Production
December 12, 2017, State College, PA – Unmanned aircraft (UA) – commonly called drones – are a new technology that can quickly collect, quantify, and record a variety of important data about orchards that many growers inherently measure by eye.

Simple examples include location of nonproductive trees, quantity of blossoms in the spring, stress on trees in the summer, and crop load in the fall. To this end, the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania (SHAP) is supporting an initiative by Joe Sommer and Rob Crassweller at Penn State University to help growers use UA for orchard management. While single images and/or videos captured during manually controlled flight can be useful, this project focused on flying autonomous missions to capture hundreds of images that can be stitched together into a much larger orthomosaic map of a block of trees or even a small orchard. For example, a DJI Phantom 4 quadcopter ($1,500) can inspect 60 acres over 15 minutes flight time at 200 feet above ground level (AGL) and reconstruct a large orthomosaic map of an orchard with one-inch per pixel resolution.

Efforts during the first year developed a user manual for mission planning and orthomosaic stitching of images as well as geo-referencing (locating latitude-longitude) for individual trees.

Growers who are interested in learning more details can visit Unmanned Aircraft for Agricultural Applications or send an email to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Published in Research
November 27, 2017, Guelph, Ont – Collaboration between vegetable growers, a farm organization, and a grower co-operative is leading to improved plant health and more efficient vegetable production in the Holland Marsh.

The Bradford Co-op, the Fresh Vegetable Growers of Ontario and individual vegetable growers in the Holland Marsh are collaborating on a project with the University of Guelph to test innovative technologies that will make their Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programs for key crops like onions and carrots more efficient and cost effective.

“We work together with industry partners and growers to fund and collaborate on our IPM programs in the Marsh,” explains Matt Sheppard, Bradford Co-op general manager. “There is tremendous value in early detection and this project is helping us identify issues in real time so we can provide the correct advice and solutions to growers.”

Weekly photos are taken of the vegetable fields in the marsh using an octocopter drone. Lead researcher Mary Ruth McDonald and her team at the University of Guelph’s Muck Crops Research Station run the IPM program and use the images for early detection of diseases and insects so growers can take appropriate measures to protect their crop and prevent or minimize damage.

Downy mildew, which causes lower yields and decreased storability, is the most damaging disease for onions in the area; Stemphylium leaf blight is also a significant concern.

“The technology we are able to access through this project makes our crop scouting program more effective and lets growers be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to crop protection,” explains Sheppard. “It’s very quick for a grower to have a problem area identified early and then decide how to treat it correctly to keep the crop healthy.”

Using information generated from the aerial images to prevent or minimize problems means less and more targeted use of crop protection materials, resulting in immediate savings of $5,000 to $50,000 per grower depending on the crop and the size of the farm.

More importantly, though, use of the technology ultimately ensures growers can keep supplying the market with quality produce and consumers have access to locally grown vegetables.

The marsh’s unique soils mean growers in the area have to work together to find solutions for their crop challenges, says Sheppard, adding that funding from Growing Forward 2 has been instrumental in bringing the collaboration together.

“Muck soil like ours doesn’t exist in other areas so we have to be self-sufficient and proactive to find solutions,” he says. “The technology is expensive so it’s something we wouldn’t be able to initiate on our own, but the investment with GF2 has allowed us to access the funds to make it happen.”
Published in Research
When Tahir Raza came to Canada from Pakistan in 1994, he did not expect to be an owner of an award-winning orchard.
Published in Profiles
October 30, 2017, Ames, IA – Organic agriculture practices eschew many synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, putting pressure on crops that conventional farming circumvents. That means an organic farmer who doesn’t use herbicides, for instance, would value crop varieties better suited to withstand weeds.

Enter Thomas Lubbserstedt, a professor of agronomy at Iowa State University. Lubberstedt and a team of ISU researchers recently received a four-year, $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to advance organic corn varieties. By the end of the project, the team aims to have identified elite varieties that will improve the performance of corn under organic growing conditions.

“Our main goal is to figure out whether new genetic mechanisms can benefit organic field and sweet corn varieties,” Lubberstedt said. “We want to develop traits that can do well under organic conditions.”

Lubberstedt said the research could lead to organic corn with better resistance to disease, weeds pests and environmental stress.

