Success in Agriculture
The Canadian Agri-Business Education Foundation (CABEF) is proud to announce the winners of their annual scholarships. Each of these exceptional students will receive $2,500 for post-secondary agricultural education.

The 2018 winners are:
  • Adriana Van Tryp, Burdett, Alta.
  • Laura Carruthers, Frenchman Butte, Sask.
  • Pete Giesbrecht, Winkler, Man.
  • Owen Ricker, Dunnville, Ont.
  • Jeremy Chevalley, Moose Creek Ont.
  • Émilie Carrier, Princeville, Que.
  • Justin Kampman, Abbotsford, B.C.
Each year, CABEF awards scholarships of $2,500 to Canadian students entering their first year at an accredited agriculture college or university. CABEF is a charity foundation that encourages students to pursue their passion for agriculture and to bring their new ideas and talent to the industry.

Scholarship winners are evaluated on a combination of leadership attributes, academic standing and their response to the essay question, "What do you consider to be the three main opportunities for the Canadian agriculture industry and which one inspires you the most?"

“We are proud to support the future of the Canadian agriculture industry by providing these scholarships,” said Jenn Norrie, chair of the board for CABEF. “With the high-quality applications received from students across the country, the future of Canadian agriculture is bright.”

For further information about CABEF’s work, visit cabef.org.
Published in Provinces
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
AgSafe, formerly known as Farm and Ranch Safety and Health Association (FARSHA), is celebrating their 25th anniversary as British Columbia’s agriculture health and safety association.

Established in May of 1993, AgSafe has been the expert on safety in the workplace for B.C.’s agriculture industry and offers site-specific health and safety programs, training, evaluation and consultation services. AgSafe is also a COR program certifying partner and offers a Certificate of Recognition (COR) program for large and small employers.

The organization was established as a joint initiative of WorkSafeBC (Workers’ Compensation Board of British Columbia), the BC Agriculture Council and the Canadian Farmworkers’ Union as B.C.’s experts on workplace safety for the agriculture industry.

Wendy Bennett has been the AgSafe executive director since 2015. “I am really happy to be in this position and celebrating this milestone,” Bennett commented. “I’m proud of AgSafe and the work our team does. Our consultants and advisors work hard to deliver safety information and guidance to hundreds of employers and workers around the province every year, and we’ve seen a significant change over the past twenty-five years with better safety practices for those who work in agriculture.”

Don Dahr, former WorkSafeBC Director of Industry and Labour Services, is the newly elected chair of the AgSafe Board of Directors replacing long-time retiring chair, Ralph McGinn.

“I’ve been involved with, and supported this organization for many years,” says Dahr. “As a non-voting member on the AgSafe Board of Directors for five years my role was to provide guidance on issues affecting agriculture and safety initiatives. Over the years I’ve watched the organization make great strides in developing and offering safety resources and consultation to B.C.’s farmers and ranchers.”

Just over half of B.C.’s agriculture industry employers regularly use services, resources, or information from AgSafe and almost two thirds of agriculture employers have accessed AgSafe resources periodically.

AgSafe’s services are also available to B.C. based landscape trades and professionals, garden centres, wholesale and retail nurseries, suppliers, and tree services.

For more information about AgSafe services or agriculture workplace safety call 1-877-533-1789 or visit www.AgSafeBC.ca.
Published in Associations
Farmers across Ontario are welcoming the return of thousands of seasonal labourers who help the province’s fruit and vegetable industry thrive.

Approximately 18,000 workers from Mexico and the Caribbean are expected to be placed at Ontario farms this growing season as a supplement to local labour under the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP). Approximately 1,450 farms will benefit from the program this year.

The 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.

“Men and women from overseas have been helping Ontario farmers solve a critical shortage of agricultural workers for more than half a century,” says Ken Forth, president of Foreign Agricultural Resource Management Services (F.A.R.M.S.), which administers the program. “At the same time, they’ve helped lift themselves and their families out of a punishing cycle of poverty in their home countries.”

SAWP is a “Canadians first” program, which means supplementary seasonal farm labour is hired from partner countries only if farmers cannot find domestic workers willing to take the same jobs.

Farmers who rely on the program to meet their labour needs do hire Canadians. The challenge is that not enough domestic workers — Canadians who may live in the rural areas where these farms are located — are interested in taking these positions, often because they are seasonal in nature.

Recent labour market research by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council cited SAWP as a key reason our horticultural industry is thriving.

