Equipment
October 3, 2017, Kingston, Ont – Employee labour tracking, cloud based data, and the need for a future of digital food safety documentation were each important aspects when the Ontario Berry Growers Association (OBGA) decided to provide its growers with a high level traceability software, Croptracker.

For the OBGA, the software selection of is the result of the Croptracker team working diligently with Ontario berry growers for the past year to learn and develop berry crop processes and strategies. The most important and beneficial feature berry growers needed was the capability of developing, calculating, and tracking piecework harvest. This allows for growers to track individual employee labour and payout calculations while managing and adjusting piecework rates. With successful implementation, the association saw the opportunity to opt into Croptracker, not only for their food safety and audits, but also for their labour tracking.

Croptracker is a very intuitive program that provides growers with food safety traceability and so much more,” said Kevin Schooley, executive director of the OBGA. “I encourage all berry growers to take advantage of the opportunity to work with this software. It is an Ontario product that understands the needs of growers.”

Croptracker is currently free to all OBGA members.
Published in Companies
September 25, 2017, Guelph, Ont – Ontario tender fruit farmers need the right mix of rain, sunshine and growing temperatures to produce juicy, fresh peaches, pears, cherries, apricots and nectarines. But when extreme weather hits during critical crop development, it can wreak havoc on an entire crop. And unpredictable weather events are becoming more and more common.

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.
Published in Fruit
September 20, 2017, Washington – Storing Honeycrisp long-term while achieving good packouts and maintaining fruit of acceptable eating quality in the second part of the storage season has been a continuous challenge for our industry.

Up until last year, most packers had become comfortable knowing what types of performance to expect out of each lot. With Honeycrisp, you basically had to control your decay, manage chilling injuries (mainly soft scald), and bitter pit. We did know that this apple was sensitive to carbon dioxide injury but, aside from the occasional cavities, most packers did not report having significant problems. READ MORE

 


 
Published in Fruit
While most young men in the early 1900s were likely dreaming about driving a Model-T Ford, Norman M. Bartlett was thinking in an inventive way.

Living in Beamsville, Ontario – the heart of the Niagara Peninsula – had a strong influence on the direction of his thinking. The Niagara Peninsula has possibly the most unique combination of fertile soil types, climatic conditions and access to local markets in Canada.

It is also interesting to note that even at the turn of the century, the consumer was recognizing quality and placing demands on the growers to improve produce quality. This interest in quality plus quite possibly the fact that the major variety of pears grown in this area was (and still is) the Bartlett pear, (an interesting coincidence), were most probably the factors that strongly influenced Norman M. Bartlett’s life in 1912. During that year, he began manufacturing lime sulphur in a 40-inch cast iron kettle and thereby established Bartlett Spray Works. His product was excellent by 1912 standards, and Bartlett gained notoriety with this product as it helped to produce the quality crops the consumer desired. It was not long before other products were added to his list of crop protection materials and demand was spreading into the other fruit and vegetable growing areas of Ontario. Quality and service were synonymous from the very beginning.

Bartlett was a fruit grower as well during this time. The Bartlett farm on Bartlett Side Road in Beamsville consisted of a mixture of apples, grapes and pears – mostly Bartlett pears, of course. A grass-rooted involvement and extreme interest in trying to solve problems and find answers that were sound and profitable to not only Bartlett Spray Works, but to the growers he was serving then evolved. This would become the cornerstone of the foundation that N.M. Bartlett Inc. would still be building on some three generations and more than 80 years later.

Over the next quarter-century, Bartlett Spray Works continued to grow in both product range and geographical coverage. Products such as Paris Green, Bluestone (Copper Sulphate), Microfine Wettable Sulphur, Calcium Arsenate, Nicotine Sulphate, and Arsenate of Lead, to name but a few, were found under the Bartlett label. By this time, Bartlett had designed and built his own hammer mill and cyclone separator to be able to produce the finest ground sulphur in North America.

Bartlett Microfine Sulphur was known to growers as the best available. Soon word spread to other industries and Bartlett Microfine Sulphur was used extensively in the manufacture of rubber and explosives in Eastern Canada by companies such as Firestone, Uniroyal, CIL, and Dupont. When the use of dusts became the newest application method during the 1950s, Bartlett Spray Works met the challenge to produce quality products. The grind mill became instrumental in producing high quality superfine dusts.

