Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food, Lawrence MacAulay, recently announced, the details of the Government of Canada’s transformational $70M investment, over five years, to address significant environmental challenges and hire approximately 75 scientists and science professionals in emerging fields of agricultural science.
Of this $70M investment, $44M is dedicated to hiring the next generation of federal research scientists and science professionals and equipping them with the state-of-the-art tools they need to advance agricultural research, including environmental sampling equipment and analytical instruments.
Minister MacAulay also announced a new Living Laboratories Initiative, which includes $10M to support collaborative research projects with external partners.
Living Laboratories are an integrated approach to agricultural research that bring farmers, scientists and other stakeholders together to co-develop, test and monitor new practices and technologies on farms. The result will be more practical technologies and sustainable farming practices adopted more quickly by Canadian farmers.
The Living Laboratories Initiative led by Canada is a model to the world as other countries also try to improve the resilience and sustainability of their agricultural production. This Living Labs approach was presented by Minister MacAulay at the G20 Agriculture Ministers meeting in Argentina in July and the initiative was endorsed by ministers in attendance.
In the same spirit of collaboration, the remaining $16M of the $70M is earmarked to fund collaborative federal research projects focused on priority areas affecting the agriculture sector, such as environmental issues. With these funds, researchers will have the support, for example, to find better nutrient management solutions to ensure the health of our waterways.
This $70M investment in research and development fulfills the Budget 2017 commitment to support discovery science and innovation.
“This investment allows us to hire the next generation of world-class scientists here in Harrow and across the country, and will help give our farmers the tools they need to grow their businesses for years to come. This transformational investment demonstrates our Government’s strong commitment to science and our focus on the agriculture sector as a primary economic driver for creating good jobs and growing the middle class," said Minister MacAulay.
The bioplastic is made from the by-products created by industrial processing of certain plants. Not only will this bioplastic protect perishable food better than regular plastic packaging, it is also more environmentally-friendly and sustainable.
Dr. Liu has been working to advance the science around bioplastics for over 15 years. He is a "green" chemist - someone who specializing in making plastics and other goods from agricultural plants.
"I, along with industry, saw great opportunity to create something useful out of the leftover by-product from industrial canola oil processing, which is why this project was funded under the Growing Forward 2 Canola Cluster. We can extract all sorts of things like starches, proteins, and oils from plant materials to make plastics, but I am particularly interested in proteins from canola meal in this research project," says Dr. Liu.
Plant protein-based bioplastic has been shown to have similar attributes to other plant-based bio-products; it can stretch, it doesn’t deform in certain temperatures, and in some cases, it biodegrades. That being said, building the polymers (long chains of repeating molecules) that are the basis of biofilms and plastics can be tricky and finding just the right technique and formula is challenging.
One challenge with some protein polymers is that they are can be sensitive to a lot of moisture - not a good trait if you want to use them to protect food with a natural moisture content. Dr. Liu and his team recently discovered a formula and technique to make soy and canola protein polymers water-resistant by "wrapping" them in another polymer.
The team was also able to add an anti-microbial compound to the mix, which not only made the resulting bioplastic able to prevent nasty bacteria like E. coli from growing - but, depending on how much was added, also could change the porosity of the film.
The porosity of bioplastic (essentially how many holes are in it) is very important in food packaging since different foods need different amounts of moisture to stay fresh. Having a way to adjust porosity (either having more or less small holes in it) is a great feature in a potential plastic because it can either let more or less water go into or out of the area where the food is.
Even though it is in the early stages of development, Dr. Liu believes there is great future for bringing this technology into the marketplace.
"The use of plant-based plastics as a renewable resource for packaging and consumer goods is becoming increasingly attractive due to environmental concerns and the availability of raw materials. My hope is that someday this research will lead to all plastics being made from renewable sources. It would be a win for the agriculture sector to have another source of income from waste and a win for our environment," explains Dr. Liu.
Should this potential biofilm prove viable, it would be a win for the agriculture sector and the environment, as it would provide added revenue by creating a renewable plastic alternative.
The federal government recently announced a $1.8 million investment with the University of British Columbia to determine carbon sequestration and GHG emissions, and develop beneficial management practices (BMPs) for increasing the efficiency of fertilizer use in blueberry, potato and forage crops.
“This project will provide new science-based knowledge on net GHG emissions by accurately measuring GHG emissions and developing mitigation technologies for blueberry, potato and forage crops in the Lower Fraser Valley,” said Dr. Rickey Yada, dean of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at UBC. “The research team will use state-of-the-art instrumentation and automated measurement techniques to quantify annual GHG emissions. While the specific research objectives are targeted to fill regionally identified gaps in knowledge, they will be applicable more broadly to similar agricultural production systems across Canada and Global Research Alliance member countries.”
This project with the University of British Columbia is one of 20 new research projects supported by the $27 million Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP), a partnership with universities and conservation groups across Canada. The program supports research into greenhouse gas mitigation practices and technologies that can be adopted on the farm.