In Ontario, the program plays a crucial role in helping the industry generate $5.4 billion in economic activity and approximately 34,280 jobs.

“If we want to continue having access to high-quality, fresh, local produce in Ontario, we need the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program to continue connecting farmers with the workers they need,” Forth says.

The vast majority of men and women who come to Ontario through SAWP believe the benefits of the program far outweigh any challenges or drawbacks, such as being away from their families for part of the year on a temporary basis.

Proof of this can be seen in the large number of workers who speak positively about the program and voluntarily return year after year — some of them to the same employers for decades. Approximately 85 per cent of the workers opt to return on repeat contracts in an average year.

Seasonal workers can earn as much as 10 times or more working here than they could in their own countries, if they fortunate enough to find employment. This income allows the workers to improve the standard of living of their families, educate their children and buy and operate businesses and farms at home.

Of the many different temporary worker programs in Canada, SAWP is the only one that offers 24-hour a day assistance to workers directly with people from their home countries. Each country participating in the program maintains a liaison service or consular office in Ontario to help look after the general welfare of agricultural workers and help them navigate any issues or complications they may face while working here.

For more information about Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program, visit: www.farmsontario.ca.
Published in Profiles
In the past 10 years, the invasive fruit fly known as the spotted-wing drosophila has caused millions of dollars of damage to berry and other fruit crops.

Biologists at the University of California San Diego have developed a method of manipulating the genes of an agricultural pest that has invaded much of the United States and caused millions of dollars in damage to high-value berry and other fruit crops.

Research led by Anna Buchman in the lab of Omar Akbari, a new UC San Diego insect genetics professor, describes the world’s first “gene drive” system—a mechanism for manipulating genetic inheritance—in Drosophila suzukii, a fruit fly commonly known as the spotted-wing drosophila.

As reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Buchman and her colleagues developed a gene drive system termed Medea (named after the mythological Greek enchantress who killed her offspring) in which a synthetic “toxin” and a corresponding “antidote” function to dramatically influence inheritance rates with nearly perfect efficiency.

“We’ve designed a gene drive system that dramatically biases inheritance in these flies and can spread through their populations,” said Buchman. “It bypasses normal inheritance rules. It’s a new method for manipulating populations of these invasive pests, which don’t belong here in the first place.”

Native to Japan, the highly invasive fly was first found on the West Coast in 2008 and has now been reported in more than 40 states.

The spotted wing drosophila uses a sharp organ known as an ovipositor to pierce ripening fruit and deposit eggs directly inside the crop, making it much more damaging than other drosophila flies that lay eggs only on top of decaying fruit. Drosophila suzukii has reportedly caused more than $39 million in revenue losses for the California raspberry industry alone and an estimated $700 million overall per year in the U.S.

In contained cage experiments of spotted wing drosophila using the synthetic Medea system, the researchers reported up to 100 percent effective inheritance bias in populations descending 19 generations.

“We envision, for example, replacing wild flies with flies that are alive but can’t lay eggs directly in blueberries,” said Buchman.

Applications for the new synthetic gene drive system could include spreading genetic elements that confer susceptibility to certain environmental factors, such as temperature.

If a certain temperature is reached, for example, the genes within the modified spotted wing flies would trigger its death. Other species of fruit flies would not be impacted by this system.

“This is the first gene drive system in a major worldwide crop pest,” said Akbari, who recently moved his lab to UC San Diego from UC Riverside, where the research began. “Given that some strains demonstrated 100 per cent non-Mendelian transmission ratios, far greater than the 50 percent expected for normal Mendelian transmission, this system could in the future be used to control populations of D. suzukii.”

Another possibility for the new gene drive system would be to enhance susceptibility to environmentally friendly insecticides already used in the agricultural industry.

“I think everybody wants access to quality fresh produce that’s not contaminated with anything and not treated with toxic pesticides, and so if we don’t deal with Drosophila suzukii, crop losses will continue and might lead to higher prices,” said Buchman. “So this gene drive system is a biologically friendly, environmentally friendly way to protect an important part of our food supply.”

Co-authors of the paper include: John Marshall of UC Berkeley, Dennis Ostrovski of UC Riverside and Ting Yang of UC Riverside and now UC San Diego. The California Cherry Board supported the research through a grant.
Published in Research
There’s a dramatic shift in consumer preference to more locally sourced, sustainably grown foods, with sales expected to top $20.2 billion by 2019.

The local food market is fertile ground for FreshSpoke, a Canadian tech start-up that caught the attention of Food-X and earned them a place as one of only eight companies at their leading food-tech accelerator based in New York City.