The involvement of other Bartlett family members was also critical to the success of the company, which was incorporated in 1951 and renamed N.M. Bartlett Manufacturing Company. The three Bartlett children – Evelynne, Jim and George – all were involved in the family business. The children first helped out on the farm and, when old enough, became active in the spray works. George and his future brother-in-law, Hec Little, directed a staff of six involved in production, Evelynne managed the office and billing, and Jim looked after deliveries of the product, which included deliveries to the province of Quebec by the 1940s.

From the beginning, Norman had an inventive mind and enjoyed challenges. Therefore, it was not surprising that he designed and built fruit grading and sorting equipment as early as 1930. The Bartlett equipment set a world standard for excellence of handling fruit and vegetables. In fact, during the 1950s and 1960s, Bartlett equipment was built for growers in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Israel, France, and United States as well as Canada.

In Canada, this equipment introduced the Bartlett name into other areas of the country. Bartlett equipment and the Bartlett reputation became know to all fruit and vegetable growers from coast to coast. All of these additions to the Bartlett line complemented the crop protection products, which remained the mainstay of the overall business.

Jim Bartlett took over the leadership of the company in the late 1950s when his father, Norman, suffered a stroke. After a full and eventful life with many credits to his name, Norman passed away in 1970 at the age of 77.

During the late 1960s and 1970s, the next generation of the Bartlett family became involved. The company name changed to N.M. Bartlett Inc. during the late 1970s and growth through service and commitment remained strong. The leadership provided by Jim to the company blossomed out into the industry.

Jim spent considerable time and effort working for effective policy. He advocated tirelessly on behalf of the industry to the federal government on issues of cross border importation. He championed the first minor use registration of pesticides program in Canada in 1977 to help keep Canadian horticultural growers competitive. And he was an early promoter of the need for federal help to bring new crop protection products to the small acre crops that make up the diverse horticulture industry in Canada.

Jim served as chair of the national organization now known as CropLife Canada and was involved in the creation of the CropLife Ontario Council – working to balance the interests of the industry with the interests of society.

He was an active member of a group that brought the first Ontario horticultural conference in Toronto. Today, that annual event is known as the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Convention and Jim’s grandson, Matt Peters, has served as its president. He’s one of eight grandchildren that represent the fourth generation in the Bartlett family business.

Jim continued to be actively involved in all the aspects of the business until 1981, when he had a severe heart attack. At that time, his brother-in-law, Hec Little, son-in-law Don Peters, and son, Craig Bartlett, became the management nucleus with Jim serving as a semi-retired advisor. This management team oversaw a broadening sales force of 13 across Canada and continued successfully through the 1980s. When Jim retired in 1987, he was elected as Chairman of the Board, and his son, Craig Bartlett, became president of the company.

Jim passed away in 2011, one year shy of the business celebrating 100 years. He was conducted into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame in November 2016, recognized as a visionary, passionate advocate and respected voice in Canadian agriculture. He left behind a lasting legacy in a family business that continues to have a positive impact on Canadian horticulture.

The values set out by Norman and Jim have been carried forward in the third and fourth generation’s business goals and commitments. Service and dedication to the horticultural industry in Canada is still first and foremost.

In the words of Craig Bartlett: “We at N.M. Bartlett Inc. are proud of the heritage and values that the first two generations established, and the company looks forward to a future where we will continue to apply these time-tested values.”

Norman Bartlett himself would have been proud of the accomplishments to date of the little, privately-owned family business he started 105 years ago.
Published in Companies
August 28, 2017, Washington - In today’s modern, high-density orchards, growers are constantly seeking new ways to match the biology of their trees with emerging technologies in mechanization. The goal: improve both yields and efficiency.

"It’s true that some technologies don’t exist yet, but the compact, planar architectures with precision canopy management are most suitable for future mechanization and even for robotics," said Matthew Whiting, Washington State University research horticulturist. “So it is kind of an exciting time for what will be a new era of tree fruit production, as more and more technologies become available."

Research labs and research orchards are driving new developments, but in many cases, they’re happening with innovative growers and private companies, he said.

