Marg Land

Marg Land

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December 16, 2016, Ottawa, Ont – The annual general meeting of CanAgPlus, the corporation that owns and operates the CanadaGAP Program, was held Dec. 8, 2016, in Ottawa.

Members considered a number of resolutions submitted by the membership. One resolution was referred to the board of directors for further discussion and a report back to the 2017 AGM. Three resolutions were voted on and defeated.

CanadaGAP program participants elected four new directors to the CanAgPlus board:

The new board of directors met subsequent to the AGM and reappointed Jack Bates to the chair and Hugh Bowman as vice-chair.

"We're pleased to be working with a strong group of directors who have solid experience with the CanadaGAP program," stated Bates. "The board is made up of a good cross-section of representatives from various sectors of the industry."

Newly elected board members will serve a two-year term for 2017 and 2018.

The annual report presentation and copies of the report are available at: http://www.canadagap.ca/publications/annual-report/

 

Have you ever noticed how everything old suddenly becomes new again?

I used to think I was part of the cutting edge back in my teen years. Black clothing, black nail polish, black hats, black elbow-length gloves – I dressed and looked like a professional mourner. And my music? Alternative British all the way, baby. I was the anti-thesis of mainstream, doing my damnedest to stick out like a black cloud in a pastel shaded sky.

Guess what? According to my daughter, that “alternative” edgy music is trendy today. All the kids know the words to songs by the Cure and Depeche Mode.

Sigh – so much for being an original.

As life goes, so too does the fruit and vegetable industry. Case in point – the pawpaw. The what? The pawpaw, a large shrub or small tree that is native to the mid-eastern area of North America from southern Ontario to northern Florida and from New York to Nebraska. It’s typically found in the understory of established forests and likes well-drained, fertile soil. Its fruit is a large yellowish-green “berry” up to six inches long and three inches wide containing large dark brown or black seeds. The fruit matures in September/October with a soft, custard-like flesh and, according to the Toronto Star’s gardening columnist Sonia Day, tastes like a cross between banana and mango.

Day recently penned an article about the forgotten tree, considered the largest edible fruit indigenous to the U.S. and southern Ontario. She highlighted a project in Essex County aimed at raising awareness of the fruit, Project Pawpaw, being operated through the Naturalized Habitat Network of Essex County and Windsor. A quick visit to the organization’s website [naturalizedhabitat.org] shows they offer pawpaw grower training seminars, “a 2.5 hour training session designed for those who are interested in growing the native Pawpaw tree as a sustainable food crop.”

They also sell a pawpaw grower’s manual.

Since researching the fruit – a favourite of George Washington when served chilled – I’ve discovered everyone is jumping on the pawpaw bandwagon. The topic has proved so popular, Day penned a second article about the plant describing the feedback she received from pawpaw enthusiasts growing it in their backyards. Articles about pawpaw have also been printed in Michigan and West Virginia as people rediscover “America’s forgotten fruit.” Commercial production is also being tried in Ohio and Kentucky.

Does pawpaw have the potential to become the next big thing in the local food movement?

Possibly. But there will be some big hurdles to overcome before reaching any kind of meaningful production level. The plant is a habitually difficult pollinator, resulting in poor fruiting. Cross-pollination of at least two different genetic varieties is recommended and many growers hand pollinate or use attractants [fish emulsion, raw meat] to convince pollinators to visit the plant’s flowers. The fruit is also difficult to store, fermenting not long after being picked. Only frozen fruit seems to ship or store well.

And is commercial production the way to progress with pawpaw?

We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds for this interesting fruit.

 

 

 

July 11, 2016, Toronto, Ont – Farmers are facing smaller crops and higher costs as parts of southern and eastern Ontario suffer through severe drought that is having an impact on fruit and vegetable production.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) says the regions northeast of Toronto and south of Ottawa have reached levels of drought only expected at this time of year once every two decades. READ MORE

 

As I write this editorial, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has issued a recall for a blend of frozen berries and cherries sold exclusively through Costco stores in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia plus Newfoundland and Labrador. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, 13 people have contracted Hepatitis A, some becoming sick after eating the frozen fruit.

In light of the recall, Costco Canada is offering free Hepatitis A vaccinations for anyone affected by the product recall.

Why am I sharing this?

Well, also as I write this editorial, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is gearing up promotion of its Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), described as “the most sweeping reform” made to the country’s food safety laws in the past 70 years. And, according to David Gombas – the United Fresh Produce Association’s senior vice-president of food safety – Canadian growers, packers and processors who export produce to the U.S. will be facing the new rules as early as Fall 2016 (see article on page 16).

What does this mean for Canadian growers?

It means that if you’re shipping produce over the U.S. border for resale, you may need to become verified under the Foreign Supplier Verification Program (FSVP), a program that insures “that food imported into the United States has been produced in a manner that meets applicable U.S. safety standards.”