Food-X is the largest global investor in early stage food companies and receives hundreds of applications each cohort.

“We work with a handful of companies that have big ideas and the potential to make a difference in the food industry”, comments Peter Bodenheimer, program director at FOOD-X. “We believe that FreshSpoke’s marketplace platform will revolutionize the way retailers and restaurants procure local food.”

FreshSpoke is tackling the marketing and distribution challenges that have kept most farmers and micro-producers out of the wholesale market.

“Consumers care about local and sustainably grown food and are willing to spend more to get it”, states Marcia Woods, CEO and passionate force behind FreshSpoke, “and the restaurants and retailers that are keeping pace with this trend want a reliable and cost effective procurement solution like FreshSpoke.”

FreshSpoke’s platform handles the order, payment and delivery for farmers, growers as well as food and beverage artisans, and gives wholesale buyers a direct pipeline to fresh, local food, delivered to their door using a shared delivery system.

“Instead of putting more trucks on the road, FreshSpoke leverages the excess capacity that exists in the delivery system”, explains Ms. Woods. “This drives down cost and gives commercial drivers, including producers, the ability to earn extra income delivering local food.”

FreshSpoke has struck a chord as some 300 Canadian wholesale businesses are now registered buyers with access to an online catalogue of over 1,500 products from some 175 local producers. This Spring, FreshSpoke will launch to wholesale buyers and producers in the U.S., beginning in Northwest Ohio and Southern Michigan.

The notion of a centralized marketplace for wholesale buyers to procure local food comes as good news for farm to table restaurateur, Scott Bowman of Fowl & Fodder in Toledo, Ohio. “I’m excited about FreshSpoke coming to our region because I need to fill gaps in my local produce sourcing during the off-season, and I’m excited to have a more diverse list of locally available product for my seasonal menu.”

For more information about FreshSpoke, visit their web site at www.freshspoke.com or call 844.483-7374.
Published in Companies
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) scientist Dr. Qiang Liu is developing a new plant protein-based bioplastic that will keep meat, dairy, and other food products fresher longer.

The bioplastic is made from the by-products created by industrial processing of certain plants. Not only will this bioplastic protect perishable food better than regular plastic packaging, it is also more environmentally-friendly and sustainable.

Dr. Liu has been working to advance the science around bioplastics for over 15 years. He is a "green" chemist - someone who specializing in making plastics and other goods from agricultural plants.

"I, along with industry, saw great opportunity to create something useful out of the leftover by-product from industrial canola oil processing, which is why this project was funded under the Growing Forward 2 Canola Cluster. We can extract all sorts of things like starches, proteins, and oils from plant materials to make plastics, but I am particularly interested in proteins from canola meal in this research project," says Dr. Liu.

Plant protein-based bioplastic has been shown to have similar attributes to other plant-based bio-products; it can stretch, it doesn’t deform in certain temperatures, and in some cases, it biodegrades. That being said, building the polymers (long chains of repeating molecules) that are the basis of biofilms and plastics can be tricky and finding just the right technique and formula is challenging.

One challenge with some protein polymers is that they are can be sensitive to a lot of moisture - not a good trait if you want to use them to protect food with a natural moisture content. Dr. Liu and his team recently discovered a formula and technique to make soy and canola protein polymers water-resistant by "wrapping" them in another polymer.

The team was also able to add an anti-microbial compound to the mix, which not only made the resulting bioplastic able to prevent nasty bacteria like E. coli from growing - but, depending on how much was added, also could change the porosity of the film.

The porosity of bioplastic (essentially how many holes are in it) is very important in food packaging since different foods need different amounts of moisture to stay fresh. Having a way to adjust porosity (either having more or less small holes in it) is a great feature in a potential plastic because it can either let more or less water go into or out of the area where the food is.

Even though it is in the early stages of development, Dr. Liu believes there is great future for bringing this technology into the marketplace.

"The use of plant-based plastics as a renewable resource for packaging and consumer goods is becoming increasingly attractive due to environmental concerns and the availability of raw materials. My hope is that someday this research will lead to all plastics being made from renewable sources. It would be a win for the agriculture sector to have another source of income from waste and a win for our environment," explains Dr. Liu.

Should this potential biofilm prove viable, it would be a win for the agriculture sector and the environment, as it would provide added revenue by creating a renewable plastic alternative.
Published in Federal
For the first time, scientists have improved how a crop uses water by 25 per cent without compromising yield by altering the expression of one gene that is found in all plants, as reported in Nature Communications.