“Growers are innovating with orchard systems and varieties and architectures, and that’s fueling university research in many cases, and conversely, universities are driving new genotypes and how to manage and grow them best,” Whiting said. “It’s all coming together as it has never before, and it is an exciting time.”

At the same time, employing the mechanization tools that already exist can take a variety of forms, across all four seasons.

Those platforms you’re using for harvest? You can use them for pruning, green thinning and training, too.

Two growers whose companies have been pushing forward with platforms, hedgers and other tools shared their insights for automating tasks in winter, spring, summer and fall with Good Fruit Grower.

For Rod Farrow, who farms 520 acres of apples at Lamont Fruit Farm in Waterport, New York, the emphasis has been to increase income with high-value varieties and to reach maximum potential income on his standard varieties, Honeycrisp, Fuji and Gala.

Almost everything is planted on Budagovsky 9 rootstock in 11-foot by 2-foot spacing, and he’s been planting and pruning to a fruiting wall for almost 18 years.

“It’s less about employing mechanization by season than about deciding the orchard system — as much as anything, making sure the system that you plant now is suitable for robot use,” he said. “If it’s not, you’re going to be in trouble in terms of how you can adapt that new technology, which is coming really fast.”

In the past two years, Farrow also has elected to install 3-foot taller posts in new plantings, allowing for a 2-foot taller system intended to increase production from 60 to 70 bins per acre to a more predictable 80-bin range. READ MORE 
Published in Equipment
The tip-and-pour method, as well as poorly designed pumps, can expose workers to injury and companies to significant financial losses.

Every day, handlers and applicators transfer potentially hazardous chemicals and concentrates such as pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, and liquid fertilizers from large drums into smaller containers or mixing tanks. This transfer process can have serious consequences if manual “tip-and-pour” techniques or poorly designed pumps are used.

Whether the chemicals are toxic, corrosive, or flammable, the danger of accidental contact can pose a severe hazard to workers.

In fact, each year 1,800 to 3,000 preventable occupational incidents involving pesticide exposure are reported in the U.S. A closed system of transferring chemicals reduces unnecessary exposures by providing controlled delivery of chemical products without fear of worker exposure, over-pouring, spilling, or releasing vapours.

“When handling pesticides, toxicity and corrosiveness are the main dangers, but even organic pesticides can be harmful if there is exposure,” says Kerry Richards, Ph.D., president elect of the American Association of Pesticide Safety Educators and former director of Penn State’s Pesticide Safety Education Program. “No matter what their toxicity level, all chemicals, even those that are organic are a particular contact exposure risk if they are corrosive.”

In addition to the potential for injury, there can also be serious financial ramifications for the grower or ag product manufacturing facility if pesticides or liquid chemicals spill.

“Beyond workers compensation issues related to exposure, there can be other huge potential liabilities,” Richards says. “This is particularly true if a pesticide gets into a water source, kills fish, or contaminates drinking water.”

Richards, who works with the National Pesticide Safety Education Center, has seen and heard many examples of worker and environmental exposure from pesticides during more than 30 years of pesticide safety education experience.

“Exposure risk is highest for those loading chemicals into mix tanks because it is more concentrated and hazardous before diluted with water,” she says. “Any time you lose containment of the chemical, such as a spill, the risks can be serious and spiral out of control.”

Corrosive chemicals, for example, can severely burn skin or eyes, and many chemical pesticides are toxic when touched or inhaled.

“Some organic herbicides are so highly acidic that they essentially burn the waxy cuticle off the above ground parts of plants, killing them,” says Richards. “If you splash it in your eye or on your skin, it can burn in the same way and cause significant damage.”

Some chemicals are flammable as well, and if not properly handled and contained, can be ignited by sparking from nearby motors or mechanical equipment. The danger of a fire spreading can be serious both in the field and at ag product manufacturing facilities.

In addition to the cost of cleanup or treating injuries, substantial indirect costs can also be incurred. These include supervisors’ time to document the incident and respond to any added government inspection or scrutiny, as well as the potential for slowed grower production or even a temporary shutdown at ag manufacturing plants.

“The direct and indirect costs of a pesticide spill or injury can be substantial, not the least of which is the loss of wasted chemicals,” says Richards. “Pesticides, particularly newer concentrated formulations, are very expensive so spilling a few ounces could cost you several hundred dollars in lost product during a single transfer.”