Farmers who label their products as organic adhere to standards meant to restrict the use of synthetic inputs that include many fertilizers and pesticides in an effort to maintain environmental sustainability. Demand for organic products is growing as consumers become more concerned about how their food is produced and how it affects the environment, said Kathleen Delate, a professor of agronomy and member of the research team. Delate said the U.S. market for organic products reached $47 billion in 2016.

The ISU research team intends to address limitations imposed by organic practices by finding genetic mechanisms that lead to better-performing corn varieties that can still meet organic standards. Lubberstedt will focus on varieties that carry a genetic mechanism for spontaneous haploid genome doubling. This allows a corn plant to carry only the genes of its mother.

Researchers can use these haploids to create totally inbred genetic lines in two generations, whereas traditional plant breeding takes five or six generations to produce inbred lines, Lubberstedt said. These inbred lines are more reliable for evaluation in an experimental setting because they carry no genetic variation that could influence results. That makes it easier to identify lines with superior traits, he said.
Published in Research
October 25, 2017, Kingsville, Ont – Mucci Farms recently announced the completion of the second phase of its 36 acre strawberry expansion.

The company also announced that Phase Three construction is underway with production to begin in Fall 2018. The full project will be equivalent to more than 1.5 million square feet of high-tech glass exclusively growing strawberries, the largest in North America.

"Our strawberry program is being met with a great deal of enthusiasm from current and potential retail partners because of our emphasis on premium flavour and consistent supply," explained Danny Mucci, vice president of Mucci Farms.

Since partnering with Dutch growers Ton Bastiaansen and Joost van Oers in January 2016, Mucci Farms has seen accelerated growth and a greater demand for greenhouse-grown strawberries.

"Overwhelming, is the best way I can describe how our Smuccies are being received,” said Joe Spano, vice president of sales and marketing. “Super sweet, clean, on the shelf within 24 hours of harvest and grown in an environment that is unaffected by inclement weather. Even better, they are grown locally in Ontario so that consumers can enjoy summer fresh strawberries during the holiday season."

Phase Three of the expansion will include state-of-the-art lit culture technology, allowing Mucci Farms to offer strawberries during the winter months. A technology they are well experienced with, Mucci Farms also owns more than 200 acres of greenhouses, 30 of which are currently growing lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers year-round.

"As with all of our new greenhouses, the new 24 acres of strawberries will also include the use of diffused glass which reduces stress on the plants by providing even sunlight," said Bert Mucci, CEO at Mucci Farms. "We will continue to use high-pressure fogging systems to cool down the greenhouse in the hotter months and also install the swing gutter system which allow for the amount of maximum plants per square meter."
Published in Fruit
October 23, 2017, Florenceville-Bristol, NB – McCain Foods Ltd. has opened its new $65 million potato specialty production line at its flagship facility in Florenceville-Bristol, N.B.

The new 35,000-square-foot production line is the company’s largest capacity expansion investment in Canada in nearly 10 years, McCain Foods officials said. READ MORE
Published in Companies
October 13, 2017, Plessisville, Que – A Quebec-based organic cranberry processor is now ready to expand production and boost exports, thanks to an investment from the federal government.

The investment, announced Oct. 13, has helped Fruit d’Or commission a new plant just as Canadian food processors are taking advantage of new market opportunities under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union, which took effect September 21. Since then, Fruit d’Or has sold around 635,000 pounds of dry fruits in Europe.

The federal government helped build the new plant, and buy and commission new equipment and technologies, thanks to more than $9.3 million in funding under the AgriInnovation Program of the Growing Forward 2 Agreement.

Agriculture and Agri‑Food Canada’s support through the AgriInnovation Program and interest-free financing is very important for Fruit d’Or,” said Martin Le Moine, president and CEO of the company. “Fruit d’Or has invested more than $50 million in its new Plessisville plant over the past two years. Because of this support, Fruit d’Or has an ultra-modern facility, equipped with innovations that enable it to provide its clients in more than 50 countries with innovative products that showcase Quebec cranberries and berries.”

Fruit d'Or produces cranberry juice and dried fruits to meet the growing demand of consumers around the world. As a result of this project, the company has increased its processing capacity by eight million pounds of traditional cranberries and 15 million pounds of organic cranberries over three years.
Published in Fruit
October 11, 2017, West Lafayette, IN – Apple growers want to get the most out of their high-value cultivars, and a Purdue University study shows they might want to focus on the types of apples they plant near those cash crops.