The international team increased the levels of a photosynthetic protein (PsbS) to conserve water by tricking plants into partially closing their stomata, the microscopic pores in the leaf that allow water to escape. Stomata are the gatekeepers to plants: When open, carbon dioxide enters the plant to fuel photosynthesis, but water is allowed to escape through the process of transpiration. | READ MORE
Published in Research
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
August 30, 2017, California - The Public Strawberry Breeding Program at the University of California, Davis, and colleagues in California and Florida have received a $4.5 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to improve the disease resistance and sustainable production of strawberries throughout the nation.

The collaborative grant is good news for strawberry farmers and consumers everywhere, according to Rick Tomlinson, president of the California Strawberry Commission. To signal its own support, the strawberry commission pledged an additional $1.8 million to the UC Davis program.

“An investment in the UC Davis strawberry breeding program is an investment in the future of strawberries,” Tomlinson said. “Thanks to their groundbreaking research and strong partnerships, Director Steve Knapp and his colleagues are developing improved strawberry varieties publicly available to farmers.”

Improving genetic resistance to disease

Strawberries constitute a $4.4 billion-dollar industry in the United States, and 94 percent of the nation’s strawberry fruit and nursery plants are grown in California and Florida.

Strawberries are especially vulnerable to soil-borne pathogens, which destroy plants and greatly reduce yield. Since the 1960s, strawberry growers have depended on fumigants like methyl bromide to treat soils before planting berries in an effort to control disease. But methyl bromide has been phased out by the Environmental Protection Agency and will no longer be available after 2017.

“Following the elimination of methyl bromide fumigation, strawberry growers are under greater economic pressures, and there is an urgent need for improved, disease-resistant strawberry varieties that will thrive without fumigation,” Knapp said.

Knapp will head a team of scientists from UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and the University of Florida.

Together, researchers will identify and manage pathogen threats, mine elite and wild genetic resources to find natural sources of resistance to pathogens, and accelerate the development of public varieties resistant to a broad spectrum of disease and other pests.

“Strawberry growers are faced with the need to deliver high-quality fruit to consumers year-round, while protecting the environment, fostering economic growth in their communities and coping with profound changes in production practices,” Knapp said. “We look forward to collaborating with our industry partners through research, agricultural extension and education to help them reach those goals.”

UC Davis Public Strawberry Breeding Program

During six decades, the UC Davis Public Strawberry Breeding Program has developed more than 30 patented varieties, made strawberries a year-round crop in California and boosted strawberry yield from just 6 tons per acre in the 1950s to 30 tons per acre today.

Knapp took over directorship of the program in 2015. He and his team are working to develop short-day and day-neutral strawberry varieties; studying the genetics of disease-resistance, fruit quality and photoperiod response; and applying genomic techniques to make traditional strawberry breeding more efficient. They have 10 public varieties in the pipeline and plan to release one or two new strawberry varieties later this year.

Initiative collaborators

The grant is funded by USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative. Collaborators from UC Davis include agricultural economist Rachael Goodhue, plant pathologist Thomas Gordon, and plant scientists Julia Harshman and Thomas Poorten.

Other key collaborators are Oleg Daugovish with UC Agricultural and Natural Resources; Alexander Putman at UC Riverside; Julie Guthman at UC Santa Cruz; Gerald Holmes and Kelly Ivors, both at Cal Poly; and Seonghee Lee, Natália Peres and Vance Whitaker, all of the University of Florida.
Published in Research
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 16, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. - Canadian fruit growers need the best varieties of plants to be successful. In the case of Canadian strawberry growers, they grow the best varieties of plants, which foreign buyers demand. The import and export of fruit plants, however, must go through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to test for potentially devastating plant viruses. Currently, this testing and quarantine process takes an average of three years to complete, significantly hampering the speed of trade.

Today, the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announced that the CFIA will lead two projects worth $500,000 that use new DNA-based technologies to reduce the quarantine testing time, helping to boost trade and economic competitiveness in the $240 million Canadian fruit tree industry.

"Together with provincial partners and industry, our government is making the investments in innovative science that enables agriculture to be a leading growth sector of Canada's economy. Together we can help meet the world's growing demand for high-quality, sustainable food and help grow our middle class," Minister MacAulay, said. 