Traditional practices of transferring liquid chemicals suffer from a number of drawbacks.

Manual techniques, such as the tip-and-pour method, are still common today. Tipping heavy barrels or even 2.5-gallon containers, however, can lead to a loss of control and over pouring.

“When manually transferring chemicals from bulk containers, it is very difficult to control heavy drums,” cautions Richards. “I’d advise against it because of the significantly increased risk of exposure or a spill, and the added potential of a back injury or muscle strain.”

Although a number of pump types exist for chemical transfer (rotary, siphon, lever-action, piston and electric), most are not engineered as a sealed, contained system. In addition, these pumps can have seals that leak, are known to wear out quickly, and can be difficult to operate, making precise volume control and dispensing difficult.

In contrast, closed systems can dramatically improve the safety and efficiency of chemical transfer. California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation, in fact, requires a closed system for mixing and loading for certain pesticides so handlers are not directly exposed to the pesticide.

“The availability of new technology that creates a closed or sealed system is ideal for handling pesticides or other dangerous chemicals, and should become a best management practice,” suggests Richards. “With such devices ... pesticide handlers can maintain a controlled containment from one vessel to another and significantly reduce any potential for exposure or spill.”

A sealed system delivers liquids to an intermediate measuring device and is useful for low toxicity liquids. A closed system moves the material from point A to point B through hoses using dry-break fittings on the connection points. This prevents leaking and exposure to the handler which helps guarantee safety. Liquids are transferred from the source container, into the measuring system, and then to the mix tank.

Small, versatile, hand-operated pressure pumps are engineered to work as a system, which can be either closed or sealed. The pumps can be used for the safe transfer of more than 1,400 industrial chemicals, including the most aggressive pesticides.

These pumps function essentially like a beer tap. The operator attaches the pump, presses the plunger several times to build up a low amount of internal pressure, and then dispenses the liquid. The device is configured to provide precise control over the fluid delivery, from slow (1ML/ 1 oz.) up to 4.5-gallons per minute, depending on viscosity.

Because such pumps use very low pressure (<6 PSI) to transfer fluids through the line and contain automatic pressure relief valves, they are safe to use with virtually any container from 2-gallon jugs to 55-gallon drums.

When Jon DiPiero managed Ricci Vineyards, a small wine grape vineyard in Sonoma, Calif., he sought a safer, more efficient way to transfer pesticides for mixing and spraying that complied with the state’s closed system requirement for certain pesticides.

“We had to fill 2.5-gallon containers from a 55-gallon drum,” says DiPiero. “Traditional tipping and pouring from a drum wasn’t going to work due to the potential for spills, splashes, over pouring and chemical exposure, as well as the state mandate for a closed system for some pesticides.”

DiPiero turned to GoatThroat Pumps and was happy with the results for a number of reasons.

“Because the pump is closed, sealed, and allows containers to remain in an upright position, it complied with state regulation and virtually eliminated the potential for all forms of chemical exposure,” DiPiero says.

He adds the air pressure supplied by the hand pump allows the precise flow required into a measuring cylinder.

In case of overfill, “the operator can open a valve to release air pressure and the pesticide will backflow into the tank with no cross contamination,” DiPiero says. “This gave us the exact amount we needed so there was no waste.”

According to DiPiero, a multi-directional spray attachment also enables rinsing of every corner of the container without having to pour into it and shake it. He says this helps to minimize exposure when cleaning a container for reuse and satisfies California “triple rinsing” requirements.

“Whether for pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or liquid fertilizers, a closed and sealed pump design could help with the safe production or mixing of any liquid chemical,” says DiPiero.

When Lancaster Farms, a wholesale container plant nursery serving the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions, required a lower pH to adjust its well water for a pesticide spray application, it had to transfer sulfuric acid to buffer the spray water.

According to Shawn Jones, Lancaster Farms’ propagation and research manager, the nursery chose to purchase 55-gallon drums of sulfuric acid to raise chemical pH. The drums of chemicals were much more cost effective than multiple 2.5-gallon containers and much easier to recycle. However, Jones was wary of the danger that tipping and pouring acid from the drums would pose, along with pouring bleach and another strong disinfectants for different uses in the propagation area.

