Profiles
FMC is pleased to announce that Darren Dillenbeck has joined the company as Canada country manager.

Dillenbeck will lead the Canadian organization and report directly to Amy O'Shea, FMC vice president and business director for Agricultural Solutions, North America.

O'Shea expects that Dillenbeck's comprehensive marketing and sales experience will be a major asset, as FMC enters a new chapter in the Canadian marketplace with a wide-ranging product portfolio strengthened by the acquisition of select crop protection assets from DuPont in 2017.

"Darren is joining FMC at a very exciting time," says O'Shea. "His key responsibilities include exploring the unique market opportunities our broader portfolio affords us and working in collaboration with the Canadian team to grow and evolve our market presence and channel partner strategy."

Dillenbeck notes that FMC will be a "pure-play" agriculture company focused solely on bringing unique crop protection options and value to Canadian farmers.

"We want to build a business platform that makes it easier for our customers to work with us," he says. "With world class research and development, in addition to a strong team, I believe that FMC is well-poised to deliver local solutions that serve our customers' needs."

Dillenbeck brings more than 20 years of agriculture industry experience to FMC, having held various commercial leadership roles with Dow AgroSciences. Dillenbeck also helped launch new business segments in Canadian agriculture with the introduction of technology, formulations and product combinations.
Published in Companies
Less than five per cent of family businesses make it to the fourth generation but the Davison family did just that.

Davison Orchards has been growing apples since 1933. This year they celebrate 85 years and four generations of family farming in Vernon, B.C.

Bob Davison is the eldest of the three generations currently working on the farm. His uncle Tom began the business after emigrating from England after the First World War in the hopes of a more prosperous future. The family realized their dream of owning their own orchard in the Okanagan in 1933. Bob began working in the orchard with his uncle in 1948. He was 17 at the time and still works at the family orchard today. | READ MORE
Published in Profiles
The North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association Inc. (NAFDMA) has announced the selection of Corey Connors as its new executive director.

This appointment comes after Charlie Touchette, who provided NAFDMA with association management services for nearly 20 years, formally concluded his tenure effective May 1, 2018. The selection of Connors was made after an extensive national search overseen by the NAFDMA Board of Directors. “We are thrilled to formally announce Corey’s appointment,” said Tom Tweite, President of NAFDMA.

Connors joins NAFDMA with over 17 years of leadership experience in the agriculture, retail and attractions industries. Most recently, he served as chief staff executive of the North Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association (NCNLA).

Prior to NCNLA, he served in advocacy roles for several prominent national and international trade groups including the Society of American Florists (SAF), the American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA) and the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions (IAAPA). Connors holds a Master of Arts in Political Management from the George Washington University and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Clarion University.

“It is a genuine privilege and honor to serve this dynamic, growing industry,” said Connors. “Agritourism and farm direct marketing provide an unparalleled opportunity for consumers to reconnect to the family farm, creating unique experiences and rare opportunities to make precious memories.” He continued, “Our charge is clear: NAFDMA must provide cutting-edge tools and resources that support our community of innovators who seek to grow farm profitability while providing immeasurable benefits to their hometown.”

Connors begins his tenure at NAFDMA under a new operating structure, with the organization previously hiring on two additional direct employees last fall. This positions the association to have a stronger pulse on industry trends and will provide the opportunity to launch new member-focused programs and services. The first employees hired by NAFDMA include Membership Development and Services Manager, Lisa Dean and Education and Operations Manager, Jeff Winston.

“Interacting with motivated farm operators and entrepreneurs is rewarding. It is truly my pleasure to service our members,” said Dean.

“Having worked for this industry over the past five years, I’m excited to elevate the educational offerings that NAFDMA provides to each of its members,” said Winston.
Published in Associations
The Okanagan's Burrowing Owl Estate Winery is celebrating its commitment to renewable energy by declaring Tuesday, May 15, 2018 "Solar Day" at the winery.

The winery will be hosting local media and guests, with a glass of Burrowing Owl's first wine release of 2018, the 2017 Pinot Gris. Follow the story at #SolarDay.

Burrowing Owl has long been dedicated to sustainable winemaking, and it's leading the way once again with the installation of five large solar systems on its estate properties.