The first project will dramatically shorten the testing period of seeds, cuttings and bulbs imported into Canada to grow new varieties of plants. With this funding, scientists will use DNA technology to test for all viruses associated with imported plants to get an early indication of any plant diseases present. This approach could reduce the quarantine testing time by up to two and a half years.

The second project streamlines the testing of strawberry plants. Traditionally, multiple tests for viruses are required before exporting strawberry plants to foreign markets. This project will test for multiple viruses in one single test, dramatically reducing the time and cost to get plants to market.

Funding for these projects is provided through a partnership between the CFIA, Genome British Columbia, Summerland Varieties Corporation, Phyto Diagnostics, the British Columbia Cherry Association, and Vineland Research and Innovations Centre.

"Canadian import/export markets will be stronger and more competitive because of these genomics-based tools. Early detection of pathogens and viruses is a vital outcome of genomics and it is being applied across many key economic sectors." Dr. Catalina Lopez-Correa, Chief Scientific Officer and Vice President, Genome British Columbia said. 
Published in Fruit
August 14, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. - Farm Management Canada is seeking to honour individuals or groups with the 2017 Wilson Loree Award.

This prestigious award was established over fifteen years ago, to honour those that have made an extraordinary contribution to developing and promoting new and positive change in agricultural business management practices and expertise in Canada.

FMC encourages the nomination of individuals or groups that:
  • Have made significant contributions in the area of business management regionally or nationally;
  • Have demonstrated innovation in areas such as turning research into practical management tools, adapting best practices from other sectors to agriculture, and finding new ways to deliver training, information and resources to farm managers;
  • Have served as a role model and a mentor to colleagues, partners and clients, inspiring them to achieve their full potential;
  • Have demonstrated the ability to network and develop partnerships to include others in furthering the shared goals and vision of the agriculture industry
Nominations are required by October 13, 2017. FMC Staff and Board members are not eligible for the award. The winner will be revealed during the Agricultural Excellence Conference on Wednesday November 22nd. All are welcome to attend.
Published in Business & Policy
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, Waterloo, Ont. - A biotechnology company that created a spray that helps farmers and growers protect crops from frost damage was among the big winners at the Velocity Fund Finals held recently at the University of Waterloo. Velocity is a comprehensive entrepreneurship program at Waterloo.

Innovative Protein Technologies created Frost Armour, a spray-on-foam, after witnessing the effects of a devastating spring frost in 2012 that knocked out about 80 per cent of Ontario’s apple crop. Farmers would remove it after several days with another solution that converts it into a fertilizer.

"Frost damage not only affects farmers’ livelihoods, but also our food supply," said Erin Laidley, a Waterloo alumnus, who co-founded the company with Tom Keeling and Dan Krska, two alumni from the University of Guelph. "There are other spray-on solutions, but ours is non-toxic and has no negative environmental impact.”

During the competition, 10 companies pitched their businesses to a panel of judges representing the investment, startup and business communities. Judges considered innovation, market potential, market viability and overall pitch.

The following three companies were also grand-prize winners of $25,000 and space at Velocity. Three of the five top-prize-winning companies are based at Velocity Science.
  • Altius Analytics Labs is a health-tech startup that helps occupational groups better manage musculoskeletal injuries.
  • EPOCH is a skills and services marketplace that connects refugees and community members, using time as a means of exchange.
  • VivaSpire is making lightweight wearable machines that purify oxygen from the air without the need for high pressure.
For the first time, the prize of $10,000 for best hardware or science company went to a team that was not among the grand-prize winners. Vena Medical is making navigating through arteries faster, easier and safer by providing physicians with a camera that sees through blood.

During the VFF event, an additional 10 teams of University of Waterloo students competed for three prizes of $5,000 and access to Velocity workspaces.

The winners of the Velocity $5K are:
  • HALo works to provide manual wheelchair users with accessible solutions to motorize their wheelchairs.
  • QuantWave provides faster, cheaper and simpler pathogen detection for drinking water and food suppliers.
  • SheLeads is a story-based game that helps girls realize their unlimited leadership potential.
“Building a business is one of the boldest risks you can take, and yet our companies continue to demonstrate the vision, talent, and drive to think big and tackle challenging problems,” said Jay Shah, director of Velocity. “Today we are fortunate to benefit from an enormous wealth of experience from our judges who are leaders from the global investment, health and artificial-intelligence communities and entrepreneurs at heart. In helping Velocity award $125,000 in funding to these companies, we have taken a bet of our own in these founders, and said be bold, think big, and go out and change the world.”