When you visit the FDA’s Food Safety Modernization Act information website – fda.gov/FSMA – be prepared for page after page of legal gobbledygook containing fuzzy bureaucratic words like “stakeholder,” “reasonably foreseeable” and “potential hazard.” The FSVP section of the website is particularly dense with them, the sort of reading only a legal-type or someone really keen on filling in forms and jumping through regulatory hoops would enjoy – not that there’s anything wrong with that. But this editor knows when she’s reached the limit of her legalese translation skills and bows to the much wiser experts available out there.

One thing that is possible to glean from the reams of information available is not every Canadian grower exporting to the U.S. will be required to become verified under the FSVP. According to the FDA, very small importers and importers of food from certain small suppliers – defined as a sales ceiling of $1 million (US) annually – will only be required to meet “modified” FSVP requirements. Farms that average $25,000 (US) or less in annual produce sales will also only be required to meet “modified” FSVP requirements. It’s not clear what those “modified” requirements might be but one example cited is: “certain importers would not have to conduct hazard analyses and would be able to verify their foreign suppliers by obtaining written assurances.”

Clear as mud, right?

Visit fda.gov/FSMA for more information.

Stay informed and have a safe, prosperous 2016 growing season.

 

 

 

 

Over the past few years, the global agricultural industry – including Canada – has been abuzz with discussion about the use of pesticides on crops and the health of honeybees. Various hypotheses regarding colony collapse disorder (CCD) and the decline of honeybee colonies have been suggested and tested, leading to the banning of some classes of pesticides.

But, according to the latest research from Europe, one pesticide may not be the only culprit.

Researchers with the department of zoology at the University of Otago in New Zealand recently published a study in the journal Ecology examining what effect the organophosphate chlorpyrifos can have on honeybees. Insects were gathered from 17 sites around the Otago area. While levels of the pesticide in the bees were found to be well below the L50 point – the lethal dose for 50 per cent of the animals tested – “the formation and retrieval of appetitive olfactory memories was severely affected,” the researchers found.

“As learning and memory play a central role in the behavioural ecology and communication of foraging bees, chlorpyrifos, even in sublethal doses, may threaten the success and survival of this important insect pollinator,” they concluded.

In a study published recently in the Journal of Chromatography A, researchers with the National Veterinary Research Institute in Poland have discovered that European honeybees are being poisoned by up to 57 different pesticides.

“Bee health is a matter of public concern – bees are considered critically important for the environment and agriculture by pollinating more than 80 per cent of crops and wild plants in Europe,” said Tomasz Kiljanek, lead author of the study. “We wanted to develop a test for a large number of pesticides currently approved for use in the European Union to see what is poisoning the bees.”

Kiljanek and his team used a testing method called QuEChERS, typically used to look for pesticide residue on food, to analyze bees from 70 different poisoning incidents. They were able to test for 200 different pesticides simultaneously – about 98 per cent approved for use in the EU – plus additional compounds created when the pesticides break down.

Their results – 57 different pesticides were present in the bees. According to the study’s conclusions, “it is the broadest spectrum of pesticides and their metabolites, till now, detected in honeybees.”

“This is just the beginning of our research on the impact of pesticides on honeybee health,” said Kiljanek. “Honeybee poisoning incidents are the tip of the iceberg. Even at low levels, pesticides can weaken bees’ defense systems, allowing parasites or viruses to kill the colony. Our results will help expand our knowledge about the influence of pesticides on honeybee health and will provide important information for other researchers to better assess the risk connected with the mix of current pesticides.”

While the outcome of the project was to develop a new tool for studying which pesticides may actually be having a negative effect on honeybees, it has also shown that improving bee health isn’t as simple as banning one pesticide. The issue appears to be a bit more complicated than that.

 

 

 

 

Trust (noun) – a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

In November 2015, the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI) and Canada 2020 invited agriculture and food industry leaders from throughout Canada and other parts of the world to take part in a two-day event in Ottawa – the Forum on Canada’s Agri-Food Future 2015.

Since then, two position papers have been released outlining the forum process and discussing what might be possible in Canada’s agri-food future. In February, CAPI released the final report from the forum, entitled: Achieving what’s possible for Canada’s agri-food sector. And the key message from that 23-page document? Trust.

“Trust is now the defining issue facing nearly everyone involved in food production and supply, both in Canada and among competitors and customers abroad,” the report states. “How we cultivate trust may very well be the key to future competitiveness.

“For us, the pathway is clear: It is in Canada’s best interest – both economically and for the well-being of its citizens – to see that the country’s agri-food systems delivers a strategy to enhance and retain trust.”

And how can that be accomplished? According to forum participants, by meeting four key challenges: securing social licence, leveraging Canada’s natural advantage within the global food system, addressing complacency about adding value, and influencing rules and outcomes.

“Given these challenges, forum participants weighed this question: What is possible?” the report states. “Developing an agri-food strategy focused on trust is a potentially powerful strategic driver. It speaks to the strengths of the agri-food sector and Canada at large. Trust links the entire sector, from how we manage soil and water to how we deliver food to the consumer’s plate. Every player in the food system has a role in ensuring that trust.”

