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July 27, 2017, Waterloo, Ont. - A biotechnology company that created a spray that helps farmers and growers protect crops from frost damage was among the big winners at the Velocity Fund Finals held recently at the University of Waterloo. Velocity is a comprehensive entrepreneurship program at Waterloo.

Innovative Protein Technologies created Frost Armour, a spray-on-foam, after witnessing the effects of a devastating spring frost in 2012 that knocked out about 80 per cent of Ontario’s apple crop. Farmers would remove it after several days with another solution that converts it into a fertilizer.

"Frost damage not only affects farmers’ livelihoods, but also our food supply," said Erin Laidley, a Waterloo alumnus, who co-founded the company with Tom Keeling and Dan Krska, two alumni from the University of Guelph. "There are other spray-on solutions, but ours is non-toxic and has no negative environmental impact.”

During the competition, 10 companies pitched their businesses to a panel of judges representing the investment, startup and business communities. Judges considered innovation, market potential, market viability and overall pitch.

The following three companies were also grand-prize winners of $25,000 and space at Velocity. Three of the five top-prize-winning companies are based at Velocity Science.
  • Altius Analytics Labs is a health-tech startup that helps occupational groups better manage musculoskeletal injuries.
  • EPOCH is a skills and services marketplace that connects refugees and community members, using time as a means of exchange.
  • VivaSpire is making lightweight wearable machines that purify oxygen from the air without the need for high pressure.
For the first time, the prize of $10,000 for best hardware or science company went to a team that was not among the grand-prize winners. Vena Medical is making navigating through arteries faster, easier and safer by providing physicians with a camera that sees through blood.

During the VFF event, an additional 10 teams of University of Waterloo students competed for three prizes of $5,000 and access to Velocity workspaces.

The winners of the Velocity $5K are:
  • HALo works to provide manual wheelchair users with accessible solutions to motorize their wheelchairs.
  • QuantWave provides faster, cheaper and simpler pathogen detection for drinking water and food suppliers.
  • SheLeads is a story-based game that helps girls realize their unlimited leadership potential.
“Building a business is one of the boldest risks you can take, and yet our companies continue to demonstrate the vision, talent, and drive to think big and tackle challenging problems,” said Jay Shah, director of Velocity. “Today we are fortunate to benefit from an enormous wealth of experience from our judges who are leaders from the global investment, health and artificial-intelligence communities and entrepreneurs at heart. In helping Velocity award $125,000 in funding to these companies, we have taken a bet of our own in these founders, and said be bold, think big, and go out and change the world.”

The judges for the Velocity Fund $25K competition travelled from Palo Alto, San Francisco and Toronto. They were Seth Bannon, founding partner, Fifty Years; Dianne Carmichael, chief advisor of health tech, Council of Canadian Innovators; Eric Migicovsky, visiting partner, Y Combinator; Tomi Poutanen, co-CEO, Layer 6 AI.

The judges for the Velocity Fund $5K competition were Kane Hsieh, investor, Root Ventures; Tobiasz Dankiewicz, co-founder, Reebee; Karen Webb, principal, KWebb Solutions Inc.

For more information on the Velocity Fund Finals, please visit www.velocityfundfinals.com

November 8, 2016, Pocatello, ID – An invention called a “humigator” is helping potato growers across the U.S. have yearlong control over their potatoes.

Garry Isaacs, the creator of the humigator, developed the first prototype in 1985. He said the name is a combination of the words humid and fumigator. Its primary function is to clean the air of potato storage sites, by doing so the pathogens known for inflicting diseases like silver scurf and black dot disease are taken out. READ MORE


When applying chemicals to crops, where the chemical is delivered is sometimes more important than how much is delivered.

A team of U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists has developed a new laser-guided spraying system that controls spray outputs to match targeted tree structures.

“Conventional spray application technology requires excessive amounts of pesticide to achieve effective pest control,” says ARS agricultural engineer Heping Zhu. “This challenge is now overcome by our automated, variable-rate, air-assisted, precision sprayer. The new system is able to characterize the presence, size, shape, and foliage density of target trees and apply the optimum amount of pesticide in real time.”

The system has many parts that have to work together with precision, including a high-speed laser-scanning sensor working in conjunction with a Doppler radar travel-speed sensor.

“Our field experiments showed that the precision sprayer, when compared to conventional sprayers with best pest management practices, consistently sprayed the correct amount of chemicals, despite changes in tree structure and species,” Zhu says.