Since apple trees cannot self-pollinate, the pollen from other apple varieties is necessary for fruit to grow. Orchard owners often plant crab apple trees amongst high-value apples such as Honeycrisp, Gala and Fuji. Crab apples produce a lot of flowers and thus a lot of pollen for bees to spread around to the other trees.

“If you are growing some Honeycrisp, you want to plant something next to your Honeycrisp that bees will pick up and spread to your Honeycrisp and make good apples,” said Peter Hirst, a Purdue professor of horticulture and landscape architecture. “Growers will alternate plantings of different cultivars every few rows to promote cross-pollination, and they’ll sometimes put a crab apple tree in the middle of a row as well.”

Hirst and Khalil Jahed, a Purdue doctoral student, wondered if it mattered which type of apple pollinated high-value cultivars. To find out, they manually applied pollen from Red Delicious and Golden Delicious, and two types of crab apple – Ralph Shay and Malus floribunda – to Honeycrisp, Fuji and Gala. They put a net over the trees to keep the bees out, so they could control the pollen that was applied.

Their findings, published recently in the journal HortScience, showed that Honeycrisp pollinated with the Red Delicious variety doubled fruit set — the conversion of flowers into fruit — compared to Honeycrisp pollinated with the crab apple varieties.

In Honeycrisp, pollen tubes created by Red Delicious pollen reached on average 85 per cent of the distance to the ovary, compared to 40 per cent for pollen tubes from crab apple pollen. And fruit set with Red Delicious pollen was four times higher in the first year of the study, and eight times higher in the second, compared to crab apples.

“On Honeycrisp especially, the two crab apples we tried are not very effective at all. The pollen grows very slowly, and you end up with reduced fruit set as a consequence,” Hirst said.

The crab apples did better with Fuji and Gala but still didn’t match the effectiveness of Red Delicious pollen.

When pollen lands on the pistil of the flower, it must be recognized, and if it is compatible, the pollen will germinate and grow down the style to the ovary. Once fertilized, the ovule becomes a seed and the flower becomes a fruit.

Jahed collected flowers from pollinated trees each day for four days after pollination and measured pollen tube growth and fruit set. Overall, the Red Delicious was the best pollinizer, followed by Golden Delicious and then the crab apple varieties. Jahed said the experiment should lead apple growers to consider the design of their orchards to ensure that better pollinizers are planted near high-value crops.

“If they have a good pollinizer and a compatible pollinizer, the fruit quality and fruit set will be higher than with those that are not compatible,” Jahed said.

The research was part of Jahed’s master’s degree thesis, which he has completed. He and Hirst do not plan to continue studying the effectiveness of different pollinizers, but he hopes that others take up the research. They do plan to publish one final paper on pollination and fruit quality in 2018.
Published in Research
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 6, 2017 – The Grand Falls and Florenceville-Bristol, NB, growers banquets were held in August 2017 to recognized the top grower partners of McCain.

Les Fermes LP Thériault & Fils of Drummond was named the 2016-2017 McCain Champion Potato Grower for Grand Falls during the 43rd annual McCain Growers’ Banquet held August 22 at Centre E.& P. Sénéchal. Lakeside Farms of Greenfield was named the 2016-2017 McCain Champion Potato Grower for Florenceville-Bristol, NB, during the 44th Annual McCain Growers’ Banquet held August 23 at the Northern Carleton Civic Centre.

Allison McCain, chairman of McCain Foods Limited, Shai Altman, president of McCain Foods Canada, and Christine Wentworth, VP of agriculture NA extended personal congratulations to Lakeside Farms, and Les Fermes LP Thériault & Fils as well as all of the McCain growers.

McCain expressed the importance of New Brunswick agriculture and the need to continuously be innovative in farming practices.

“Early adoption of farm practice innovations is essential to ensuring New Brunswick growers and McCain can compete in global markets,” she said.

Wentworth thanked the growers for their “loyalty, dedication and contribution to McCain over the last 60 years” and wished them a safe and bountiful harvest, while Altman reiterated that the company’s partnership with the growers is critical for the business. 

McCain is a proud Canadian company,” he said, “and you all have a part to play in that.  We look forward to a bright future ahead.”

​Marc Thériault of Les Fermes LP Thériault & Fils of Drummond was thrilled to be announced as the Champion Grower. The Thériault family has been contracting with McCain for 44 years, has been in the Top 10 17 times, and this was their second time winning the Champion Grower title.