The judges for the Velocity Fund $25K competition travelled from Palo Alto, San Francisco and Toronto. They were Seth Bannon, founding partner, Fifty Years; Dianne Carmichael, chief advisor of health tech, Council of Canadian Innovators; Eric Migicovsky, visiting partner, Y Combinator; Tomi Poutanen, co-CEO, Layer 6 AI.

The judges for the Velocity Fund $5K competition were Kane Hsieh, investor, Root Ventures; Tobiasz Dankiewicz, co-founder, Reebee; Karen Webb, principal, KWebb Solutions Inc.

For more information on the Velocity Fund Finals, please visit www.velocityfundfinals.com
Published in Spraying
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
July 20, 2017, Kelowna, B.C. - Summerhill Pyramid Winery in Kelowna, British Columbia has received a perfect 100 point score and a Double Gold Medal for its 2013 'Small Lot' Semillon Icewine from the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition.

Summerhill founder and proprietor Stephen Cipes enthuses, "Summerhill Pyramid Organic Winery and Bistro in Kelowna British Columbia has been honoured with perhaps the two most significant awards in the wine industry worldwide, proving once again that organic is the way to be!"

"In May of this year, 2017," he continues, "Summerhill was named the number one wine (the best Chardonnay in the world!) at the Chardonnay du Monde Competition in France, with over 700 entries from 38 countries. Just last week, another wine won Double Gold and 100 points in San Francisco, with 4200 entries from 31 countries around the world!"

"Summerhill specializes in sparkling wines with Cipes Brut receiving Gold each and every year for 25 years making it the single most awarded wine in Canada. All of Summerhill wines are cellared in a precision geometry pyramid and lovingly made in the certified organic cellar by co-founder Eric von Krosigk and his amazingly talented and dedicated team."

"May the goodness of the Earth continue to shine and bring pride to all Canadians and may our success be a beacon of light to all the world, to return to organic growing as it gives humanity a return to our oneness and harmony with Nature. Thank you!"

Summerhill Pyramid Winery, located for more than 25 years in the Lakeshore district in Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley, B.C., is Canada's largest certified organic winery, B.C.'s first Demeter certified biodynamic vineyard, and Canada's foremost producer of sparkling wine.

Winemaker Eric von Krosigk oversees the portfolio of B.C. VQA wines that have earned the winery the title of 'Canadian Wine Producer of the Year' from the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London, England. The winery, owned by the Cipes family, is also home to the Sunset Organic Bistro, a two-hundred seat restaurant with a panoramic view of Okanagan Lake, serving food grown and raised by local organic producers, including Summerhill's own on-site permaculture-style vegetable garden.
Published in Companies
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 12, 2017, Guelph, Ont. - Kelly Daynard has been hired as executive director of Farm & Food Care Ontario (FFCO), a coalition representing Ontario's farm families, agribusinesses, food processors, food companies and more.

The Board of Directors began an open and extensive hiring process in April of 2017, interviewing several candidates before making its decision.

Daynard first joined FFCO's predecessor organization, the Ontario Farm Animal Council, in 2005. She has been employed as Communications Manager of FFCO since 2012 and has been serving in the role of Interim Executive Director since January of 2017.

Prior to joining FFCO, she worked first as a journalist and then as Communications Manager for the Ontario Cattlemen's Association (now Beef Farmers of Ontario).

Raised on her family's grain farm near Guelph, Daynard is a graduate of Wilfrid Laurier University and the Advanced Agricultural Leadership Program. Outside of her work with FFCO, she is involved with several agricultural organizations including the Canadian Farm Writers Federation and the Ontario Agricultural Hall of Fame Association.

"The board of directors is unanimous in its decision to hire Kelly to lead Farm & Food Care Ontario. She has a strong knowledge of the agricultural industry and is well-known and well respected by members, staff and industry stakeholders. Over the years, she has consistently demonstrated her commitment to this organization and its mandate and has led the development of many of our award winning initiatives," said Brian Gilroy, chair of the board of directors.

"I'm honoured by the confidence shown by the board of directors in hiring me to this position," said Daynard. "It has been a privilege to work for this organization for so many years. Farm & Food Care Ontario plays such a critical role in this industry, helping to connect consumers with their food. I look forward to being part of the work that we'll continue to do to earn public trust in food and farming."

Farm & Food Care Ontario is a coalition of farmers, agriculture and food partners proactively working together to ensure public trust and confidence in food and farming. For more information visit www.FarmFoodCareON.org.
Published in Associations
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