“Pest control with the new sprayer was comparable to that of conventional sprayers, but the new sprayer reduced average pesticide use between 46 and 68 per cent, with an average pesticide cost savings of $230 per acre for ornamental nurseries. The cost savings can be much higher for orchards and other fruit crop productions.”

Additional tests in an apple orchard demonstrated that the new sprayer reduced spray loss beyond tree canopies between 40 and 87 per cent, airborne spray drift by up to 87 per cent, and spray loss on the ground between 68 and 93 per cent.

Sharon Durham is with Agricultural Research Service’s information staff.






The old axiom of “thinking outside the box” applies well to fruit and vegetable producers looking for ways to reduce costs in their cooling-packing facility, says Hugh Fraser, a consultant with OTB Farm Solutions and retired extension agricultural engineer with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA).

“The first thing I am going to say is to stop coaching and sit in the stands for a while,” he says. Take note of where your produce is not flowing in a straight line and where travel distances could be a lot shorter.

“Look at things from a different perspective and ask key workers for their good ideas on efficiency and reward them,” Fraser says. “With a forklift, you can assume that it costs about $20 per hour to own, fuel and operate, and that’s on the conservative side.

“Let us assume you are picking seven hours per day and that you have 50 picking days per season, and that you pick 60 bins per day. Let us also assume that each bin is touched about 12 times per cycle.”

Fraser says the cycle starts with an empty bin that goes to the orchard to be filled, then comes back, goes into cooler storage, then the pack line to be emptied before the process repeats. He estimates the bin is touched one to three times at each location.

“Over the course of the season, this adds up to about 36,000 touches,” he says. “This is costing you about 20 cents every time you touch that bin. I know that doesn’t sound like a lot of money, but after you touch all those bins 36,000 times in the season, there is a lot of money to be saved.”

Fraser says to also think about forklift trips and how time
gets added.

“Slowing around corners can waste a lot of time, or blind spots where you can’t see what’s coming, or busy areas where you may have to slow down because it’s a bottleneck,” he says. “Every time you travel an extra metre, you add one second to your trip.”

Moving bins to get at bins and then moving them back is a big time waster so think about ways to reduce the number of moves for the forklift, he says. Be careful around obstructions and in poorly lit areas, and try to handle the optimal combination of bins that will safely save you time.

“Try to stop the re-warming of produce out of storage. You spend a lot of time and money to make the produce cold and then we bring it out to pack it and it gets re-warmed. It has to spend as little time out of cold storage as possible.”

He remembers being in California where they had bins of produce passed on a conveyor through a hole in the cold storage wall right onto the packing line, which reduced the time the produce was out of storage.

Fraser says all produce cools quickly at first, then slowly over time, regardless of the produce type or the style of cooler. In a typical forced-air cooler, produce will cool about 3 C in about 12 minutes, by 6 C in 24 minutes and by 9 C in 36 minutes.

“We can’t stop re-warming but there are some things we can do to slow it down,” he says.

Produce actually re-warms just like it cools, so it warms quickly at first then slowly over time.

Fraser uses peaches as an example.

“Assume that produce coming out of cold storage and onto the packing line is at one degree C and that it rewarms at only half the rate of forced-air cooling, which is very possible. So, in 12 minutes the temperature would rise by 1.5 degrees to 2.5 degrees, in 24 minutes by three degrees to four degrees, and in 36 minutes by 4.5 degrees to 5.5 degrees.

“At 5.5 C, we are getting into the danger zone for potential mealiness with peaches,” he says. “Trying to re-cool peaches after you’ve got them in baskets and into the shipping container [is] very, very difficult.”

Ideally, you want the shortest possible time out of storage to keep that coolness.

“Do a simple test on your time out of storage. Let’s assume you dump your first bin at 8 a.m., and your last (60th bin), is packed out by 6 p.m., so it took 10 hours to pack 60 bins. That’s about 10 minutes on average per bin. It’s worth doing a little test to convince yourself that stuff is not out of storage very long.”

Another way to reduce costs is to improve labour efficiency on the pack line, he says. Researchers at the University of
California talk about having an adjustable, soft floor with a foot rail so that people can change their positions throughout the day. For shorter workers, the floor can be raised to allow their forearms to be nearly horizontal.

“It’s a simple thing but it can be a big thing,” he says.

Another idea to consider is having an adjustable shelf that sets the packing boxes at an optimum 12 to 15 degree incline from the horizontal so they tip in toward the worker. This position allows the worker to keep their upper arms more comfortably at near vertical.