“We use 40 percent sulfuric acid to buffer our spray water,” Jones says. “Our irrigation water is all recycled from ponds, with the drum storage areas relatively close to our water source, so we wanted to avoid any possibility of accidental spillage.”

Previously, the nursery had used siphon pumps to transfer the acid, bleach, and disinfectant, but Jones was dissatisfied with this approach.

“None of our siphon pumps lasted more than six months before we had to replace them, and none allowed metering with the kind of precision we required,” he says.

Instead, Jones chose to implement several closed, sealed GoatThroat Pumps, along with graduated cylinders for precise measurement.

“With the pumps, the drums always remain in an upright position so they won’t tip over accidentally,” Jones says.

The one-touch flow control dispenses liquids at a controlled rate.

“We get precise measurement into our mix tanks. We use every drop, spill nothing, and waste nothing.”

In terms of longevity, Jones’ first sealed pump has already lasted six years and outlasted a dozen previous siphon pumps.

“Our GoatThroat Pumps paid for themselves in safety and savings our first growing season, and should last a decade or more with just routine maintenance or repair,” Jones concludes. “Any grower, farmer, or nursery that needs to move or measure dangerous liquids safely and reliably should consider one.”

Agricultural chemicals are very expensive, and growers are always looking for ways to decrease the cost of inputs to help increase profits. Sealed systems and closed systems allow for accurate and precise measuring of chemicals, which ensures that you’re using only the amount of product required and not one extra drop.

Taking the guesswork out of measuring costly materials, and providing an efficient means of transferring custom blended or dilute products from original containers to mix tanks or back pack sprayers cuts input costs. This keeps expenses to a minimum, with the important bonus of increasing the safety of handlers by reducing the potential exposure to the chemical, which helps increase the bottom line and can assist with regulatory compliance.
Published in Chemicals
July 20, 2017, Ontario - Grapes and apples are high-value crops that require adequate water to grow properly. low water conditions such as drought stress have a negative impact on grapes and apples, lowering yields and reducing fruit quality.

The Water Adaption Management and Quality Initiative project is using a suite of technology to determine soil moisture for grapes, apple and tender fruit and improve recording and monitoring of natural and artificial irrigation events to create best management practices and improve water conservation and efficiency while increasing yields. For more, check out the video above!
Published in Irrigating
July 19, 2017 - In 2016, Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulation Agency (PMRA) completed a re-evaluation of carbaryl, a common chemical thinning regime for Canadian apple producers.

The re-evaluation led to some changes and restrictions on the product label. This included eliminating its use in residential areas plus as an insecticide on some fruit and vegetable crops.

Apple thinning has remained on the label but at reduced rates:
  • Maximum seasonal rate of 1.5 kg a.i./ha and an REI of 14 days for hand thinning [high-density trellis production such as spindle or super spindle]
  • Maximum seasonal rate of 1.0 kg a.i./ha and an REI of 17 days for hand thinning [dwarf, semi-dwarf and full-sized trees]
As a result, research is underway to discover a new thinning regime for Canadian apple producers.

Researchers from Cornell Cooperative, CCE Lake Ontario Fruit Program educator and the Lamont Fruit farm conducted a three-year mechanical thinning trial. Watch above for more!
Published in Chemicals
July 19, 2017, Guelph Ont. - A new weather database providing real-time updates from 80 automated weather stations along with customized weather-based recommendations from agronomists is helping Ontario crop farmers make key growing decisions in real time.

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.
Published in Equipment
July 18, 2017, Ontario - New storage bins are currently being tested that could extend the shelf life of fresh Ontario produce.

Dr. Jennifer DeEll, frest market quality program lead with Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, is currently leading a two-year project to test the effectiveness of the Janny MT modified atmosphere storage bins on Ontario fruits and vegetable crops.

Check out the video for more!
Published in Storage
July 17, 2017 - Entomopathogenic nematodes are soft bodied, non-segmented roundworms that are obligate or sometimes facultative parasites of insects.

Entomopathogenic nematodes occur naturally in soil environments and locate their host in response to carbon dioxide, vibration and other chemical cues. Species in two families (Heterorhabditidae and Steinernematidae) have been effectively used as biological insecticides in pest management programs.

Entomopathogenic nematodes fit nicely into integrated pest management or IPM programs because they are considered non-toxic to humans, relatively specific to their target pests, and can be applied with standard pesticide equipment.