According to Forum on Canada’s Agri-Food Future 2015 participants, these are the choices facing Canada’s agri-food sector moving forward:

  • to earn consumer trust, the industry needs to demonstrate care is being taken to ensure food safety, improve food nutrition, address animal care, maintain planet health and satisfy other expectations;
  • to be more productive and remain competitive, managing and enhancing natural capital must be considered;
  • to add more value to the food produced, collaboration between scientists, the agri-food industry, and government must occur differently;
  • if more supportive public policies are desired for the sector, agri-food’s benefits as a wealth creator and contributor to social well-being must be highlighted;
  • if Canada’s interests abroad are to be advanced, the country’s performance on managing natural capital must be leveraged to shape standards and rules that guide worldwide agri-food trade;
  • if Canada aspires to be “the most trusted agri-food system,” that status must be awarded by consumers based on the industry’s actions – not just declared by stakeholders.

“Taking decisions and actions here could set up the ‘breakthrough agenda’ needed for the sector to reposition itself for a changing food world and help fulfill its potential as a priority economic sector for Canada,” the report concludes. “However, ‘a coalition of the willing’ must rally around one clear message: It is in Canada’s best interest – both economically and for the well-being of its citizens – to see that the country’s agri-food system delivers a strategy that enhances and retains trust.”

It’s time to build that coalition of the willing.

 

 

 

 

You have to hand it to the Brits. They definitely know how to make their male citizens eat blueberries and drink red wine – not that I would think it would be all that hard to convince them to do so.

According to a recent research paper released by the University of East Anglia and Harvard University, eating foods rich in certain flavonoids – such as those found in blueberries and red wine – can reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction in men.

Published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the study examined several flavonoids and discovered flavonoids such as anthocyanins – found in blueberries, cherries, blackberries, black currants and radishes – plus flavanones and flavones – found in citrus fruit – had the greatest benefits in preventing erectile dysfunction.

“We examined six main types of commonly consumed flavonoids and found that three in particular – anthocyanins, flavanones and flavones – are beneficial,” said lead researcher, Professor Aedin Cassidy from the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School. “Men who regularly consumed foods high in these flavonoids were 10 per cent less likely to suffer erectile dysfunction. In terms of quantity, we’re talking just a few portions a week.”

This was a long-term study involving collecting information as far back as 1986. Dietary information was also collected every four years. More than one-third of the 50,000 middle-aged men surveyed reported experiencing erectile dysfunction but those who ate foods rich in anthocyanins, flavanones and flavones were less likely to experience the condition. And those who consumed the beneficial flavonoid rich foods plus were physically active had the lowest risk.

“Men with erectile dysfunction are likely to be highly motivated to make healthier lifestyle choices, such as ... eating the right foods,” said Dr. Eric Rimm, senior author of the study and professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

You think?

There’s a long-standing joke in my family that my marketing skills are so bad, I couldn’t sell blankets to people dying from hypothermia. But I think, armed with a few hundred printouts of this study, I might be able to sell my weight in blueberries, cherries and red wine. After all, according to the study, more than half of all middle-aged and older men are affected by erectile dysfunction.

Maybe this is what’s leading Canadians’ current interest in value-added blueberry products. Fruit and Vegetable Magazine did a roundup of some of the more exotic and innovative blueberry-based products on the Canadian market. You can see that article starting on page 10.

Readers can also check out the latest varieties of flavonoid-rich fruits and vegetables in the 2016 New Varieties showcase, starting on page 22.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

I love books. I love the way they smell, the way they feel in my hands, how the pages sound as they turn, even the inherent way books tend to stack in tall, teetering towers.

My home reflects my love of the published word. There are bookcases everywhere. And, where bookcase space is at a premium, there are piles – piles and piles of stacked books. Even the attic is full of books, boxes carefully filled with titles outgrown by the offspring or read and set aside to be donated later. Unfortunately, later hasn’t arrived yet.

My husband, who is also an avid reader but thankfully born without the hoarding gene, started off humouring my book obsession. But now, as the piles of first editions continue to push further and further into his personal space, he’s finding the situation frustrating.

“This is not sustainable,” is his favourite gripe, usually muttered while redistributing a stack of biographies or mysteries in a bid to gain access to an unoccupied electrical plug.

Sustainability – based on my book accumulation habit, it would appear I’ve always struggled to understand the meaning of the word. And I’m not alone in my confusion. During a recent sustainability conference I attended in London, Ont., one roundtable group gave up on reaching a consensus on the definition of the term. Instead, they agreed to disagree, believing it was more important to have a continued dialogue about the idea than get bogged down in the details.

Sustainability has become the new agriculture buzzword and, while it used to be attached to the idea of environmental sustainability, its definition is ever expanding, encompassing everything from economic feasibility to workers’ rights.

During its 2015 annual conference, the Canadian Horticultural Council formed a working group tasked with developing a sustainability plan for Canada’s horticultural sector. Admitting the issue is “broad and complex,” Anne Fowlie, executive vice-president of the CHC, recently penned a message in the council’s Autumn 2015 Fresh Thinking publication. She described the working group as “our opportunity to create a plan that will bring positive results now and into the future.”

