Harvesting
Agriculture is a hugely diverse industry with a host of challenges. In a competitive market, farmers are under increasing pressure to improve productivity and profit. However, striking a balance between this and safety is crucial to protect workers and prevent workplace fatalities.
Published in Safety
Fruit & Vegetable (F&V) magazine and BASF Canada are celebrating the hard work that goes into producing Canada’s fruit and vegetable bounty with the What’s Growing Canada video contest!
Published in Profiles
Whoever said that “A potato storage is not a hospital” was absolutely right. Diseased or bruised tubers that are stored will not get better. Tubers bruised at harvest are easily invaded by soft rot and/or Fusarium dry rot, which can cause serious economic losses in storage.
Published in Harvesting
With harvest in full swing in some parts of the province, farmers need to be aware of the risks associated with worker fatigue.
Published in Safety
Canadian Fruit and Vegetable growers rely on Fruit and Vegetable magazine's printed and online Buyers Guide to quickly access contact information for products and services they need. 
Published in Companies
Extreme weather conditions and events are frequent during the agricultural growing season. Developing new tools that help identify the risks to Canadian agricultural production is increasingly important.
Published in Research
Keep cool is the motto in cherry orchards, where heat rapidly degrades picked fruit and turns stems brown. That’s why nearly all B.C. cherry growers use Mylar covers. White on the outside, reflective on the inside, the tarps keep heat out and humidity in.
Published in Harvesting
In a greenhouse in Belgium, a small robot moves through rows of strawberries growing on trays suspended above the ground, using machine vision to locate ripe, flawless berries, then reaching up with a 3D-printed hand to gently pluck each berry and place it in a basket for sale. If it feels that a berry isn’t ready for harvest, the robot estimates the date it will be ready for it to return and pick it.
Published in Harvesting
The start of a new year is something I tend to look forward to. There is nothing more promising than an untouched calendar with blank days just waiting to be filled with the highs and lows of what is sure to be another eventful chapter.
Published in Profiles
Ontario’s horticultural industry has launched a digital campaign to demonstrate public support for a long-running program that allows growers affected by a chronic labour shortage to hire workers from Mexico and the Caribbean on a seasonal basis.

The Fairness for Growers campaign uses a web portal to provide information about the benefits of the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP) and to help consumers to directly email their Members of Parliament, voicing support for the program and the importance of continued access to fresh, local food.

The campaign was initiated in May. As of June, 1,400 Canadians had used the portal to send letters of support for SAWP to their MPs.

The labour program was established in 1966 to respond to a severe shortage of domestic agricultural workers. It continues to serve the same role 52 years later, enabling Ontario farmers to stay in business.

This year, more than 18,000 workers from Mexico and the Caribbean are expected to fill vacancies on a seasonal basis — up to a maximum of eight months — at approximately 1,450 Ontario farms.

But the federal government may change that. Federal regulators who oversee the program are implementing more and more regulations, and some growers are concerned about the program’s future.

These changes could threaten the livelihoods of thousands of farmers, making it harder for local growers to get the workers they need and operate effectively.

They could also significantly reduce access to local fruits and vegetables on store shelves, put Canadian jobs at risk and hurt thousands of seasonal workers who want these jobs to provide a better standard of living for the families.

The Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program is a “Canadians first” program, which means supplementary seasonal farm labour is hired from partner countries only if farmers cannot find Canadians willing to take the same jobs.

It’s estimated that at least two jobs for Canadians are created in the agri-food industry for every seasonal worker employed through SAWP at Ontario farms.

Without the program most Ontario farmers simply couldn’t continue to grow fruits and vegetables. Some would move into less labour-intensive crops, while others would abandon agriculture altogether.

Recent labour market research by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council cited the program as a key reason Ontario’s horticulture industry is able to generate $5.4 billion in economic activity and approximately 34,280 jobs.

A severe shortage of domestic workers is costing Canadian farms approximately $1.5 billion per year and hurting Canada’s overall economic competitiveness, according to research by the Conference Board of Canada.