This video will provide a breif overview of how to check the viability of nematodes and how to apply them.
Published in Production
July 17, 2017, Niagara on the Lake, Ont. - The Penn Refrigeration forced air system dramatically reduces the time peaches need to reach the optimal temperature. Take a look at how the equipment is being used at the Niagara on the Lake, P.G. Enns & Sons' facility.
Published in Storage
July 11, 2017, Waterloo, Ont. – Good lighting can do more than illuminate your salad. It can actually tell you the quality of those soon-to-be ingested leafy greens.

With the right technology, light can be used to measure the quality of food in real-time. When it comes to food processing, that can help make for more efficient and less wasteful production systems.

With funding through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), Waterloo’s P & P Optica has patented a system allowing them to incorporate hyperspectral imaging technology into a fast-paced, food processing environment.

“We developed what we call PPO Smart Imaging, which is a process that uses light to analyze the chemical makeup of a specific food product,” said Kevin Turnbull, Vice President of Sales for P & P Optica.

“The science lets us see what products make the grade, and which ones don’t. Incorporating it into a food production system can help processors improve their grading and sorting efficiency,” he said.

Hyperspectral imaging (also called chemical imaging) involves illuminating an object with bright light. Special cameras pick up hundreds of different colour variations as the object passes under the light – conventional consumer cameras work at a much, much lower level – and generate data from those colours. In turn, that data indicates what the object is made out of and what quality the material is.

Turnbull and his colleagues are now working with local spinach processor Ippolito Produce Ltd. and Conestoga College to operationalize their technology in a working environment. Similar technology has been used by P & P Optica in recycling and in the biomedical field, but this is the first time it has been brought to the food world.

A major benefit, according to Turnbull, is significantly reducing food waste.

“Hand-sorting is either ineffective or impractical, so processors often use limited technologies like primitive vision, X-ray or metal detectors,” he said. “Still, waste and foreign material contamination persists, sending good food to the waste pile and potentially allowing foreign materials to reach the consumer. Our system will address that.”

While Turnbull does not yet know the exact impact his company’s method will have, he said they are anticipating “significant waste reduction.”

“Even if only 25 per cent less spinach is thrown out, that will translate to hundreds of thousands of dollars every year,” he said.

The prototype from P & P Optica was just recently installed at the Ippolito plant in Burlington. Now the companies are working closely to actively test and fine-tune the system.

According to Turnbull, the goal is to improve the system so it can be can be brought to other food processors – including companies managing meat and animal-based products – as a workable solution for inline food grading and safety.

While the field test is not slated to finish until later in the year, Turnbull said they have already seen growing interest in the technology.

“Riga Farms, which is a carrot producer from the Holland Marsh, and Earth Fresh Foods, a Burlington-potato company, are also partners in the project. When we applied to Growing Forward 2, they jumped onboard and made their own investment contributions,” he said. “They have enthusiastically supported this project from the beginning.”
Published in Equipment
July 7, 2017, Mississauga, Ont. – Canada’s food and beverage processing industry is an important driver of economic growth in Canada. The Government of Canada continues to support the innovation and competitiveness of the food and beverage sector, so that it can create better job opportunities for Canadians and add value to our agricultural sector.

Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Member of Parliament for Mississauga–Malton, Navdeep Bains and the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lawrence MacAulay, announced today an investment of up to $6.3 million to the Greenhouse Juice Company to invest in new-to-Canada, cold pasteurization technologies to help increase the shelf life of its organic juices, while maintaining the nutrition and freshness of its products.

“Our food and beverage processing industry must stay on the cutting edge through investments in innovation, to succeed in today’s marketplace. Investments such as this one will help grow Canadian agri-businesses and expand their markets, while strengthening the middle class,” said Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

This investment enables Greenhouse Juice to expand into their new Mississauga facility, generating hundreds of job opportunities in the region.

With the facility expansion and the adoption of the cold-pasteurization technology, Greenhouse Juice will purchase significantly more Canadian-grown fruits and vegetables, and produce juice for both Canadian and international markets.