Fluorescent lighting should ideally be in the range of 500 to 1,000 lux – a unit of illumination.

“Many packers are older and they need better lighting. Workers should also be rotated to reduce fatigue and monotony.”

Fraser suggests not implementing these changes across the board, but to start with only a few workers to see how they respond to the changes.

“Your workers will tell you very quickly if they like what you did or not,” he says.

In some peach packing facilities, it can take 10 minutes of down time to switch containers on the line and it can easily happen twice a day.

“If you have 20 packers, then they are idle 333 hours over 50 days, which is about $4,000 in lost time.”

Evaporator coils must also earn their keep.

“To get the most efficiency out of your coils, ensure they are drawing cold air through and around the produce so it’s cooling it. Air always takes the path of least resistance and it will not flow through bins or pallets unless it is forced to do so. Also, if you restrict airflow, or have short-circuiting of cold air back to the coils, you’re going to have faster frost buildup and more frequent defrosts required, which means higher electricity costs and slower pull
down times.

“You have to make the cold air in your storage do a better job for you,” he says.

To do this, ensure there are four to six inches between bin or pallet rows that are parallel to the airflow in the room, and six to eight inches at the sidewall that are parallel to the airflow.

“You should have at least 12 inches of space under the coils so the air has room to get back to the cooling coils and get re-cooled,” Fraser says.

 “It’s easier to cool fruit in a bulk bin than after it is packed in a basket and placed in a corrugated container. Fruit not cold when packed is more susceptible to bruising and a shorter shelf life.”

Over his 35-year career, Fraser has found the need for more cross-pollination among farms.

“Tender fruit producers often don’t know what vegetable growers are doing and greenhouse growers don’t know what grape growers do,” he says. “We’ve lost some of that cross-pollination of good ideas.”

Greenhouse vegetable and flower operations are highly mechanized and have pack lines, forklifts, automation and all can learn from everyone else. They also pack in containers and some use forced-air coolers.

“Your non-competitors are going to share good ideas with you more than your competitors will,” he says.

Having a long-term plan is another area that needs work.

“Most farms expand production 100 per cent over one generation but nobody has a plan ready in their back pocket. And disaster can strike with a 100 per cent loss and again nobody has a plan to draw from,” he says.

By thinking outside the box, producers can reduce costs and streamline operations. By having an expansion plan in place, they can be ready for whatever life brings their way.




 Jason Verkaik of Carron Farms has been a pioneer in bringing new and ethnic vegetables to Ontario, including East Indian red carrots and heirloom carrots that come in many colours, from white to purple. Photo by Contributed photo

A few years ago, multi-coloured carrots were a novelty in Canada, if you had heard of them at all. Now, they are becoming commonplace, and in Ontario, that’s partly due to Carron Farms.

Owner Jason Verkaik has been a pioneer in bringing new and ethnic vegetables to residents of the province and beyond. He started growing crisp and sweet East Indian red carrots a decade ago and, over the past few years, has started growing large amounts of heirloom carrots. They come in many colours, from white to purple, and consumers love their look, taste and their healthy anthocyanins.

However, manually sorting and bagging the heirloom carrots so each package has a good colour assortment was quite labour-intensive, and anyone in horticulture knows that labour must be minimized in order to keep farm businesses sustainable. Verkaik needed a mechanized solution, and for his innovative efforts and his first-in-Canada results, he won a Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.

Verkaik’s family have deep roots in the Bradford area. The year was 1934 when his ancestors purchased a parcel of land on the west side of the Holland Marsh, an area that would come to be known as Springdale. Over the years, the Verkaiks cleared more land and expanded their farming operations, selling produce through farmer’s markets throughout Ontario. In 1967, the farm was divided into separate family farms to support the needs of the next generation. One of these farms belonged to Jacob (Jake) Verkaik and his family, and they named the farm by combining the letters of the farm’s two most prominent vegetables (you guessed it - carrots and onions). Jake passed away in the mid-1970s and two of his sons, Doug and Jack, took over the operation. Together, they developed a state of the art onion curing and storing facility as well as a carrot storing and packaging facility. Eventually, Doug’s son, Jason, took the reins.

In the beginning of his search for a machine that would package both the farm’s heirloom carrots and traditional orange ones, Verkaik approached three companies.

“Two of the companies thought they could work with me to adapt a packing machine to provide a balanced colour mix,” he remembers. “We realized it was going to require some physical changes as well as some computer programing changes to make it work. After going over ideas, both companies came in with quotes, and we went with one.”