For more information, visit www.fairnessforgrowers.ca

Published in Provinces
According to my children – and myself at times – I’m ancient. I grew up in those heady days before TV remotes and hand-held video games, back when where you stood in a room played a role in whether the TV station would come in clear. I remember when personal computers became mainstream. My first PC was gigantic, composed of three heavy, bulky components that could each serve as a boat anchor. The PC was going to revolutionize work. Hello three-day workweek.
Published in Harvesting
November 1, 2017, Simcoe, Ont – Members of the Ontario South Coast Wineries and Growers Association are finishing a good second consecutive harvest that will let them draw even more distance away from disastrous seasons a few years ago.

"The 2016 growing season brought a good quality harvest and this year will be almost as good," said Mike McArthur, co-owner of Burning Kiln Winery on Front Road just outside St. Williams, who earlier this year finished an eight-year stint as the association's founding chairman. READ MORE
Published in Fruit
October 26, 2017, Portage la Prairie, Man – Many Manitoba potato growers faced nail-biting times this autumn as they struggled to get the crop off.

In the end, however, yields are expected to be similar to last year.

Dave Sawatzky, manager of Keystone Potato Producers Association, said he predicts yields will roughly be on par or slightly better than 2016’s harvest, when Manitoba potato growers brought in 348 hundredweight per acre on average. READ MORE
Published in Vegetables
October 13, 2017, St. Catharines, Ont – Grape harvest is in full swing in Ontario, and the Grape Growers of Ontario (GGO) welcomed the opportunity to meet with Premier Kathleen Wynne in the vineyards of grape grower Bill George in Beamsville, Ont.

The Premier had a birds-eye view of the vineyards from the seat of a harvester. The harvest is at the mid-point with white varieties such as Riesling and Chardonnay typically harvested early in the season followed by the later maturing red varieties. While the rain has slowed down harvest this week, the return to warm and dry weather is expected over the next week.

The Grape Growers of Ontario were pleased to have the opportunity to meet with the Premier to discuss topics of importance to grape growers and hear first-hand about issues that are impacting farm families. The planned increase in minimum wage is one of the key issues for growers.

“While we appreciate the intent behind the increase in minimum wage to improve the livelihood of minimum wage earners, we explained clearly the impact that it will have on farm families, and are pleased that the Premier understands our issues”, said Matthias Oppenlaender, chair of the GGO.

“Normal labour costs for horticulture farms are about 65 per cent of operating earnings, making it the highest on-farm expense,” added Bill George, vice chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Association. “The increase announced for next year can push labour costs to as much as 90 per cent of operating earnings.”

There is a very real need for financial assistance to transition to the higher minimum wage to protect family farms, as well as support for local VQA wine made of 100 per cent Ontario grown grapes to ensure a market for the fruits of their labour.
Published in Associations
October 10, 2017, Beeton, Ont – It’s potato harvest season once again and as storage bins throughout the area begin to fill up with mounds of taters, some farmers are finding themselves in a bit of a high-wire act to ensure they don’t lose their crops.

Mark Vanoostrum, the supply and quality manager for W.D. Potato in Beeton, said the chipping potatoes harvested so far are revealing the effects of all the wacky weather the area experienced this past summer.

One of the big challenges is making sure the potatoes don’t sit too long and turn bad, so timely co-ordination of shipments to potato chip companies is critical. READ MORE
Published in Vegetables
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 14, 2017, Guelph, Ont – The potato person who said many years ago “A potato storage is not a hospital” was absolutely right. Diseased or bruised tubers do not get better in storage. Tubers bruised at harvest are easily invaded by soft rot or Fusarium dry rot, which can cause serious economic losses in storage.

Harvest management, in large part, is bruise management. Bruising also affects tuber quality significantly. In order to harvest potatoes with minimum tuber damage, growers need to implement digging, handling and storage management practices that maintain the crop quality for as long as possible after harvest.