Because that really is the key element to the sustainability issue – the future. It’s widely believed that by 2020, about 9.5 billion people will populate the earth and food production will need to increase by 70 per cent to feed those people. According to the United Nations, sustainability is defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Admittedly, some groups are further ahead in identifying and meeting those production needs. As highlighted by the CHC, Canada’s greenhouse growers are already well started on addressing their long-term sustainability goals. It will be interesting to see in the coming months and years what goals the CHC working group sets.

As for my own pressing sustainability issues, I’ve been forced to examine my book hoarding habits and search out different ways of meeting my reading goals. The answer – electronic books. I wonder how sustainable virtual hoarding is?

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Fruit and Vegetable Magazine’s new look, just in time for spring.

There’s nothing like a new haircut and spiffy, fresh wardrobe to boost one’s spirits. It’s a new year and a new growing season, plus a new design.

Don’t worry – some of Fruit and Vegetable Magazine’s old standards are still here. We’ll still be covering the latest and greatest in production research and innovation from coast to coast with a sprinkling of industry news and new products. It will just come wrapped in a fresh, shiny new package.

There will also be some new departments to enjoy. By the Numbers features the latest agricultural statistics involving fruit and vegetable production in Canada and the world presented in easily digestible, info-graphic nuggets. Growth Trends offers brief news items featuring the latest research developments aimed at helping growers with production and marketing issues. And I’m very happy to welcome Cathy Bartolic, executive director of the Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association (OFFMA), to Fruit and Vegetable Magazine. Cathy will be penning the magazine’s new column, Marketing Matters, located on the inside back page.

With all this discussion of new ideas and revamped vision, it’s easy to become enthusiastic and optimistic about the future. And so we should be, given the latest information highlighted in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Overview of the Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food System 2015, released in mid-April.

According to the report, the Canadian agriculture and agri-food system (AAFS) is a complex and integrated supply chain that generated $106.9 billion in 2013, accounting for 6.7 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Employment in most industries in the AAFS continued on an upward trend. In 2013, the AAFS provided one in eight jobs in Canada, employing more than 2.2 million people. The foodservice industry was the largest employer in the AAFS, accounting for 5.3 per cent of all Canadian jobs.

Canada was the world’s fifth-largest exporter of agriculture and agri-food products after the European Union (E.U.), the U.S., Brazil, and China in 2013. Canadian export sales grew by 5.5 per cent in 2013 to $46 billion, maintaining its 3.5 per cent share of the total value of world agriculture and agri-food exports. The U.S. remains Canada’s most important agriculture and agri-food export destination, accounting for 50.8 per cent of total Canadian exports, followed by China, Japan, the E.U., and Mexico.

With import sales of $34.3 billion in 2013 – an increase of six per cent over the previous year – Canada remained the world’s sixth-largest importer, accounting for 2.9 per cent of the total value of world agriculture and agri-food imports.

With numbers like that, it’s hard to remain pessimistic about the future, although the AAFC report did state that agriculture producers continue to see rising operating costs. These increased by more than 40 per cent over the 2003 to 2013 period. The operating expenses contributing the most to the increase were commercial seed (107 per cent), fertilizer and lime (90 per cent), machinery fuel (80 per cent), and custom work (74 per cent).

 

 

 

 

It’s not easy being ugly.

Hey, I know all about it. That wonderful feeling you get when you enter a room and all conversation ceases, only to be replaced by cruel laughter. Never being chosen first for sports teams in school. Or being passed over for that stellar opportunity you just knew was really meant for you because the powers-that-be couldn’t “see you” in the position. I understand. I’ve been there too.

But it seems Loblaw Companies has found the perfect way to combat those feelings of inadequacy, well, at least the ones being felt by misshapen and under-sized fruit and vegetables. The grocery retailer recently announced it had launched a program based around the idea of selling blemished and unattractive produce at a discount price.

Marketed under the No Name Naturally Imperfect brand, “ugly” produce will be available for purchase in grocery stores across Ontario and Quebec for 30 per cent less than good-looking fruits and vegetables. The campaign has already started in some areas with grotesque looking apples and potatoes available under the brand name.

“We often focus too much on the look of produce rather than the taste,” said Ian Gordon, senior vice-president, Loblaw Brands, Loblaw Companies Limited in a press release from the company. “Once you peel or cut an apple, you can’t tell it once had a blemish or was misshapen. No Name Naturally Imperfect is a great example of Loblaw and our vendors coming together to find an innovative way to bring nutritious food options to consumers at a great price.”

In the past, fruits and vegetables falling under the “imperfect” banner would have been used in soups, sauces or juices or even left in the field or tree. With this program, Loblaw Companies is hoping to ensure farmers have a market for smaller, misshapen produce, ensuring it does not go to waste.

The program is nothing new. Last year, Intermarche, France’s third largest retail grocer, launched a campaign that sold small and misshapen produce for 30 per cent less than the Grade A price. They weren’t alone. A Spanish retailer also joined the ugly fruits and vegetables game. And, according to Canadian Grocer, there are a few Canadian produce marketers involved with similar programs.

So far, reaction from the public has been mixed. While many people are embracing the idea, some believe the oddball produce should be donated to local food banks across the country for free.