The resulting machine is the first of its kind in Canada. It has 14 weigh scale buckets, and the software chooses randomly from all 14 scales to find the optimum weight according to the parameters set.

“This works extremely well for a single colour,” Verkaik explains. “But the randomness posed a challenge for the colour mix packs. What we did was create three separate channels out of the fourteen scales, feeding the machine separately with the different colours.”

The machine then picks from a channel with red carrots, one with purple, and a third with carrots of three colours (orange, yellow, white). They all flow into a collecting bucket, which goes to the bagging machine and then to a packing table.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing from the start, however.

“Once the machine was set up, it didn’t start off very smoothly and adjustments had to be made to the programs to make it work more efficiently for the heirloom packs,” Verkaik remembers. “Also, we need do physical changes to the machine when we switch from heirloom packs to one-colour packs, which takes time. So, for small orders we just use the machine in regular mode and mix the colours on the line and use a couple of inspectors to ensure there’s a good colour mix in each bag. If there’s not, the bag is emptied and repacked by hand. It’s still faster this way than packing everything by hand. What took us four hours to do before, we now can do in one hour.”
Verkaik says the success of the system has given him the confidence to go after larger carrot accounts both at home and in export markets.

“Expansion of the yield is challenging,” he says. “As new accounts come, I know have the ability to meet the demand not only from a field production point of view but also a packing and delivery angle as well. It’s a good feeling.”
Current challenges at Carron Farms include everything from weather to government policies, says Verkaik.

“Our growth as a family farm has to be continually monitored,” he notes. “We farm 30 per cent more land than we did three years ago and our produce sales have doubled over that time, but it’s important that the growth is done for the right reasons. As we look to the future, we’re still looking for business growth both from the fields and the packing facilities. I see the heirloom carrots being an important part of that growth. I’m confident in myself and my farm’s team ability to grow a good harvest and ship a quality crop. I love working in the fields.”
Verkaik considers it an honour to win a Premier’s Award. He thinks the awards are important because they demonstrate that the government recognizes farmers and the innovation that’s always at the forefront of the agriculture industry.

“It’s humbling to see all the innovation across the sector and others who have won the awards, and to be included with them,” he says.

“I would also like to encourage the government to keep the industry at the table and heed their knowledge and advice when policies are made that relates to agriculture,” he adds.




February 10, 2015, Racine, WI – Orchard growers eager to match tractor power and efficiency with the best-possible working environment now have a cab tractor option from Case IH. The new cab combines a low profile with a roomy interior to protect crops while maximizing operator comfort.

With an overall height of 83 inches, the new cab provides one of the lowest profiles in the industry and will help keep produce on the trees. The Orchard Cab provides the operator with a 360-degree view, and all the windows are recessed into the cab for a smooth exterior surface that will not catch on tree limbs.

The ergonomic control layout, large entry and exit doors, cab pressurizer and HVAC system are designed to maximize operator comfort while reducing operator fatigue. Plus, the cab offers spacious design.

With 98 per cent Case IH OEM parts, dealers are able to service almost every part through the Case IH part system. This ensures adequate parts stock inventory and overnight availability of these parts using the dealer’s order system (already in place).

The cab is compatible with the Tier 4A Farmall 85C, 95C, 105C and 115C and will be available for the Tier 4 B 90C, 100C,110C and 120C soon.

January 30, 2015 - As companies continue to innovate new ways to get food items to people around the world, more than three-quarters of Canadians say there needs to be more environmentally friendly or “green” packaging when it comes to food products, according to a recent survey conducted by Asia Pulp & Paper Canada (APP) – one of the world’s largest paper companies. In fact, 58 per cent of Canadians say they seek out food that is packaged in containers that can be recycled or reused.

While half of Canadians actively seek out environmentally-friendly food packaging based on APP’s study, nearly one third said they are also proactive about finding restaurants that embrace sustainable practices, including products packaged with recyclable or compostable content. In particular, nearly half (44 per cent) of millennials (18-34) research the environmental sustainability practices of restaurants.

The survey, conducted by business research firm Opinion Research Corporation International (ORC), was completed in late September. About 1,000 Canadians and 1,000 Americans were interviewed across the two countries.

Generally, Canadian females tends to have more sustainable attitudes. Overall, the results showed that Canadians had stronger attitudes – some of the areas had striking differences – when it comes to food packaging compared to Americans.