“It’s a great feeling and makes me feel appreciated for all the hard work that I’ve given,” said Marc. “It takes dedication, hard work, employees that care and, of course, some good luck too.”

Arthur Tweedie – with sons Peter, Paul and grandson Matthew – of Lakeside Farms was surprised and delighted to be announced as the Champion Grower. The Tweedie family is only one of two grower families that have been providing potatoes to McCain since the company started 60 years ago, in 1957. They have been in the Top Ten eight times and this is their second time claiming the Champion title. When asked what it took to achieve the first place standing, Peter said “following advice from McCain agronomists and talking to other growers about best practices was really helpful, but a lot of it was just good luck and help from Mother Nature.”

Other growers who qualified for the top 10 Florenceville-Bristol roster, in order of final standing were:
  • Kilpatrick Farms (Brian Kilpatrick with son, Jared – Greenfield)
  • Valley Farms Ltd. Florenceville (Under management of Jeff Miller and Colton Rennie)
  • G and C Culberson Inc. (Cory Culberson with father, Gerald - Jacksonville)
  • B and C Young Farms Ltd. (Blair Young with son, Chad - Bedell)
  • Herb Culberson Farms Ltd. (Herb Culberson – Jacksonville)
  • Double B Farms Ltd. (Dana Bubar with son, Aaron – Hartland)
  • Meduxnekeag Farms Ltd. (Daniel Metherell – Jackson Falls)
  • R H McLean Farms Inc. (Randy McLean with son, Jason – Maplehurst)
  • Wilmot Farms (Kevin Taylor – Lakeville)
The other growers who qualified for the top 10 Grand Falls roster, in order of final standing were:
  • Ed & Dan Levesque (Edmund & Daniel Levesque with sons Eric and Denis – Saint-André)
  • Northwest Potato Farms (Michel & Lise Levesque and son Marc – Saint-André)
  • Desjardins Farms (Denis and René Desjardins – Drummond)
  • Eagle Farms (Gilles Godbout and his son, Mathieu – Saint-André)
  • Ferme GIL Roberge (Guildor Roberge and his son Luc – Saint-André)
  • Super Farms Potatoes (Jean-Guy, Jules, Luc & Andre Levesque – Saint-André)
  • Les Fermes Poitras (Rock Poitras and his son, Luc – Saint-André)
  • Andre Daigle Farms (Andre Daigle and his son Mathieu – St-Leonard)
  • Les Fermes Mario Levesque (Mario and André Levesque – Saint-André)
Published in Companies
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
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
September 12, 2017, Ottawa, Ont – On July 25 and 26, Quebec’s Apple Producers hosted the annual meeting of the Canadian Horticultural Council (CHC)’s Canadian apple industry.

Representatives from the industry, from the Quebec and Canadian governments and from the other provinces increased their knowledge of Quebec’s apple industry.

The event, held in the Laurentians, was a huge success.

On July 25, networking among the members of the working group was undertaken in Mont-Tremblant. The crop estimate for each province was discussed. Crop volume for Nova Scotia should be similar to last year’s. Some Ontario producers faced hail that devastated a few orchards; in all, a slight drop in volume is predicted compared to 2016. A high volume of apples is predicted for British Columbia and the number of available Ambrosia is still increasing.

We also discussed the re-evaluation of Captan. Considerable action was taken following last year’s CHC survey of a number of Canadian apple producers. Recently, the various associations answered a second questionnaire from the PMRA in order to prepare arguments in favour of continuing its use in Canadian orchards.

It was proposed that a video be made on the international farm workers programs, stressing the importance of these workers for the horticultural industries of Quebec and Canada, and highlighting the program’s positive impact on the families of the workers. CHC needs funding to produce the video and is asking for the support of all those who can contribute financially.