On a personal note, I think it’s an interesting idea and provides a great opportunity to expand access to fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s hard being perfect and, in some cases, is rather unnecessary, especially if the taste and nutrition are still the same.

Note: Page 20 of the April 2015 issue of Fruit & Vegetable Magazine features an article by Peter Mitham highlighting the usefulness of integrating mock recalls into food safety routines. Segments of this article were also featured in the January/February 2015 issue of Fruit & Vegetable Magazine but without credit to the author. The magazine would like to apologize for any confusion that might have occurred due to the error.

 

 

 

 

Glancing at the current food recall list on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website can be a sobering and stomach churning exercise.

A smoothy fruit blend containing spinach and kale – recalled due to concerns over possible contamination with listeria. Caramel apples – recalled due to possible contamination with listeria. Apple slices processed by Scotian Gold – recalled due to possible contamination with listeria. Granny Smith and Gala varieties of apples packed by a California company and sold across Canada – recalled due to possible contamination with listeria. Unpasteurized apple cider – recalled due to possible E. coli contamination. Bagged potatoes recalled in Atlantic Canada – due to product tampering.

Food safety continues to be a hot button topic among consumers and Canadian fruit and vegetable producers need to be aware of not only the relative safety of what they’re producing on their own operations but also what is being imported into their local fruit or vegetable packing warehouse. The recent wide-reaching incident involving apples packed by
Bidart Brothers of Bakersfield, Calif., is a perfect example of this. Since the first recall notice involving caramel apples hit the U.S. news in early December 2014, 32 people have fallen ill due to listeria monocytogenes, three people have died and one woman has miscarried. One case involving the same strain of the infection has also been reported in Manitoba.

This is not the first time a food borne illness has wend its way through the North American population. And it probably won’t be the last. In light of this, Fruit & Vegetable Magazine has set aside a section of this issue to highlight some of the latest information on food safety, traceability and recalls for fruit and vegetable producers in Canada.

The key to a successful recall lies not just in the ability to recognize when something’s gone wrong and alert consumers, but to also know just how much product is affected and whether all of it is accounted for.

This makes the ability
to trace product critical, even for small operations, and knowing the systems put in place to track
product works.

According to head of the food technology program at the B.C. Institute of Technology in Burnaby, B.C. Gary Sandberg, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency already requires federally registered processors to have a recall strategy. Now, any plants that ships product to the U.S. will be required to be federally registered and have a strategy, too.

“[If] you’re exporting to the United States, you’re going to automatically now be a federally registered plant, which means you’re under the CFIA’s jurisdiction,” he explains.

While a HACCP protocol can identify risk points and incorporate a simple response process, a proper recall strategy can be far-reaching.

“It’s like doing a disaster planning exercise,” he says. “You definitely want to be able to move through the whole thing and ensure that you can track any product and be able to pull that product back into a centralized location and deal with it accordingly.”

Putting the recall protocol to the test doesn’t mean having to go into full disaster mode and shut the entire plant down. It can be as simple as trying to find out where in the process a particular lot of product is.

“You can do it [by] looking at a lot number and saying, ‘OK, can we actually find it?’ Then it becomes a paper-based thing.”

Sandberg served as quality assurance manager for T.J. Lipton in Richmond, B.C., prior to becoming an instructor at BCIT. He knows first-hand the difficulties of trying to reach people and also to track product.

One of the measures that Lipton had in place to define the massive amounts of product it was producing was segmenting the production into 90-minute segments. Stock was tagged with an alphanumeric code for each day and time. This allowed Lipton to hone in on a smaller run of product than if it could only identify a single day when the problem occurred.

Smaller processors or farms handling a large volume of fresh produce might find it difficult to track product from field to farm gate, but Sandberg says it’s possible to track produce by row or field and note which runs contribute to particular processing periods.

“If they’re coding their products with a date code on it and some sort of a lot number, and the shipping documents are maintained and you’re recording date numbers and quantities, your regular inventory control system should give you a lot of the information you want,” he says.

A mock recall can put these information systems to the test. Regular testing can highlight areas that require closer attention and may identify opportunities for improving the traceability of product.

“It becomes kind of like an insurance policy – if you’re able to identify, isolate and recover that product without having to get widespread into the trade, then it’s definitely going to be helpful even if there is litigation,” Sandberg says.

 

 

 

 

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Member of Parliament Harold Albrecht (Kitchener-Conestoga), on behalf of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, recently announced an investment of $713,000 to Martin’s Family Fruit Farm to adapt innovative processing equipment for the slicing and dehydration of fresh vegetables into chips.

With this support, Martin’s Family Fruit Farm will build on their expertise in producing dehydrated crispy apple chips to include vegetables. The company will use its processing facility in Elmira, Ont., to develop and pilot test drying on four vegetable varieties, including sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes. The company will also design and install processing equipment for large-scale production. This project will help create jobs and increase demand for local vegetables, leading to increased profitability for farmers.