In some growing areas, soils are naturally rich in elements, such as cadmium. Leafy vegetables grown in these soils can take up the cadmium and become harmful to humans. What to do? The solution goes back to the soil. Adrian Paul, a former researcher now working in the Sustainable Mineral Institute in Brisbane, Australia, is working to find which soil additives work best.
Cadmium appears in very low levels or in forms that prevent contamination in soils across the world. However, some soils naturally have more than others. It can result from the erosion of local rock formations. In some instances, it’s present due to human activity. Metal processing, fertilizer or fossil fuel combustion, for example, can leave cadmium behind.
Cadmium may decrease people’s kidney function and bone density. As a result, international guidelines set safety limits on cadmium found in food. Growers with otherwise fertile fields need to grow food within these safe levels. Their livelihood depends on it.
“Our research aims to protect producers and consumers by lowering the cadmium in vegetables. This gives producers the ability to grow safe, profitable crops,” Paul says. “Consumers need to be able to safely eat what the farmers grow.”
Paul worked with four additives: zinc and manganese salts, limestone, and biosolids [nutrient-rich organic materials from sewage processed at a treatment facility] compost.
Although each works in a slightly different manner, the soil amendments generally solve the cadmium problem in two ways. They can prevent the passage of cadmium from the soil to the plant by offering competing nutrients. They can also chemically alter the cadmium so it is unavailable.
The researchers found that a combination of compost, zinc, and limestone brought the levels of cadmium in spinach down to nontoxic levels. The next step in this work is to better determine the ideal combination of the soil amendments. Researchers also want to study vegetables besides spinach, and other elements.
“Farmlands provide for us all,” Paul says. ”Rehabilitating agricultural fields, by removing heavy metals like cadmium, means healthier soils and healthier food.”
Read more about this study in the Journal of Environmental Quality.
The Ontario Tender Fruit Growers saw the need for a better way to work with whatever the weather sends their way.
“We had no good data available to know the damage that would result to our fruit crops from extreme temperatures,” says Phil Tregunno, chair of Ontario Tender Fruit.
With Growing Forward 2 funding through the Agricultural Adaptation Council, the producer group was able to work with researchers to assess the bud hardiness of various tender fruit crops. Bud hardiness gives an indication of the temperature the dormant buds can withstand before there will be damage to the resulting crop.
“If we want to be able to provide Ontario and Canadian consumers with high quality, local fruit, we need to have better tools to manage extreme weather,” says Tregunno.
Data gathered on the bud hardiness of tender fruit crops now feeds a new real-time, automated weather alert system to help Ontario tender fruit growers make decisions about how to manage extreme weather events.
Developed in partnership with Brock University, KCMS Inc., Weather INnovations Inc. and Ontario Tender Fruit, the new system runs on regional temperatures that are updated every 15 minutes, and bud survival data.
With 90 per cent of tender fruit production in the Niagara region, the bulk of the weather information comes from that area of the province.
The new weather tool is available to growers at TenderFruitAlert.ca and is searchable by location, commodity and cultivar. The site provides information to help growers monitor bud cold hardiness through the fruits’ dormant period and manage winter injury.
“Being prepared is half the battle when you farm with the weather,” says Tregunno. “This new tool gives us accurate, local weather, and matches that with the susceptibility of the specific crops and cultivars to predict that temperature when a grower will start to see crop losses. With that information, growers can make management decisions about how to deal with extreme weather – including the use of wind machines to keep temperatures above the critical point for crop injury.”
Ontario is home to more than 250 tender fruit growers, generating more than $55 million in annual sales from fresh market and processing. Those growers all remember the devastating cold weather in the spring of 2012 that saw tender fruit losses of 31 per cent to 89 per cent.
The new web-based cold hardiness database will help growers respond and prepare for potentially damaging weather events, and that will help protect the valuable fresh, local markets, Ontario’s Niagara region is so well known for.
Guillermo Hernandez Ramirez, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta, is studying the use and loss of that fertilizer in potato crops. He is testing various nitrogen fertilizer formulations and biostimulants to gauge their effect on potato productivity and nitrous oxide emissions. READ MORE
The study also found these production increases fuel highly unsustainable production practices and the misallocation of natural resources.
The comprehensive study, Understanding Agricultural Support, was prepared by Al Mussell, Douglas Hedley, Kamal Karunagoda, and Brenda Dyack of Agri-Food Economic Systems, with support from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The report seeks a better understanding of the impacts of domestic income support programs in key markets and competitors on the competitiveness of Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector.
July 28, 2017, North Carolina - Laura Lengnick is a big thinker on agriculture and the environment. She has been guided in her work by the understanding that the problems generated by the U.S. industrial food system have been as significant as its ability to produce vast quantities of food. As she sees it, it’s not enough to produce food if there’s not a reckoning of costs and benefits from an unbalanced system.
This comprehensive outlook is a hallmark of Lengnick’s work, as is her positive vision for a more equitable and sustainable future. When it comes to her career, the question is not what work Lengnick has done to explore resilient, sustainable agriculture, but what hasn’t she done. Soil scientist, policymaker as a Senate staffer, USDA researcher, professor, sustainability consultant, advocate—Lengnick has done it all.