The winery's investments into alternative energy over the past dozen years include the following:
  • In 2006, the winery installed its first solar panels, producing the equivalent of 53,000 kWh annually in the form of hot water
  • In 2016, the winery's staff house in Osoyoos became a "NET ZERO" building with addition of 116 solar panels
  • A cellar expansion completed in 2017 with a roof blanketed by 70 solar panels. The electricity provided by the panels will offset approximately 12.9 tons of CO2 emissions per year
  • A 2017 visitor parking structure designed to provide shade and rain protection, topped by 106 solar panels that will offset 27 tons of CO2 every year.
  • 2017 - Our 45,000 sq. ft Oliver warehouse with a south-facing roof covered by 160 panels to capture solar energy, offsetting 30 tons of carbon annually and producing 60,000 kWh annually.
That's enough energy to provide heat and air conditioning for this large building, giving it a carbon footprint of "NET ZERO".

In addition, the winery has also installed eight new electric vehicle charging stations, which visitors and staff may use at no cost. For more information, visit: https://www.burrowingowlwine.ca/
Published in Profiles
The story of how Ontario’s first and only wild blueberry farm and winery came about perhaps started when a large parcel of land near Wawa was deforested some years ago. The 600 acres of ancient Lake Superior bottom – completely stone-free and extremely flat with a sand/silt soil type – quickly filled in with wild blueberries bushes.
Published in Fruit
A bold orange border marked the roadside stand of Two EE’s Farm Market in the early days – the same bright identifier still seen on the building today. For many in the community of Surrey, B.C., Two EE’s, and the Schoen family that owns and operates the market, has remained a landmark, even as the community around it changed and underwent mass development.
Published in Profiles
There are now seven generations of farmers in Delta, B.C. behind (and in front of) Pacific Potato Corp., and while the potato was always a dietary staple, it wasn’t until recent generations that it became this family’s mainstay.
Published in Production
Nova Scotia Fruit Growers Association’s 2017 orchard tour focused on innovations and research trials in members’ orchards.
Published in Fruit
November 21, 2017, Windsor, Ont – Product traceability is critical for food processors, and an Essex County company specializing in agricultural automation has been helping them sustainably improve for 27 years.

“Automation was almost non-existent in agriculture 30 years ago, but there was obviously a need for it,” says Joe Sleiman, founder and president of Ag-Tronic Control Systems, an automation technology company based near Windsor.

“We started by looking at ways to help local produce growers improve efficiency, and do so in a more sustainable way. Now we have clients throughout Canada, the United States, and Mexico, and we’re in the process of expanding to South America, Europe and Australia,” he says.

Together with his wife Samia, Sleiman started Ag-Tronic Control Systems in 1991 to market and improve his own automation equipment. At the time, that included a height control system for tomato harvesters, tractor guidance equipment, and a plant watering system.

With these accomplishments, Sleiman was asked by local greenhouse growers to design a better cucumber grading system, and improve a labelling system for tray packed tomatoes.

The market success of those tomatoes, though, created a new challenge: the mislabelling of produce once tomatoes were removed and repackaged. This caused losses at the retail level, prompting the same growers to request a labelling system that could apply stickers directly to the tomato body instead of the packing box.

With the success of his new direct-label system, Sleiman created a sub-company called Accu-Label Inc. in 2001.

Under the Accu-Label brand, he developed both an automated label machine and biodegradable, paper stickers. Combined with a recyclable liner – the parchment on which the stickers sit – he started marketing his product as both cost-saving and more sustainable than those using plastic stickers.

“Our goal was to provide better performance with more sustainably,” he says. “Plastic stickers are already used, but no one wants to eat that. People also hate that they can’t be recycled.”

A number of additional technologies were also created, including a handheld unit for smaller packers, and a larger portable machine that lets food retailers put their own brand onto a product wherever and whenever they require.

A more user-friendly labelling machine was unveiled in 2008 that negated potential problems associated with the labeller’s liner removal system.

“We developed a system to print labels on-the-go, including bar and trace codes,” says Sleiman. “That means marketers can get both traceability and their own brand right on the produce in a safe, efficient way.”