“Martin’s Family Fruit Farm is delighted to partner with the Government of Canada’s AgriInnovation Program to research the dehydration of various vegetables into crispy chips,” said Kevin Martin, president of Martin’s Family Fruit Farm. “This research could help launch a new line of all natural, healthy snacks, expanding Martin’s current product offering. The project is a timely support for the innovation required to maintain Martin’s leadership in this new snack category.”

Martin’s Family Fruit Farm was incorporated in 1987 and grows, packs, wholesales and processes Ontario apples with more than 700 acres in production.

The company had previously received a federal investment of $1.4 million to help create a new processing line for apple crisps and cider and to support the commercialization of apple chips as a new snack food.

“When we think about innovation in Waterloo Region, we usually think about computers and digital media,” said MP Albrecht. “Martin’s Family Fruit Farms are a shining example of the innovation occurring at the farm gate. Our government is proud to partner with them, strengthening one our region’s largest sectors of economic activity: agriculture.”

 

 

 

 

University of Adelaide researchers are introducing a method to use bees to deliver disease control to cherry blossoms, preventing brown rot in cherries.

This is a new technique for Australia and a world first for cherry orchards with potential application in many horticultural industries. It was demonstrated publicly for the first time during a field day in September hosted by the Cherry Growers of South Australia and researchers at Lennane Orchards,
Montacute.

“Brown rot is caused by a fungus which significantly impacts Australia’s cherry industry through costs of applying fungicide, yield loss and fruit spoilage,” says project leader  Dr. Katja Hogendoorn, a postdoctoral research associate with the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food
and Wine.

“All commercial cherry growers spray during flowering to control the later development of cherry brown rot. Instead of spraying fungicide, we’re using bees to deliver a biological control agent right to the flowers where it is needed. This uses an innovative delivery method called entomovectoring.”

The biological control agent contains spores of a parasitic fungus that prevents the fungus causing brown rot from colonizing the flower. Every morning, the cherry grower sprinkles the spores into a specially designed dispenser  fitted in front of the hive. The bees pick up the spores between their body hairs and bring them to the flowers.

“The flying doctors technology is used successfully in Europe to control strawberry grey mould, but it’s the first time for Australia and the first time in cherry orchards anywhere,” Dr. Hogendoorn says, adding the use of bees has many environmental and economic benefits compared to spraying fungicide.

“The bees deliver control on target, every day,” she says. “There is no spray drift or run-off into the environment.”

Dr. Hogendoorn says adoption of the technique will have the additional benefit of building up the number of managed honeybee hives.

With increasing availability of biological control agents, future application of the technology is expected to become available for disease control in almonds, grapes, strawberry, raspberry, apple, pear and stone fruit.

 

 

 

 

The New York Apple Growers (NYAG) launched a new apple called SnapDragon in all Wegmans’ stores starting in November.

Known for its crispy texture combined with a sweet and juicy flavour, SnapDragon has a distinctly bright red dappled colour.   

Unlike many other produce items, apples are commonly sold by variety and consumers have shown a continued interest in trying new apples that offer unique colours, flavours and textures. SnapDragon has a limited crop this year but supplies are expected to increase
in 2015.

 “This bi-colour apple is a hybrid of a Honeycrisp that has excellent quality, storage and shelf life,” stated Jeff Crist, vice chairman of the board of directors of NYAG.  “Our consumer research revealed that consumers not only responded very favourably to SnapDragon’s crisp texture and sweet taste but also noted high willingness to purchase.”

Because of the super sweet flavour profile of this apple, growers expect SnapDragon to be a hit with Moms who are looking for a healthy alternative to traditional junk foods. Marketing efforts will include point-of-sale materials, high-graphic packaging, in-store demos, public relations and social media activities. Growers will also make in-store appearances and be available to visit with shoppers during select in-store demo events in November.”

To help educate consumers, a website was developed to highlight the benefits of SnapDragon and provide consumers with recipes and pairing suggestions at www.SnapDragonApple.com. The site also includes a Meet the Growers section that profiles a grower of the month and includes the full list of growers in New York State. Also included are links to Facebook and Twitter pages.

Formed in 2010, the New York Apple Growers is a grower-owned company united with the mission of introducing exclusive, premium flavor apple varieties to the marketplace. The organization is comprised of 145 grower members in the state of New York, representing about 60 per cent of the state’s apple production.

Developed by Cornell University, SnapDragon, as well as RubyFrost, is licensed for a managed release with the New York Apple Growers (NYAG) and RubyFrost will go to market in January 2015. Growers pay royalties on trees purchased, acreage planted and fruit produced, and the income is used to market the new apples and support Cornell’s apple-breeding program.

Both SnapDragon and RubyFrost have been a decade in the making with the first trees planted in farmers’ orchards in 2011. Now the still-young trees have produced a limited crop this year with plans for a much larger roll out in 2015-16.

“Retailers will appreciate SnapDragon because although the apple’s harvest window starts relatively early – in late September – its long storage and shelf life means they may be able to offer it with consistent quality for a longer time than Honeycrisp,” said Susan Brown, an apple breeder at Cornell’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, New York.

 

 

 

 

A new study demonstrates that reusable plastic containers (RPCs) used to ship fruits and vegetables in Canada are not properly sanitized and show traces of E coli.