Key Take-aways

  • 77 per cent of Canadians want more environmentally-friendly / green packaging for food products
    • Baby boomers (55+) felt the most strongly about this issue (82 per cent)
    • The Canadian results were significantly higher than American attitudes at 62 per cent
  •  58 per cent of Canadians seek out food that is packaged in containers that can be recycled or reused
    • The Canadian results were significantly higher than American attitudes at 46 per cent
  • 50 per cent of Canadians actively seek out food that is packaging in an environmentally-friendly way
    • More than half (53 per cent) of the millennials (18-34) said they are proactive about greener food packaging 
    • The Canadian results were significantly higher than American attitudes at 38 per cent
  •  32 per cent of Canadians actively seek out restaurants that embrace sustainability practices throughout their operations
    •  Nearly half (44 per cent) of the millennials (18-34) said they research their restaurants for their practices
    • The Canadian results were very similar to American attitudes at 31 per cent
Sept. 13, 2013 - The tasters are overjoyed: of more than 100 wines that were submitted, this rosé is of exceptional quality. "Fresh, dry, pleasant – a real summer wine," says one; "incredibly well rounded," says another; "delicate," says a third. They also praise its harmony and the balance between sugar and acidity.

If a wine is to win jurors over so unanimously, not only must there be no hitches in the processes it goes through at the winery, but all weather-related factors need to stack up, too. For a vintage to be good, the weather has to have encouraged the growth of the grapes at the right time and offered a proper balance of sun and rain over the course of the year. But the weather can often quite literally ruin the harvest for winemakers.

A novel piece of optical sorting equipment is set to help make the most out of grapes' quality. Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB in Karlsruhe, Germany, are working to develop the equipment together with Armbruster Kelterei-Technologie GmbH, Ingenieurbüro Waidelich and Geisenheim University in the GrapeSort project, which is funded by Germany's Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology BMWi.

Once vats of grapes have been delivered after harvest, their contents pass through a feeding unit into the de-stemmer provided by Armbruster, which separates the berries from their stems. Next, the grapes are individually placed on a conveyor belt by a newly developed conveying system.

"What's important is to get the berries onto the belt without damaging them," says Dr. Kai-Uwe Vieth, a scientist at the IOSB.

The grapes are then carried along by the conveyor belt past the IOSB's sorting module at a speed of three meters per second. At the heart of the module is a high-speed line scan camera that records the material flow, taking photos of the fruit as it rushes past – 18,000 times a second. IOSB analysis software evaluates each image in milliseconds and controls compressed air jets that blow foreign objects such as insects, vine shoots, stones or twigs out of the material flow. Bad or undesirable berries are also removed by an air ejection unit. The "good" berries fall into a container.

"Our sorting module is designed to exceed the capabilities of current machines. Not only does it remove foreign objects, it also sorts the berries into various quality grades. That lets you create exactly the wine you want," says Dr. Vieth.

The camera is trained in advance what to deem as "bad". Mold, earwigs, leaves and the wrong degree of ripeness are typical rejection criteria. Sorting is done based on analyses of shape and colour.

The researchers are already able to use their equipment to recognize various degrees of berry ripeness based on nuances of colour. In future, they also want to be able to tell the ripeness by investigating how much sugar there is in the fruit.

"Winemakers measure sugar content using an optical device called a refractometer, which allows them to read out on a scale the degree to which sugar molecules in the must influence the angle of refraction of incoming light. The higher the sugar content, the more the light is refracted. The line scan camera can also measure reflected light, as it is a light-sensitive line," Dr. Vieth explains.

This integrated line sensor is sensitive to both visible and invisible light. For the laboratory analyses that run while the measurements are taken, Dr. Vieth and his colleagues use imaging sensors for the wavelength range of 240 to 2500 nanometers. The sensors generate spectra for each pixel.

Several tons of grapes pass through the sorting facility every hour. Grapes of the Trollinger, Riesling, Weißburgunder and Lemberger varieties have been successfully sorted in preliminary testing, with project partners unanimously declaring the results of the sorting to be good. An optimized functioning prototype that will serve as a basis for a production-ready facility is set to be tested for the first time in October 2013. All the components undergoing constant development and optimization – the feeding unit, the camera box and the air ejection unit – will be connected up and tested in time for the grape harvest. And the entire project will be put to the sensory test at another premiere in June 2014: the tasting of the resulting wine by the Geisenheim University viticulture experts who are providing their expertise to the project.

Dr. Vieth and his project partners are convinced that their wines will be a great success.