With her home nestled in a sunny cove in the North Carolina mountains, she bio-intensively tends to her 3,000-square-foot micro-farm. (She grows everything from greens and radishes to figs and sweet potatoes.) Based on her rich experience and deep expertise, Lengnick now views herself as a science interpreter in her interactions with farmers, public officials and the public at large. (She calls it “science-in-place").
Lengnick is the author of many articles and papers for scholars, practitioners and the general public, including the useful and engaging book Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate. She was also selected as a contributor to the Third National Climate Assessment, the authoritative U.S. climate report.
Over the years she’s traveled throughout the United States to meet with farmers to investigate the challenges and successes in the field and present her findings to many different audiences. Most recently, Lengnick has been invited to collaborate with the world-renowned Stockholm Resilience Centre, which will bring her views to an even larger audience. In a series of conversations, Lengnick and I spoke about her background, career, and philosophy to better explain where she is today. READ MORE
Agriculture is an important driver in today's economy and has been identified as one of Canada's key growth sectors. Implementation of the Plant and Animal Health Strategy for Canada is essential to economic growth, and for the health of all of our citizens and the environment.
Effective action depends on the combined and co-ordinated work of numerous partners. By taking a collaborative approach, the partners will be even more successful at protecting plant and animal resources from new and emerging risks. The action-oriented strategy outlines how all parties will work together to protect these resources, unleashing the potential for growth in Canada's agriculture sector.
"Agriculture is a key growth sector for Canada's economy. By working in collaboration with partners we have been able to create a strategy that will improve how we work together to advance the protection of plant and animal health, reduce risk to Canadians and improve our economic opportunities," said the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
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.
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.
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
Access to this new type of information means farmers can adjust the timing of everything from planting and necessary crop applications to harvest to get the most out of each acre.
Three major Ontario co-operatives, AGRIS Co-operative, Wanstead Co-operative and Haggerty Creek, recognized the need for a weather database providing real-time updates and customized recommendations from agronomists to Ontario growers.
In 2016, with Growing Forward 2 (GF2) funding accessed through the Agricultural Adaptation Council, the group successfully launched the AGGrower Dashboard, a project bringing southwestern Ontario growers together and assisting farmers making informed agronomic decisions.
The AGGrower Dashboard gives producers an edge when it comes to dealing with weather; one of the most unpredictable and volatile aspects of farming. Participating growers have access to a database dashboard with 80 automated weather stations across southwestern Ontario measuring variables including temperature, rainfall and heat units.
“We allow farmers to go onto the database and plot their individual field locations,” explains Dale Cowan, senior agronomist, AGRIS and Wanstead co-operatives. “Once they input their planting information, we give them field specific rainfall and heat unit data and then start to map out the growth stages in the crops throughout the growing season.”
This project is a game-changer for the Ontario agricultural industry because it not only allows farmers to access information from the entire region, but also sends farmers timely agronomic advice and recommendations for their crops based on the crop stage and weather.
“Everyone’s interested in how much it rains,” explains Cowan, “but what you have to know from a farm management standpoint, is if it rains, what do I need to do based on my crop growth stage?”
The collaboration of the three co-operatives allows producers to make smart, informed decisions that end up benefiting not just the producer, but also the industry, land and environment.
Cowan explains the database using nitrogen fertilizer application as an example. A farmer would never apply nitrogen the day before a big rainfall because the moisture would cause leaching.
As a member of the database dashboard, the farmer could have a more accurate reading on weather or receive a warning and know to hold off on nitrogen application. Small management changes like this go a long way in helping the farmer act as an environmental steward of the land.
When producers sign up, they enter geographical and crop information for each of their fields and adjust notification settings to what fits their lifestyle best. Farmers can group fields together to reduce the amount of notifications they receive, or check the site manually.
“Once you put your data in, you can see the entire growth season for your fields,” says Cowan. “Farmers can log onto the website and see weather-wise what’s going on in their fields in near real time.”
This is the first year all 80 weather stations are operating and recording data, but even during partial roll-out the previous year, the 160 early adopters using the dashboard were pleased with the results and Cowan expects to see an increase in farmer memberships this year.
This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of GF2 in Ontario.
Member of Parliament, Francis Drouin, today announced a $786,921 investment for Farm Management Canada to develop a new online agricultural risk management tool called "AgriShield".
This online tool will help farmers have real-time assessments of the potential negative impact of risks to their businesses and provide mitigation solutions. For instance, if an overland flood situation is imminent, the tool can help farmers to assess the degree of risk they face and potential mitigation measures that they can adopt, such as tile draining or insurance coverage.
This investment is being made through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's AgriRisk Initiatives (ARI) which supports the research and development, as well as the implementation and administration of new risk management tools for use in the agriculture sector.
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Introduction to Integrated Pest Management Thu May 02, 2019
Tomato and pepper workshop Mon May 06, 2019
Webinar: Building organic matter for healthy soilsThu May 09, 2019 @ 1:00pm - 02:00pm
Global Grape Summit Wed Jun 05, 2019