The report, developed by University of Guelph professor and researcher Keith Warriner, indicates that sanitation standards of RPCs are inadequate for a second consecutive year.

‘We saw alarming levels of sanitization and significant risk for food contamination,” said Warriner.

In fact, using UK food safety standards for food surfaces as a pass/fail baseline, 43 per cent of RPCs failed sanitary standards due to high ATP (adenosine triphosphate) readings (equivalent standards do not exist in North America). Specifically, the fecal indicators were more prevalent in the current sampling trials compared to the study performed in 2013. Rates in the province of Quebec are especially alarming. RPCs sampled in Quebec recorded the highest indicator counts and ATP readings.

“Of concern is the high prevalence of food safety indicators, especially E. coli, which highlights the potential for the presence of enteric pathogens that could encompass viruses, protozoa and bacterial,” says Warriner, the Food Safety and Quality Assurance Program director at the University of Guelph who also conducted last year’s study.

During the study, Warriner assessed the microbiological standard of reusable plastic containers used in different fresh produce packing stations. Locations in Ontario and Quebec were visited several times during the course of the 10-week study. Every time, 10 randomly selected RPCs were sampled at each location.

A combination of ATP swabs and microbiological analysis was chosen to determine the sanitary status of RPCs. ATP readings taken at farms provided an estimate of viable cells present on the surface of RPCs. The standards set were those expected of a cleaned surface of a food contact surface within the food industry with a 20 per cent failure rate being deemed the upper limit of acceptability. Crates were sampled as delivered thereby ruling out contamination at the packing facility.

RPCs made their appearance as a few Canadian retailers recently requested that farmers ship fruits and vegetables using plastic containers. They are rented by farmers for one shipment and are expected to be returned to the United States for cleaning and sanitation afterwards.  

This study was commissioned for a second year to monitor improvements following last year’s poor results and food safety concerns expressed by growers who were told to ship fruits and vegetables using RPCs rather than corrugated boxes which is the traditional choice.

This year, Warriner increased the scope of the study from 15 testing units to 160 containers. Photos of the crates tested show visibly dirty crates and labels from previous users were found on an estimated 30 per cent of RPCs, which raises questions about the efficiency of the American sanitation facilities.

Interestingly, it was recently announced that the sanitation procedures for RPCs have been strengthened and that RPC manufacturers established micro-standards to use as indicators of cleanliness.

“Given the state of randomly selected RPCs, I would question whether they are even sent to the U.S. for sanitization at all,” said Warriner.

There are no sanitization facilities in Canada for reusable plastic crates.

“Food must be shipped in safe containers, regardless of whether they are corrugated boxes or plastic,” said John Kelly, executive vice president of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (OFVGA).

 

 

 

 

There’s a new kid on the block when it comes to spreading news and information about Ontario’s innovative and forward thinking agriculture producers. AgInnovation Ontario, a website aimed at raising awareness about innovative projects and opportunities in the province’s agriculture and agri-food industry, was launched recently.

A project of the Agri-Technology Commercialization Centre (ATCC), based in Guelph, Ont., the goal of the website is “to tell the story of agricultural innovation in Ontario through a constantly growing online collection of information about agricultural innovation project and opportunities in Ontario.”

And, so far, the site has been off to a great start.

Earlier in the fall, I was surprised to find an article in my inbox highlighting the work researchers at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre have been doing exploring the production and marketing potential of non-traditional vegetables. These crops, popular with South Asian and Afro-Caribbean consumers, are currently in demand in the Toronto area, thanks to the city’s evolving demographics.

This isn’t a new story to Fruit & Vegetable Magazine, who have been following research in this area at VRIC for several years and helped support a white paper by University of Guelph students investigating the Canadian market for “ethnocultural” produce. But it was interesting and refreshing to see a different perspective on a constantly evolving issue.

Since seeing that article, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for others being highlighted by the website, which have included features on the commercialization of quinoa in the province, sea buckthorn – Ontario’s locally grown citrus – production, and breeding cold-hardy, disease-resistant Canadian roses.

“Agriculture has long been on the forefront of innovation, supporting many advances in areas like food, health, bioeconomy, life sciences and others,” said Jeff Schmalz, president of Soy 20/20, one of the founding members of the ATCC. “This site is about telling the story of that innovation and raising awareness to help support and advance the sector.”

Besides French and English articles, collaborators such as VRIC, the University of Guelph, Agricultural Research Institute of Ontario and the Livestock Research Innovation Corporation hope to populate the site with videos, photos and audio files produced by other farm organizations and industry stakeholders. They also will be searching out story ideas from commodity organizations, plus universities, government and industry partners. Anyone with story ideas is invited to contact the organization at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

It’s hoped project resources can also be used to search for new opportunities where organizations, such as the ATCC, can assist entrepreneurs with development or commercialization of an idea, so keep this is mind.

It’s encouraging to see continued support for the dreamers and innovators in Ontario’s agriculture industry. They need all the support and encouragement they can find. Now, we need to see these same articles picked up and highlighted by the mainstream media. Ontario’s agri-food and agriculture industry is too important and vibrant to keep quiet about. Sing loud and sing long.

