Sustainability
Apple, cherry and other tree fruit growers throughout British Columbia will be able to update aging equipment and infrastructure while increasing their marketing and research efforts thanks to a new $5-million Tree Fruit Competitiveness Fund announced recently.
Published in Provinces
Ottawa, Ont. – The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) has commenced a new project to enhance and update CAHRC’s agricultural supply/demand forecasting system.

The new information will provide updated national, provincial and commodity-specific labour market information that will clarify the state of the Canadian agricultural labour market and ways to minimize labour shortages in the future.

The two-year project will augment CAHRC’s previously released Labour Market Information (LMI) research that determined annual farm cash receipt losses to Canadian producers due to job vacancies at $1.5 B or three per cent of the industry’s total value in sales.

Based on 2014 figures, the LMI research estimated the current gap between labour demand and the domestic workforce as 59,000 jobs. That means primary agriculture had the highest industry job vacancy rate of all sectors at seven per cent.

Projections indicated that by 2025, the Canadian agri-workforce could be short workers for 114,000 jobs. The new research will update the forecast through to 2029.

“Understanding the evolving needs of agricultural labour challenges across the country and across commodities will facilitate the development of informed and relevant initiatives by industry stakeholders to ensure the future viability and growth of Canadian farms,” explains Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, executive director of CAHRC.

CAHRC’s research will examine the specific labour needs of all aspects of on-farm production including: apiculture; aquaculture; beef; dairy; field fruit and vegetables; greenhouse, nursery and floriculture; grains and oilseeds; poultry and eggs; sheep and goats; swine; and the tree fruit and vine industries.

The new research will update the demand and supply model of the agricultural workforce with information about projected employment growth, seasonality of labour demand, and labour supply inflows and outflows including immigration, inter-sector mobility, and retirements, as well as temporary foreign workers. It will also conduct secondary investigations and analyses focused on the participation of women and indigenous people in the agricultural workforce.

“The labour gap needs to be filled,” says Debra Hauer, manager of CAHRC’s AgriLMI Program. “To achieve this, we will examine groups that are currently under-represented in the agricultural workforce, particularly women and indigenous people, as well as continue to encourage new Canadians to make a career in agriculture. Removing barriers will improve access to job opportunities and help address labour shortages by increasing the agricultural labour pool.”

The new research findings will be unveiled at a national AgriWorkforce Summit for employers, employment serving agencies, government, education, and industry associations. Additionally, a series of presentations will be delivered to industry associations detailing national, provincial or commodity-specific labour market information.

Funded in part by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program, the Council is collaborating with federal and provincial government departments, leading agriculture organizations and agricultural colleges and training providers to ensure that the needs of this industry research are fully understood and addressed.
Published in Research
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
On the heels of Alberta's boycott of B.C. wines, the B.C. government is ramping up its support for the industry by proclaiming April as B.C. Wine Month, including a special month-long promotion at all public liquor stores.

"We are grateful for the loyalty and support we have received from the consumers across B.C. and Canada in response to Alberta's announcement to boycott B.C. wine," said Miles Prodan, president and CEO of the BC Wine Institute. "We appreciate the province's quick response in support of B.C.'s wineries, and we remain resolute in our mission to secure sales opportunities here in B.C. for the many B.C. grape wineries across the province, most of which are small, family-owned-and-operated businesses, and will continue to promote our local world-class products at home and abroad."

Along with the proclamation of B.C. Wine Month in April, other government initiatives in support of B.C.'s wine industry include:
  • Increased opportunities to have B.C. wines in local BC Liquor Stores, including local wines from small and medium producers that are not typically available outside of the wineries.
  • Promotion throughout the month with storefront displays.
  • A greater variety of in-store tastings of B.C. wines.
  • Funding for an expansion of the Buy BC: Eat Drink Local campaign, to further develop partnerships between the BC Wine Institute and the British Columbia Restaurant and Food Services Association.
  • Funding to support the marketing of BC VQA wines to new international markets.
While the Province has worked to develop this support, the Ministry of Agriculture has been involved in ongoing engagement with wine producers throughout the province.
Published in Provinces
Join us Tue, Apr 24, 2018 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM EDT for an interactive webinar on Climate Change - Impact on Fruit and Vegetable Crops.
Published in Webinars
March 5, 2018, Ithaca, NY – Stressed-out yeast is a big problem, at least for winemakers.

The single-celled organism responsible for turning sugars into alcohol experiences stress, which changes its performance during fermentation. For vintners, stressed yeast introduces difficult production dilemmas that can change the efficiency and even flavour during winemaking.

Patrick Gibney, assistant professor in the department of food science at Cornell University, is on a mission to help New York state wineries. Gibney is working out how metabolic pathways within a yeast cell determine those changes, with implications for how wine is produced.

“Yeast has many significant, perhaps underappreciated, impacts on the public,” said Gibney. “It is critical for producing beer, wine and cider. Yeast is also a common food ingredient additive and is used to produce vaccines and other compounds in the biotech industry. This tiny organism has an enormous impact on human life.”

Yeast has a long history as a model to understand the inner workings of eukaryote cell biology. Gibney, who has been researching yeast for the last 15 years, is interested in factors that affect whether cells become more resistant to stress.

“In other industries, product uniformity is prized, but for winemakers, the year-to-year variations are often more valuable,” Gibney said. “There are dozens of fungi and bacteria that could all make the process go very wrong – or they might add combinations of flavors or odors that are really good. It’s very complex.”

