Inc. (IRDA) to develop a new, integrated system of precision fruit tree farming.
“Through this funding, IRDA and its partners have developed the Orchard of the Future project, where precision agriculture and mechanization will help address the need for healthy and sustainable agriculture,” said Alain Vachon, IRDA president and CEO. IRDA is conducting the project in partnership with apple growers in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia.
Canadian apple growers operate in a competitive environment and face many challenges, including threats from pests and disease, increased frequency of extreme weather events and labour shortages. IRDA is using the funds to pilot and test a system that uses exclusion netting, narrow fruiting walls and mechanized operations.
Adoption of these labour-saving technologies and practices as well as improved crop protection methods will help the sector continue to produce high-quality apples while moving toward pesticide-free growing. The project will also help the sector cope with the impacts of extreme weather brought on by climate change and reduce or eliminate the use of most pesticides used in fruit growing.
“Apples are Canada’s second most significant crop in terms of value,” Bibeau said. “In the same project, Institut de recherche et de développement en agroenvironnement is exploring solutions to two major industry issues: labour shortages and pesticide use. The precision agriculture methods being tested could save producers money and make them more resilient to climate change.”
By integrating a suite of advanced fruit tree technologies and techniques into one system, IRDA’s innovative approach would be a first of its kind in North America. The Government of Canada is committed to investing in innovative and sustainable solutions to help tackle the challenges facing the Canadian apple industry.
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