"As a young company on an ambitious mission—to offer widespread, sustainable access to plant-based nutrition of the highest quality—we at Greenhouse could not be more grateful for this opportunity bestowed by Minister MacAulay, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Government of Canada. The AgriInnovation Program is making it possible for us to integrate innovative technologies from Canada and around the world to create a novel process that will allow us to grow without in any way compromising the quality or sustainability of our products. In so doing we will create hundreds of new jobs; increase the amount of organic, local produce we purchase by 10 fold over the next four years; and follow through on our mission of contributing to a healthier nation,” said Anthony Green, Co-founder and CEO, Greenhouse Juice Co.
Published in Equipment
July 5, 2017, Langley, B.C. – Approximately 2,000 wildfires occur each year in British Columbia. The effect of wildfires on the province’s agriculture community can be devastating and costly.
More than half of the wildfires in 2016 were caused by humans.

With the wildfire season upon on us in B.C., there are measures that ranchers, farmers, growers, and others who make their living in agriculture can do to protect their workers and their property.

Addressing potential fire hazards will significantly reduce the chances of a large-scale fire affecting your operation.

Controlling the environment is important. Clear vegetation and wood debris to at least 10 metres from fences and structures; collect and remove generated wastes whether it is solid, semi-solid, or liquid; and reduce the timber fuel load elsewhere on your property and Crown or lease land to help mitigate the risk.

In the case that you have to address fire on your property, have a well-rehearsed Emergency Response Plan (ERP) in place. The ERP should also include an Evacuation Plan for workers and livestock.

“Having a map of your property, including Crown and lease lands, and a list of all of your workers and their locations is extremely helpful for evacuation and useful for first responders,” says Wendy Bennett, Executive Director of AgSafe.

A list of materials and a safety data sheet of all liquid and spray chemicals and their locations should also be made available to attending firefighters.

Bennett suggests checking the Government of BC Wildfire Status website regularly to report or monitor the status of fires in your area.

For over twenty years AgSafe has been the expert on safety in the workplace for British Columbia’s agriculture industry and is committed to reducing the number of agriculture-related workplace deaths and injuries by offering health and safety programs, training, evaluation and consultation services.

For more information about agriculture workplace safety or AgSafe services call 1-877-533-1789 or visit www.AgSafeBC.ca.
Published in Safety
June 13, 2017, Tampa, FL – Harvest CROO Robotics announced the introduction of their autonomous vehicle. This is a major step towards the completion of the Alpha Unit, which is expected to be picking strawberries in Florida next winter.

As part of Phase I of the National Science Foundation Grant, Harvest CROO Robotics is developing software and hardware tools. They include the vehicle’s GPS navigation system, LIDAR technology, and other camera and sensor features.

The mobile platform is a modified version of a Colby Harvest Pro Machine. With four-wheel steering, turning movement will be smooth and precise, providing a zero turning radius for greater maneuverability than a standard tractor. Special levelling hardware and software has been developed and added to allow the vehicle to compensate for varying bed heights.

The vehicle will carry 16 picking robots through the field and span 6 beds of plants, picking the four middle beds. The Harvest CROO machine is equipped with a dual GPS system. The Harvester uses both GPS systems to interpolate the position of the platform to be able to position the robots precisely over the plants.

“Having the machine navigate the fields autonomously is the culmination of years of work and prototyping,” said Bob Pitzer, Co-Founder and CTO of Harvest CROO. “It is very gratifying to see our team effort come to fruition.”

Harvest CROO Robotics continues to develop and test the latest technology for agricultural robotics. Using the proprietary vision system, all ripe berries will be harvested from the plants.

The fruit will then be transferred up to the platform level of the machine using a series of conveyers. There, the packing module of the machine will perform a secondary inspection and grade the fruit.

Depending on quality, it will either be packed into consumer units, diverted to process trays, or discarded. The use of this technology will improve the quality of the berries picked, reduce energy usage, and increase strawberry yields.

In December, the National Science Foundation awarded a grant worth up to $1 million. Harvest CROO Robotics used part of these funds to bring several highly qualified and experienced individuals on board the project. Scott Jantz, Electrical Engineering Manager, said, “We all feel like we are part of something special.”

While fundraising for the project has been ongoing, the current investment round will likely be closed at the end of July, when field testing of the vehicle is completed. “We will possibly open a new investment round early next year, at a higher valuation.”, stated Gary Wishnatzki, Co-Founder. “The new unit price will reflect the successful deployment of the Alpha Unit, a key milestone.”
Published in Harvesting
June 6, 2017, Charlottetown, PEI – As potato growers across P.E.I. plant this year's crop, many are using the latest GPS technology to guide them.