The next day, members visited many apple-producing and agribusiness sites. Many presentations were made. Here are the details:

The Cataphard Orchards
  • Sexual Confusion, presented by Daniel Cormier, researcher at the IRDA
  • The Apple of Tomorrow, presented by Roland Joanin and Philippe Quinn
Marc Vincent Warehouse
  • The Agropomme Club, presented by Marilyn Courchesne
  • Storex Industries, presented by Chris Treville
Coeur de pomme Orchard
  • Apple Network and a group of experts, presented by Gérald Chouinard, researcher at the IRDA
  • Double grafting, harvester and weather station, presented by Éric St-Denis
Rochon et Frères Farm
  • SALSA handling concept and staking, presented by Éric Rochon
Thanks to Éric Rochon who organized the day in expert fashion, and to QAP employees and regional administrators who helped plan the day. Of course, an event such as this could not have been held without the generous contribution of our partners. We sincerely wish to thank them for having contributed to the success of the meeting.
Published in Associations
September 7, 2017, Churchbridge, Sask – Organic vegetable producers Veronique Bouchard and Francois Handsfield of Mont-Tremblant QC, were named the 2017 Outstanding Young Farmers (OYF) for the Quebec Region at their annual awards event held at the CentreExpo Cogeco de Drummondville on August 31.

With no farm history but shared values and dreams, Veronique and Francois became owners of “ferme aux petits oignons” where they grow more than 65 different vegetables, aromatic herbs, flowers and fruits that are certifed organic by Ecocert Canada. Protecting soil, water and energy is important to Veronique, who has a Masters in Environment, and Francois, who is a bioresource engineer.

“What a beautiful evening to celebrate the excellence of agriculture” said Franck Groeneweg, Canada OYF West vice chair. “Veronique Bouchard and Francois Handfield started with nothing and now produce vegetables on 10 acres that generate an impressive income while cherishing a balanced quality of life. I wish them well at the national competition in Penticton.”

The farm, located in a beautiful Laurentian valley, produces a wide variety of vegetables, all distributed in the immediate area. The farm is small, but profitable as they focus on control production costs. Their products are available at the summer market, directly at the farm store or through the internet subscription process for organic baskets they have developed.

The couple believe “they must constantly innovate and get off the beaten track” and are always willing to share their many innovations during workshops, visits to the farm and as mentors to new farmers/farms.

Celebrating 37 years, Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers’ program is an annual competition to recognize farmers that exemplify excellence in their profession and promote the tremendous contribution of agriculture. Open to participants 18 to 39 years of age, making the majority of income from on-farm sources, participants are selected from seven regions across Canada, with two national winners chosen each year.

Canada’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2017 will be chosen at the National Event in Penticton, BC, from November 30 to December 3, 2017.
Published in Profiles
September 5, 2017, Ontario - The popularity of a seven-year-old program designed to give wine grape growers funding for production improvements shows no signs of abating.

When the first-come, first-served application process opened in June for the marketing and vineyard improvement program, the program’s administrator, Agricorp, received enough applications for the available funding in just one day.

There is $2 million worth of funding for the 2017-2018 program year, and another $2 million for the 2018-2019 program, says Agricorp spokesperson Stephanie Charest. The intake of the 152 applications was for both years, as requested by industry.

Government funding for production improvements

The Grape Growers of Ontario website says the program provides funds to growers to help with the costs of improving their production of wine grapes. Successful applicants can get payments for up to 35 per cent of their project.

Chair Matthias Oppenlaender says with the funding taken up so quickly, it clearly shows there’s a need for more money in the program.

He’s used the program in the past for his Niagara-on-the-Lake vineyard for wind machines and improved harvesting technology.

There are 17,000 acres of grapes vines in south, southwestern and eastern Ontario. In 2016, growers harvested about 70,000 tonnes of wine grapes valued at $95.3 million.

Split funding

The 2017-2018 program will fund 73 to proceed with their proposed projects. Growers then submit claims once they have completed the work.

The remaining applicants are placed in sequence for the 2018-2019 program. Agricorp will know how many growers will get funding in that program year once it gives them the go-ahead in the spring of 2018 to proceed with their project.

Program popularity

Grape Growers of Ontario officials aren’t surprised by the intense grower demand.

CEO Debbie Zimmerman says farmers use the money for a variety of items, such as weather mitigation measures and machines to improve vineyard production and sustainability.

“It’s an important program,” Zimmerman says. It helps growers mechanize their vineyards and invest in innovation. You get to try some new strategies to help grow grapes in a cold climate.”

Bottom Line

Wine grape growers continue to invest in improvements to their production.
Published in Provinces
August 28, 2017, Guelph, Ont. – When Josh Whitehead and Caroline Pilon started selling homemade kimchi at the Guelph Farmers’ Market about 12 years ago, they were simply doing something they loved.