More recently, Sleiman launched a camera attachment that automatically monitors labels after printing. This, he says, helps ensure each sticker is printed properly, and further improves product traceability.

“We’re providing this for free to everyone who has our Print & Apply brand label machines,” he says. “It’s part of our commitment to ensure our customers continue to have the latest and best fruit labeling technology.”
Published in Profiles
For the last 32 years, a typical day running Whittamore’s Farm in Markham during the busy planting and tourism season has started at 5:30 a.m. – at the latest. At the agri-tainment powerhouse farm business, Mike Whittamore has owned and operated the farm’s Pick-Your-Own fruit and vegetable business, and his brother, Frank, and Frank’s wife Suzanne have owned and operated the onsite Farm Shop (freshly-picked produce, baked goods and preserves) as well as the Fun Farm Yard and Pumpkinland, both replete with farm-themed activities.
Published in Profiles
It’s often been said that a grape grower’s heart and soul is in the vineyard. Even though Ontario’s new grape king, Doug Whitty, may be the latest of three kings to either own or have strong ties to one winery, he believes that future royalty will be stand-alone growers, as in the past.
Published in Profiles
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
September 18, 2017, Churchbridge, SK – Strawberry and blueberry farmer Dusty Zamecnik of Frogmore, Ont, was named the 2017 Outstanding Young Farmers (OYF) for the Ontario Region at the annual awards event held September 12 in conjunction with Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show.

Zamecnik, a graduate of Francis Xavier, is fourth generation owner of EZ Grow Farms Ltd and partner in Hometown Brew Co. EZ Grow began as a tobacco farm but has evolved into blueberry production and strawberry propagation. By specializing, Zamecnik feels their competitive advantage is maximized.

The Ontario OYF region was honoured to have four nominees participate in the event. They were: Amanda & Steve Hammell, Tara, Ont; Jessica Foote, Janetville, Ont; Josh & Ellen and Rudi & Jennifer Biemond, Iroquois, Ont; and Dusty Zamecnik, Frogmore, Ont.

“The Ontario region of Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers has, once again, celebrated the accomplishments of a passionate group of inspiring producers,” said Jack Thomson, past president of Canada’s OYF. “Our recipient of the Ontario award, Dusty Zamecnik, has a can-do approach to his business. Passion, entrepreneurship and dedication are the foundation of any great business and Dusty displays these in spades.”

After obtaining his degree and working a few years off-farm, Zamecnik came home to take over his family’s farm. The operation moved away from rosebushes and tomatoes and focused on strawberry propagation. Orders have increased from six million plants to 16 million plants per year. The farm is now propagating breed stock to which they have exclusive rights.

Blueberries produced are sold direct to consumers in patented containers, which helped to establish brand identity. Hometown Brew Co is Zamecnik’s latest venture. He partnered with two cousins in 2016 to create a microbrewery that has three brews, including one which features the farm’s blueberries.

Zamecnik believes in being a positive voice for agriculture by using social media and being involved in local fruit organizations.

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
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
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
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 25, 2017, Fredericton, N.B. - Benoit Bizimungu spends about 12 years working on a single type of potato, trying to develop a more resilient crop that requires less fertilizer or chemical.

The research scientist had a chance to share his work with the public last week when his workplace, the Fredericton Research and Development Centre, opened its laboratory doors to the public on Saturday, Aug. 19th.

More than 300 people stopped by the open house to get a peek into the federal facility, which primarily focuses on researching potatoes. READ MORE 
Published in Profiles
July 31, 2017, Milton, Ont. - It’s no secret — the lavender plant provides a bouquet of benefits. The fields are stunning, the blooms aromatic, and it has proven itself to be a versatile remedy for centuries, with oils rich in health benefits.

So it’s really no surprise that the prized plant isn’t so bad for agri-tourism too.

With about 40,000 plants, Terre Bleu Lavender Farm near Milton in Halton Region is now the largest lavender farm in Ontario. Their vast fragrant fields, handmade natural products, and charming open-air events bring heaps of visitors out year after year. And they’re only getting busier. (On some weekends now, they even reach capacity.) READ MORE 
Published in Profiles

July 28, 2017, North Carolina - Laura Lengnick is a big thinker on agriculture and the environment. She has been guided in her work by the understanding that the problems generated by the U.S. industrial food system have been as significant as its ability to produce vast quantities of food. As she sees it, it’s not enough to produce food if there’s not a reckoning of costs and benefits from an unbalanced system.