"The sorting system helps to improve quality and separate the harvest into various quality levels. This will allow winemakers to expand their premium output."
Jul. 16, 2013 - Tough new regulations governing vineyard waste management meant the owners of Sixteen Mile Cellar in the Niagara Region had some tough choices to make. Previously, small estate wineries were allowed to store the liquids and residues from their grape crush on-farm and then haul them away. The rule change now requires waste treatment facilities on site, which can get very expensive very fast.

"For small wineries, this is a big burden. Even if you only crush grapes for one week of the year like we do, you have to provide waste treatment," says Paul Vander Molen, Sixteen Mile Cellar's farm property manager. "So we started searching for ideas that would address the waste issue properly but also be affordable."

The solution was a constructed treatment wetland that uses nature to pre-treat the winery waste — wash water, grape liquids and stems and skins left over once the grapes are crushed — before it is disposed of.

The crush residue flows out of the winery into a holding tank and is then pumped into a four-chamber constructed treatment wetland that is located just outside of the main winery building. The chambers are lined with rubber and filled with gravel and soil that filter and purify the grape waste. From there, the remaining liquid goes into a pressurized septic system and then into a filter bed for release back into the environment. An alternative option was an open system, but the potential for odour and the proximity to the winery building made this idea a non-starter.

"Wineries, especially small estate wineries like this one, don't produce a lot of waste but we still have to solve the problem of dealing with it," Vander Molen says. "This solution is not only a good treatment option, but it will also provide a natural habitat for frogs and other wildlife once it is completed."

The underground system was first used in 2012 and Vander Molen says it will ramp up to full capacity for the 2013 grape harvest. This spring, cattails, bull rushes and iris will be planted on top of the wetland to complete its construction and give it a more natural look.

There are currently more than 1,000 constructed wetlands in North America being used to treat various waste streams, such as municipal wastewater and coal and metal mine drainage. Sixteen Mile Cellar is one of the first wineries in Ontario that has been affected by the new rules and has adapted this type of a system using a wetland to pre-treat their winery waste. He expects others will follow suit as they face compliance with the new regulations.

To help with the cost of constructing the wetland, Sixteen Mile Cellar accessed cost-share funding through the Canada-Ontario Farm Stewardship Program (COFSP). COFSP provided cost-share funding for farmers to implement best management practices that provide environmental benefit on-farm. Funding was available on a first come, first served basis to farmers who had a peer-reviewed Environmental Farm Plan (EFP) in place and had projects that have been approved under the program.

EFP and COFSP were funded under the Best Practices suite of programs of Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The programs were administered by the Ontario Federation of Agriculture acting on behalf of the Ontario Farm Environmental Coalition. The Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association delivered the programs to farmers.

"The funding really helped us make this work. This project and some of the others we've done really fit into the concept of environmental goods and services and being a responsible producer," says Vander Molen, referring to a tree planting initiative and the replacement of a failed culvert with a new stream bridge crossing to improve fish habitat that were both also completed on the same property recently.

Jan. 18, 2013, Victoria, BC - Projects introducing new technology to the province’s tree fruit industry are receiving support from the Governments of Canada and British Columbia, Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country, the Honourable Ron Cannan, on behalf of federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, and B.C. Agriculture Minister Norm Letnick.

“B.C. has a strong reputation around the world for producing top-quality tree fruits, such as apples and cherries,” said MP Cannan. “These projects and leading-edge technologies will increase profitability and ensure that the region’s producers remain industry leaders on the domestic and international stage.”

“The B.C. government has been working with industry to focus on innovation and technology as we look at ways to expand their product line and markets,” said Letnick. “The investment of more than $200,000 for these six projects will enhance both our province’s tree fruit operations and ensure the agrifoods industry continues to be an integral part of British Columbia’s economy.”

Cawston Cold Storage is receiving more than $106,000 to assist with new storage technology. The investment will enable greater efficiencies in the movement of product in and out of cold storage. The goal of the facility is to extend the B.C. organic apple marketing season by maximizing the post-harvest product storage quality.

“With this funding we are able to secure much needed long term storage for our products and this innovative facility will help the B.C. organic agriculture industry remain strong for future generations,” said Dan Taylor, Operations Manager, Cawston Cold Storage.

Coral Beach Farms in Lake Country is receiving more than $35,000 in funding for an innovative software program that will automate the sorting of stemless cherries. The overall purpose of the project is to add value and reduce labour costs by introducing new technologies not currently in use in the B.C. tree fruit industry. The automatic sorting of cherries with and without stems will help the sector take advantage of higher-value export markets that pay a premium for stemmed cherries, leading to increased profitability for farmers.