Assuming all harvest and handling equipment are mechanically ready to harvest the crop with minimum bruising, there are several tips to preserve the quality of potatoes crop during harvest:
  1. Timely Vine Killing. Killing the vines when tubers are mature makes harvesting easier by reducing the total vine mass moving through the harvester. This allows an easier separation of tubers from vines.
  2. Timely Harvest. Potatoes intended for long term storage should not be harvested until the vines have been dead for at least 14 days to allow for full skin set to occur.
  3. Soil Moisture. Optimal harvest conditions are at 60 to 65 per cent available soil moisture.
  4. Tuber Pulp Temperature. Optimal pulp temperatures for harvest are from 500 F to 600 F. Proper pulp temperature is critical; tubers are very sensitive to bruising when the pulp temperature is below 450 F. If pulp temperatures are above 650 F, tubers become very susceptible to soft rot and Pythium leak. Pulp temperatures above 70 F increase the risk of pink rot tremendously no matter how gently you handle the tubers if there is inoculum in the soil.
  5. Tuber Hydration. An intermediate level of tuber hydration results in the least bruising. Overhydrated tubers dug from wet soil are highly sensitive to shatter bruising especially when the pulp temperature is below 450 F. In addition, tubers harvested from cold, wet soil are more difficult to cure and more prone to breakdown in storage. Slightly dehydrated tubers dug from dry soil are highly sensitive to blackspot bruising.
  6. Reducing Blackspot Bruising. Irrigate soil that is excessively dry before digging to prevent tuber dehydration and blackspot bruising.
  7. Bruise Detection Devices. Try to keep the volume of soil and tubers moving through the digger at capacity at all points of the machine. If bruising is noticeable, use a bruise detection device to determine where in the machinery the tubers are being bruised.
  8. Field Conditions. Do not harvest potatoes from low, poorly drained areas of a field where water may have accumulated and/or dig tests have indicated the presence of tubers infected with late blight.
  9. Train all employees on how to reduce bruising. Harvester operators must be continually on the look out for equipment problems that may be damaging tubers. Ideally, growers should implement a bruise management program that includes all aspects of potato production from planting through harvest.
  10. Harvest when day temperatures are not too warm to avoid tuber infections. Storage rots develop very rapidly at high temperatures and spread easily in storage. If potatoes are harvested at temperatures above 27 C and cool off slowly in storage, the likelihood of storage rots is increased. If warm weather is forecast, dig the crop early in the morning when it is not so warm.
Published in Vegetables
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
August 25, 2017, Aurora, Ont. - The Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association (OFFMA) has launched its new PYO video series. PYO has been an option that farmers have been offering for decades. PYO has been experiencing a resurgence in popularity as more and more people want to connect with their food and understand how it is grown. Thus, it is more attractive than ever for consumers to visit farms and pick their own fruits and vegetables.

The videos can be found on the Ontario Farm Fresh website:
http://ontariofarmfresh.com/consumers/

Apple season will be starting shortly and it would be beneficial for consumers to review the short video before they head out to their favourite apple farm. PYO guidelines are presented in a friendly, interesting manner to ensure that consumers have a safe and enjoyable experience on the farm. Upon viewing the video they will be better prepared knowing what to expect from their farm visit.

OFFMA is a voluntary membership based organization that works with farmers who market directly to the consumer. OFFMA’s mission is to provide knowledge and leadership to help grow the farm fresh experience.
Published in Associations
July 11, 2017, Quebec - Though seemingly endless rain, flooding and cold weather delayed the start of the Quebec season by at least a week compared to the past two years, a warm spell in June put some crops back on track.

“We’re a little late but it could have been worse,” said Andre Plante, executive director of the Quebec Produce Growers Association, who expected some crops to catch up by the end of June.

By June 9, with the incentive of a strong exchange rate, growers were already exporting radishes, leaf lettuce and asparagus, Plante said.

“Since 2012 we have doubled our exports to 48 per cent of what we grow,” he said, “and that will probably increase this year.” READ MORE
Published in Vegetables
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