OFVGA welcomes federal innovation funding
Vineland Research and Innovation Centre greenhouse research facility in Vineland, Ont. Jennifer Paige
The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association (OFVGA) welcomes Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s recent announcement of $5 million in funding from the Canadian Agricultural Partnership to support the Automation Cluster.
“Fruit and vegetable farmers are actively looking for ways to increase automation in their businesses to reduce their reliance on labour and maintain their competitiveness in a global marketplace,” says greenhouse vegetable grower Jan VanderHout, chair of the OFVGA. “We welcome this type of investment by the government to help the future profitability of our sector, both for existing crops and new ones that technological innovation may make it possible for us to grow in the future.”
The cluster, led by Vineland Research and Innovation Centre Inc., will focus on increased automation for the Canadian horticulture sector, with a particular focus on greenhouse production. This includes developing and testing robotic harvesters for greenhouse cucumbers, developing wireless smart irrigation technologies for potted flowers and vegetables, and developing state-of-the-art sensors that will help detect and monitor soil and air moisture levels.
“Innovations developed as a result of this research will have the potential to benefit all types of horticultural production in Ontario, as we anticipate that these new technologies could be adapted for use in orchards or outdoor field vegetable production as well,” adds VanderHout.
Labour represents a major part of the production cost for Ontario grown fruit and vegetables as many crops still require growing and management by hand. Rising labour costs and a decreasing availability of people willing to work on farms, farmers are increasingly challenged to grow fruits and vegetables competitively in the global market place.
This investment into automation innovations will better position the fruit and vegetable sector to maintain and grow the significant contributions it makes to the provincial and national economies, as well as support the Canadian government in achieving its target of growing Canadian agri-food exports to $75 billion annually by 2025.
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