This comprehensive outlook is a hallmark of Lengnick’s work, as is her positive vision for a more equitable and sustainable future. When it comes to her career, the question is not what work Lengnick has done to explore resilient, sustainable agriculture, but what hasn’t she done. Soil scientist, policymaker as a Senate staffer, USDA researcher, professor, sustainability consultant, advocate—Lengnick has done it all.

With her home nestled in a sunny cove in the North Carolina mountains, she bio-intensively tends to her 3,000-square-foot micro-farm. (She grows everything from greens and radishes to figs and sweet potatoes.) Based on her rich experience and deep expertise, Lengnick now views herself as a science interpreter in her interactions with farmers, public officials and the public at large. (She calls it “science-in-place").

Lengnick is the author of many articles and papers for scholars, practitioners and the general public, including the useful and engaging book Resilient Agriculture: Cultivating Food Systems for a Changing Climate. She was also selected as a contributor to the Third National Climate Assessment, the authoritative U.S. climate report.

Over the years she’s traveled throughout the United States to meet with farmers to investigate the challenges and successes in the field and present her findings to many different audiences. Most recently, Lengnick has been invited to collaborate with the world-renowned Stockholm Resilience Centre, which will bring her views to an even larger audience. In a series of conversations, Lengnick and I spoke about her background, career, and philosophy to better explain where she is today. READ MORE 

Published in Profiles
July 27, 2017, Vineland, Ont – It’s been 10 years since a new horticultural research facility in Niagara Region was launched as the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland).

Since then, Vineland has been turning heads across Canada and internationally with its needs-based innovations. The organization reflects the entire horticulture value chain from farmers to consumers, and they’re not afraid to take big steps to help the industry solve problems.

“We started by understanding what needed to be done and how we needed to work to make a difference, which is real results with real impact from acres in the field to shelf space in the store,” says Vineland’s CEO, Dr. Jim Brandle.

Addressing the labour intensive nature of horticultural production was a need identified early on. Today, machines designed in Vineland’s robotics program and built in Ontario are coming into use in fruit and vegetable greenhouses, which Brandle says will go a long way in helping to keep growers competitive, as well as boost the local manufacturing and automation sector.
Sweet potatoes, okra and Asian eggplant are offering new market opportunities for growers and consumers eager to eat more locally produced food.

And Vineland’s rose breeding program made a big splash earlier this year when its Canadian Shield rose – a trademarked low-maintenance and winter hardy variety bred in Canada – was named Flower of the Year at Canada Blooms.

Another significant milestone was the construction of the largest, most modern horticultural research greenhouse in North America with commercial-scale height and growing rooms dedicated to horticulture, which opened in 2016 and was built around the needs of Canada’s greenhouse vegetable and flower growers.“Today, we’re commercializing innovations, from the Canadian Shield rose to new apple and pear varieties,” Brandle says. “We are having the kind of impact that we sought in those early days.”

Natural ways to control greenhouse pests – called biocontrols – are making a real difference to flower growers and a new technology that can identify genetic variants for traits in all plants has just been spun-off into a for-profit company.

“We’re creating a reputation and that alone is an achievement because we’re the new kid on the block,” he says. “We have a ton of good people with and around the organization and on our board who are making this happen.”Vineland is an important partner to the horticulture industry, according to Jan VanderHout, a greenhouse vegetable grower and Chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association.

“They are very good at asking us what we want and taking a whole value chain approach to research and innovation,” VanderHout says. “You need the right facilities and expertise and Vineland fills that need to the benefit of the industry as a whole.”

Looking to the future, both Brandle and VanderHout predict that cap and trade pressure and high energy costs will result in more work around energy use and carbon footprint reduction.And Vineland’s consumer-focused approaches will continue to drive new innovation, from high flavour greenhouse tomatoes to Ontario-grown apple varieties.

“We will further lever consumer-driven plant breeding and work with the intent around pleasing consumers and trying to understand what they want so we can build that into our selection criteria,” Brandle says.
Published in Profiles
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