 

 

 

October 21, 2014, Dublin, Ireland – Arysta LifeScience announced recently that Platform Specialty Products has reached an agreement to acquire Arysta LifeScience for approximately $3.51 billion, subject to regulatory approval, working capital and other adjustments.

Once the acquisition is complete, Platform Specialty Products will combine Arysta LifeScience with previously acquired companies Agriphar and Chemtura Crop Solutions (the latter of which is still awaiting final governmental approvals). The combined entity will be run as a vertically integrated agricultural chemicals company with sales of approximately US$2.1 billion, the 10th largest in the industry.

“Bringing Arysta LifeScience under the Platform umbrella will create a broad agrochemicals offering that is uniquely positioned to provide farmers, globally, with a fulsome suite of products to address their product and geography specific needs,” said Daniel H. Leever, Platform’s CEO.

Wayne Hewett, current CEO of Arysta LifeScience, will lead the new group.

“There are immediate benefits to joining forces with Agriphar and Chemtura,” said Hewett. “We will be able to offer customers a full complement of biosolutions, crop protection, and seed treatment products. We also will strengthen our global footprint in key geographic areas such as Western Europe and North America.”

The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2015.

October 15, 2014, Calgary, Alta – Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) for Delegate Insecticide have been established in Japan effective immediately. That means Canadian potato producers who grow product that could be destined for export to Japan can now apply Delegate for control of Colorado potato beetle and European corn borer.

“There has been a five to 10 per cent annual growth in imports of frozen potato products in Asia the last several years,” says Mark Alberts, product manager for horticulture with Dow AgroSciences. “Export markets are really important to potato producers so establishing foreign residue tolerances for potatoes is critical to Canadian growers. Now they have the peace of mind they can apply this excellent product without compromising where they can sell their crop.”

Delegate is from the spinosyn family of chemistry, which features a mode of action that controls insects two ways – through ingestion and contact – for knockdown and residual activity. It is active on insects across multiple growth stages. The company reports that insects stop feeding within minutes. Spinetoram, the active ingredient in Delegate, is derived through the fermentation of a naturally occurring organism.

Delegate can be used as a tool for potato growers managing neonicotinoid resistance in seed treatments. Delegate’s mode of action affects the insect’s nervous system in a manner different than other classes of chemistry. Delegate is formulated as a wettable granule and is labeled for a maximum of three applications per year.

October 15, 2014, Vancouver, BC – Farmers from Vancouver Island and Fraser Valley are invited to safely and responsibly dispose of their unwanted or obsolete pesticides and livestock (including equine) medications from October 15-23.

CleanFARMS, an industry-led, national not-for-profit agricultural waste management organization, in partnership with the Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI), is offering this program, which comes at no charge to farmers, this fall.

“We are pleased with the past success of our collection programs in this province,” says Barry Friesen, general manager of CleanFARMS. “B.C. farmers’ enthusiasm about this program shows their continual commitment to protecting the environment and making responsible decisions on the farm.”

Farmers in British Columbia have a long history of good stewardship practices. Since 1998, B.C. farmers have turned in more than 207,000 kilograms of obsolete pesticides. This year is the first time in B.C. that livestock and equine medications have been added to the program.

“The British Columbia Agriculture Council (BCAC) appreciates that through an industry led program, B.C. farmers can safely return unused products,” said Stan Vander Waal, BCAC board chair. “A clean and sustainable environment is critical for the long-term future of farming.”

After collection, the pesticides and medications are taken to a licensed waste management facility where they are disposed of through high temperature incineration.

The following locations will be accepting obsolete pesticides and livestock/equine medications from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on the dates specified:

  • October 15: Vantreight Farms in Saanich at 8277 Central Saanich Road
  • October 16: Bings Creek Recycling Centre in Duncan at 3900 Drinkwater Road
  • October 17: Comox Valley Waste Management Centre in Cumberland at 2400 Bevan Road
  • October 20-12: Direct Solutions in Delta at 7430 Hopcott Road
  • October 22-23: Univar Canada in Abbotsford at 3256 McCallum Road

The obsolete pesticide and livestock/equine medication collection program is a national program that comes to each province on a three-year rotating basis. In between collections periods, farmers are asked to safely store their unwanted pesticides and livestock medications until they can properly dispose of them through the program.

July 22, 2014 – You’ve all seen them – those weird-looking carrots and potatoes; those bizarre-looking apples and pears, those warped eggplants and zucchinis.

In most large-scale packing facilities, they get tossed on the compost pile, just for being – well – different.

Not anymore. In a campaign aimed at reducing food waste, French supermarket chain Intermarché launched the Inglorious Fruits&Vegetables. The advertising campaign – comprised of a film, print, poster and radio campaign – celebrates the beauty of the Grotesque Apple, the Ridiculous Potato, the Hideous Orange, the Failed Lemon, the Disfigured Eggplant, the Ugly Carrot, and the Unfortunate Clementine.

Give it a watch and be surprised.

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