Word spread about their Korean-style fermented sauerkraut and their business quickly grew.

“We stumbled into making food for the retail market,” said Whitehead, co-founder of Green Table Foods together with his wife Caroline. “We didn’t set out to try and change trends. I’d been making kimchi since I was about 15 years old, and we just wanted to make something we loved.”

Their first big customer was the Ontario Natural Food Co-op, looking for a private label to manufacture organic sauerkraut. They formulated three recipes that fit the organization’s requirement for 100 per cent organic and 100 per cent Ontario, and started manufacturing in 2009.

Kimchi and the other fermented vegetables may be newer foods for North Americans, but according to Whitehead, it is one of the oldest food categories in existence. No cooking is used to produce their products, retaining more of the vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants of the raw ingredients and Green Table Foods work with a wild fermentation process.

“We use a slower fermentation method that uses the ambient bacteria that are naturally found on vegetables to create our products,” Whitehead said. “The flavours in the finished product reflect where the vegetables came from. It’s like wine that way.”

Fermented products also retain the probiotics and enzymes that occur in the vegetables, often lost in the cooking process.

“When you cook cabbage to make sauerkraut, compared to fermenting it, you cook out all the probiotics, including much of the Vitamin C and enzymes that are vital for digestion,” he said.

From the initial product line of organic kimchi, organic sauerkraut and kale kimchi, Green Table Foods added five new products about a year ago with matching funds through the Bioenterprise Enterprise Seed Fund.

This allowed them to formulate, develop, test, label and launch five new fermented vegetables products in September 2016.

While Green Table Foods started out just making something they love, they’ve built a business that also supports their local suppliers. They’ve consciously set out to source vegetables from local farmers to build a sustainable business that creates economies of scale for their suppliers, and operate a carbon neutral business.

“It’s really important to us to build relationships with our growers, and help incentivize them to be able to provide the products we need all year,” Whitehead said.

Green Table Foods offers eight fermented vegetable products including carrots, cabbage, beets and tomato salsa – manufactured at their Guelph, Ontario federally registered plant – and marketed at 800 retail locations across Canada.

They are now looking at exporting their fermented vegetables to the Asian Pacific region, formulating a product for people living in radioactive zones that require additional dietary iodine, and sending products into space.

“I would love to collaborate to provide living, fermented Canadian food for astronauts that would be a much better nutritional option than dehydrated food,” Whitehead said.
Published in Profiles
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 18, 2017, Vancouver, British Columbia – The governments of Canada and British Columbia are working under the AgriRecovery disaster framework to determine the type of assistance that may be required by British Columbia’s agriculture sector to recover from the impact of wildfires.

The announcement was made following the first meeting between Federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay and B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham.

Government officials are working together to quickly assess the extraordinary costs farmers are incurring and what additional assistance may be required to recover and return to production following the wildfires.

The types of costs under consideration include:
  • Costs related to ensuring animal health and safety.
  • Feed, shelter and transportation costs.
  • Costs to re-establish perennial crop and pasture production damaged by fire.
"Our Government stands with producers in British Columbia who are facing challenges and hardships because of these wildfires. Together, with our provincial counterparts, we will work closely with affected producers to assess the full scope of their needs and help them get back in business as quickly as possible," Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food said. 
Published in Business & Policy
August 16, 2017, Lethbridge, Alta. - Alberta’s potato industry is worth more than $1 billion to our economy. But it’s threatened by a tiny bacterium

This year, a Lethbridge scientist reports, it hasn’t shown up.

“That’s good news,” says Dan Johnson, a biogeography professor at the University of Lethbridge. He explains the bacteria are linked with zebra chip disease – already affecting crops in the U.S., Mexico and New Zealand. It turned up as early as May in Idaho this year.

Potatoes infected by the bacteria develop unsightly black lines when they’re fried, making them unfit for sale. The bacteria are carried by an insect, the potato psyllid. READ MORE
Published in Vegetables
August 15, 2017 - The Council of Canadians is pressing the provincial government to keep genetically modified potatoes out of P.E.I. soil.

Council chair Leo Broderick questions the science behind Innate generation 2 potatoes, and added P.E.I. would be better off staying away from the controversy surrounding genetically modified food. He noted P.E.I. is already attracting attention as a producer of genetically modified salmon. READ MORE
Published in Food Safety
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