"I'd say probably 80 per cent of growers out there would have something like this," said Will MacNeill, owner of Atlantic Precision Agri-Services, in West Devon, P.E.I. READ MORE
Published in Planting
June 6, 2017, Kingston Ont – Farming is a complex business, and keeping track of everything can sometimes be troublesome, if not a bit overwhelming.

With this in mind, Kingston-based software company Dragonfly IT developed Croptracker – a multi-faceted, cloud-based monitoring system designed to give fruit and vegetable growers real-time updates on their businesses.

Croptracker offers an easy-to-use software package that monitors growing practices throughout the season,” said Matthew Deir, company founder. “Growers sign up for our system and can access all of their daily inputs from one central hub. It helps both traceability and cost saving.”

Croptracker highlights three key areas relevant to growers’ economic, environmental, and social sustainability, with food traceability taking the top spot, followed by operational costs and yield analysis.

The software itself is a consolidation of similar systems previously developed by Deir’s company, including Fruit Tracker, Apple Tracker, and Nursery Tracker. By combining these and several other systems, he says, Dragonfly IT has tried to make the software useful for all growers of all kinds.

He also emphasized that Croptracker is “literally grower-built,” being the result of “thousands of hours meeting with growers and learning what their needs were.”

The Croptracker cloud system allows growers to map how their crop is produced – what time it was planted, what inputs went into it, and so on – as well as where it came from. According to Deir, the software can literally trace each basket of product back to the field from which it was harvested, and potentially, even the person who harvested it.

Croptracker can also be used as a human resources interface, helping keep track of employee time and activity. There’s even a “punch clock” feature that can show growers who is doing what, for how long, and when. By being able to see how long it takes to perform different tasks, Deir said farmers can pinpoint where their costs are coming from, and if necessary, investigate why.

At the end of the growing season, the Croptracker system can also help monitor how good – or bad – the harvest was at different times and from different parts of the farm. Giving an opportunity for contrast and comparison, Deir said, means growers can further distil the potential sources of any yield discrepancy they might encounter.

Approximately 1,000 farmers currently have access to the software for free (their producer associations buy the rights on their behalf), but individual growers can still access Croptracker on a pay-per-package basis.

And it’s not just Ontario farmers who can use the service either; growers producing more exotic fruits in places far afield have also shown interest – most recently, for example, a New Zealand avocado grower.

“I never thought about [the software] working for that kind of crop, but the farmer definitely thought otherwise,” Deir said.
Published in Harvesting
June 5, 2017, Montreal, QB – The Agri-business Division of La Coop fédérée has just signed a strategic agreement with a major player in digital agriculture in California.

This easy-to-use online solution presents a comprehensive approach to data collection and analysis in crop production. Combined with the agronomic knowledge of the Agri-business Division, it will enable Canadian farmers to maximize productivity and profitability on their farms.

La Coop fédérée retailers will also benefit from this tool which will enable farmers and advisors to work closer together.

This partnership fully supports the digital transformation of the Agri-business Division as it provides farmers, advisors and retailers with innovative tools to assist in the management of their farms.

In addition to precision farming, the solution will include improved management of record keeping and regulatory compliance requirements at the provincial and national levels. Canadian agricultural farmers and retailers will benefit from the analytical capabilities of more accurate data from inter-connected tools such as satellite imagery.

This digital solution will also enable users to take charge of their agronomic planning in an efficient and sustainable manner from their mobile devices.
Published in Equipment
May 31, 2017, New Hamburg, Ont. – An Ontario company that developed lunar rovers for the Canadian Space Agency has adapted the technology for use on earth.

The resulting vehicle – called Argo J5 XTR (Xtreme Terrain Robot) — has applications across a variety of industries, including agriculture.

Ontario Drive & Gear Limited (ODG) is well-known to many consumers as the maker of Argo, popular all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) that can travel on rough terrain through land and water.

The Argo J5 XTR is an unmanned robotic platform that travels on rough terrain in a variety of conditions ranging from war zones to underground mines — without putting an individual operator at risk. READ MORE
Published in Production
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