“This new technology enables us to target specific packs of cherries to specific markets in a very cost effective manner. We are appreciative of the support provided through the Agriflex program, which allows us to better serve our customers and compete in global markets,” said Coral Beach Farms President David Geen.

Four other projects are also receiving funding totalling more than $66,000. The Jind Fruit Company is receiving just over $26,000 for a project to improve cold storage air quality and conditions at a packing house in Osoyoos. The Okanagan Kootenay Cherry Growers’ Association is receiving over $21,000 for two Spotted Wing Drosophila larvae management projects. The BC Fruit Growers Association Research and Development Test Orchard is receiving $19,200 for the creation of quality standards that all cherry packing organizations can use for their domestic and export markets.

In 2010, the Governments of Canada and B.C. together contributed $5 million to the Tree Fruit Market and Infrastructure Initiative. The federal portion of this investment is made through the Agricultural Flexibility Fund (AgriFlex), part of the Economic Action Plan, a five-year (2009-14) program created to help reduce production costs, improve environmental sustainability, promote innovation, and respond to emerging opportunities and market challenges for the sector.

For more information on the B.C. Tree Fruit Market and Infrastructure Innovation Initiative, please visit the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture’s website or contact them at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Please visit the Agricultural Flexibility Fund for more information.

December 19, 2012 – Diseases such as purple spot can have major economic impacts for asparagus growers, and the best line of defence is spraying.

The good news is that asparagus growers know this and take steps to protect against it. The bad news is that there are few things harder to spray than asparagus in fern. READ MORE

Nov. 30, 2012, Urbana, IL - University of Illinois scientists have found a way to boost current industry capabilities when it comes to reducing the number of E. coli 0157:H7 cells that may live undetected on spinach leaves.

"By combining continuous ultrasound treatment with chlorine washing, we can reduce the total number of foodborne pathogenic bacteria by over 99.99 percent," said Hao Feng, a U of I professor of food science and human nutrition.

According to Feng, the USDA is looking for proposed technologies that can achieve a four to six log reduction in pathogen cells (a six log reduction would achieve a million-fold reduction in pathogenic bacteria). The food processing industry can now achieve a one log or tenfold reduction. In comparison, the U of I technique yields a four log reduction.

"Combining technologies is the key to bridging the gap between our current capacity and what USDA would like to see. The use of ultrasound exposure during chlorine washing gives the industry a way to significantly enhance microbial safety," he said.

Feng's pilot-scale system uses three pairs of large-area ultrasonic transducer boxes to form a channel through which ultrasound is provided to spinach leaves that are undergoing a continuous-flow chlorine wash. Spatial uniformity of ultrasound distribution was confirmed by tests using metallic foil.

The scientist said that continuous flow and uniformity of the field are key elements in the success of the process.

"Previous work with ultrasound used a tank or a medical-style probe, which doesn't provide consistent and even distribution," he noted.

System design is important for another reason, he said.

"Placement of the produce as it makes its way through the channel turns out to be very important. We had to find ways to make sure that leaves received similar exposure to ultrasound, taking care to minimize the chance that one leaf would block a nearby leaf's exposure to the sound waves."

If even part of a leaf escaped the full ultrasonic treatment, it could contaminate the rest of the produce, he said.

Feng and his team have used the technique on iceberg and romaine lettuce as well as spinach with similar results.

November 8, 2012 – U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists have released two mobile phone applications to make things easier for anyone who needs to adjust insecticide spray equipment.

The apps were developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists Bradley Fritz and Wesley "Clint" Hoffmann at the agency's Areawide Pest Management Research Unit in College Station, TX. The apps are designed to ensure that aerial and ground-based crews can hit targets and minimize pesticide drift by keying in specifics on the type of equipment and pesticide they are using.

With dozens of manufacturers producing dozens of different types of spray technology – each with its own nozzle type, flow rate, and pressure setting range – the equipment setup can get pretty complicated. Aerial sprayers also must factor in wind speed, air temperature, flight speed and humidity.

The apps incorporate the latest science of spray technology, including spray nozzle atomization models developed by ARS at College Station. They can be used with a smartphone and accessed right from a field or the cabin of a small aircraft. More than half of all aerial applicators responding to a survey by the National Agricultural Aviation Association reported using smartphones. Data also can be saved for later use and e-mailed to colleagues.

One app is designed for ground-based spraying for mosquitoes and other threats to public health. It covers 60 different sprayers made by 19 manufacturers and was developed jointly with the Department of Defense’s Navy Entomology Center of Excellence in Jacksonville, Fla. The user selects the appropriate sprayer and is guided through the process of selecting specific operational settings, such as the nozzle type, flow rate and spray pressure setting.

The other app, for aerial spraying, walks users through the process of adjusting nozzles and settings so pesticides are delivered at optimal droplet sizes. Droplet size is critical in aerial operations to ensure on-target deposition and minimize pesticide drift. The user specifies the nozzle manufacturer from a menu and is steered through a series of screens and prompts that, based on the specific operating conditions, helps him or her select the right size of the nozzle opening, spray pressure, nozzle orientation and airspeed.

The apps are available online through the Apple iTunes App Store and the Google Play Android Marketplace by searching for “Aerial Sprays” for the aerial application app and “Vector Sprays” for the ground-based sprayer app.

Read more about this research in the November/December 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Oct. 23, 2012 - The Canadian wine market is about to get a boost of innovation using a technological update of a traditional method.

Angels Gate Winery and Rennie Estate Winery are in the midst of developing a new grape-drying process thanks a collaborative investment from both the Federal Government the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. The process is derived from the natural process of drying the grapes that has been around for a long time, said John Young, the president of Angels Gate. The goal, he said, is to enhance and adapt that process to the Canadian market, its climate conditions and the local grape varieties.

Last year, Dr. Bernard Goyette at Vineland Research ran a small pilot project in collaboration with the two wineries to explore a new drying method. According to Young, the process was so successful that it has since been ramped up and there are currently 12-15 tones of grapes being dried by this new process.

"Dr. Goyette has developed a drying system that allows temperature, humidity and air flow to be controlled to maintain the quality and consistency of the grape-drying process," said Young. "And we have already produced a phenomenal product using this process."

Using this technology, a number of new opportunities will become available to Canadian wine growers and processors, most notably the production of a new appassimento-style of premium wine production. As well, since the process harvests the grapes earlier than normal for the grapes to ripen artificially, the risks of the grapes encountering bad weather, disease or predation are reduced.

"The other opportunity that exists for Ontario, which may even be more important over the longer term is that you can use this process to make a high-quality wine, but you can also back-blend it with other wines to make better table wines," said Young. "You can have a lesser quality harvest this year or next and be able to blend some of what you made in previous years and really enhance the quality and consistency of the table wines."

The next step of the research is to finish gathering and analyzing the data from the wineries. After that, Young hopes to discuss the possible opportunities with other wineries on moving towards a larger-scale drying facility that everyone can use as a co-operative venture.

October 9, 2012 – One of the critical moments in the final quality of potatoes occurs during storage, where the risk of sprouting or rotting due to pathogenic agents, such as bacteria and fungi, can occur. In order to avoid this, agricultural engineer David Gómez Castillo carried out research for his PhD on the possibility of substituting chemical products, currently used to treat tubers, with essential oils of mint, caraway, coriander, eucalyptus and clove.

The chemical product Clorprofam (CIPC) is the most commonly used as a sprout suppressant on stored potatoes. Nevertheless, possible reductions in permitted dosages, market and consumer pressures seeking healthier and more environmentally-friendly products have made it necessary to find alternatives to these synthetic products.

David Gómez Castillo studied the effect of applying essential oils of mint, caraway, coriander, eucalyptus and clove with both table stock varieties (Agata and Monalisa) and processing varieties (Agria and Kennebec), and compared the results with potatoes that had been treated chemically.

The research analyzed two parameters: the commercial quality (germination, texture and colour of the tuber) and the culinary and technological quality (colour and texture of slices of the potato, dry material, total soluble solids, reductor sugars and sensorial analysis). Evaluations at 10, 25, 40, 55 and 70 days in storage were also undertaken to assess the antimicrobial effect of the essential oils.

“We found a high antigerminant capacity with treatment using the essential oil of coriander for industrial crops, and with the essential oil of mint for both industrial and table-stock crops,” said Gómez. “These showed great inhibitory potential on the principal phytopathogenic problems studied and all this makes a good alternative to CPIC use for storage of potatoes.”

The essential oil of eucalyptus also showed a high antigerminant capacity with table-stock potatoes and “could be another alternative for reducing post-harvest losses due to phytopathogenic problems, obtaining even better results if the treatment is accompanied by the essential oil of clove.”

The use of treatment with essential oils in the storage of potatoes “can provide added value in the application of antigerminant treatment, due to its efficacy in controlling the progress of important phytopathogens,” said Gómez.

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