Gibney is collaborating with E&J Gallo Winery scientists and research teams as he applies his expertise in yeast biology to improve production across the wine industry.

In the summer of 2017, the company invited Gibney to meet people involved with wine production from different perspectives: microbiology, quality control, systems biology, and chemistry. Those conversations are already reaping benefits, as Gibney has outlined several major projects for which he and Gallo scientists are crafting research plans.

One project would tackle sluggish fermentations. “Sometimes you’re fermenting and it slows or stops completely. It’s often a microbiology problem,” Gibney said. He plans to gather samples from New York state wineries that have had this issue and inspect them at their most basic levels.

For Gibney, the research is an opportunity to benefit the wine industry in New York and beyond.

“It’s exciting to contribute to the scientific research already coming from CALS and help make advances that will help winemakers innovate with their products,” he said.
Published in Research
March 5, 2018, Adelaide, Australia – University of Adelaide researchers have discovered how grapes “breathe”, and that shortage of oxygen leads to cell death in the grape.

The discovery raises many questions about the potentially significant impacts on grape and wine quality and flavour and vine management, and may lead to new ways of selecting varieties for warming climates.

“In 2008 we discovered the phenomenon of cell death in grapes, which can be implicated where there are problems with ripening. We’ve since been trying to establish what causes cell death,” says Professor Steve Tyerman, chair of viticulture at the University of Adelaide’s Waite campus.

“Although there were hints that oxygen was involved, until now we’ve not known of the role of oxygen and how it enters the berry.”

Professor Tyerman and PhD student Zeyu Xiao from the university’s Australian Research Council (ARC) Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production have identified that during ripening, grapes suffer internal oxygen shortage.

The research was in collaboration with Dr Victor Sadras, South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), and Dr Suzy Rogiers, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Wagga Wagga. Published in the Journal of Experimental Botany, the researchers describe how grape berries suffer internal oxygen shortage during ripening. With the use of a miniature oxygen measuring probe – the first time this has been done in grapes – they compared oxygen profiles across the flesh inside grapes of Chardonnay, Shiraz and Ruby Seedless table grape.

They found that the level of oxygen shortage closely correlated with cell death within the grapes. Respiration measurements indicated that this would be made worse by high temperatures during ripening – expected to happen more frequently with global warming.

"By manipulating oxygen supply we discovered that small pores on the surface of the berry stem were vital for oxygen supply, and if they were blocked this caused increased cell death within the berry of Chardonnay, essentially suffocating the berry. We also used micro X-ray computed tomography (CT) to show that air canals connect the inside of the berry with the small pores on the berry stem,” says Mr Xiao.

"Shiraz has a much smaller area of these oxygen pores on the berry stem which probably accounts for its greater sensitivity to temperature and higher degree of cell death within the berry.” 

Professor Vladimir Jiranek, director of the University of Adelaide’s ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production, says: “This breakthrough on how grapes breathe will provide the basis for further research into berry quality and cultivar selection for adapting viticulture to a warming climate.”

The study was supported by the Australian Industrial Transformation Research Program with support from Wine Australia and industry partners.
Published in Research
February 20, 2018, Kelowna, BC – It’s not something politicians like to talk about but Okanagan fruit growers say it’s something that needs to be addressed.

The B.C. Fruit Growers Association says it’s time governments begin talking about the possibility of a deer cull because the deer are destroying their orchards. READ MORE
Published in Associations
February 20, 2018, Victoria, BC – Apple, cherry and other tree fruit growers throughout the province will be able to update aging equipment and infrastructure while increasing their marketing and research efforts thanks to a new $5-million Tree Fruit Competitiveness Fund announced recently at the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association annual general meeting.

The fund will be open to tree fruit growers, producers, and processors to support three key areas of priority:
  • Research: cultivar, disease and pest research.
  • Marketing: export market opportunities and market development research.
  • Infrastructure: sector-based infrastructure modernization such as new equipment.
“This funding is so important to the future of our industry,” said Fred Steele, outgoing president of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association. “We need help controlling new invasive pests like the brown marmorated stinkbug, and marketing is an area where we need to invest in new varieties.”

“This funding will also help with our very successful replant program. This investment, at a time when we are challenged in the marketplace, will ensure that we continue to make progress that leads to a bright future for the tree fruit sector.”

Portions of the fund can also be used to address any oversubscription of the B.C. government’s Tree Fruit Replant Program over the next four years. This year, the province provided an additional $300,000 in funding for the replant program, to meet the demand from tree fruit growers.

“This fund will help family-run orchards and the sector as a whole with advancements that make B.C. tree fruit more competitive in the marketplace,” said Agriculture Minister Lana Popham. “The $5-million investment reflects this government’s commitment to partner with B.C. growers to help modernize their practices, and help them share their great-tasting apples, cherries and other fruits, with more customers here at home and around the world.”

The B.C. government will be engaging with the B.C. Fruit Growers’ Association and other partners to set up the fund and establish the process for awarding funding. It is anticipated the fund will be active for the next three to four years.
Published in Provinces
February 1, 2018, Madison, WI – The Colorado potato beetle is notorious for its role in starting the pesticide industry – and for its ability to resist the insecticides developed to stop it.

Managing the beetle costs tens of millions of dollars every year, but this is a welcome alternative to the billions of dollars in damage it could cause if left unchecked.

To better understand this tenacious pest, a team of scientists led by University of Wisconsin–Madison entomologist Sean Schoville sequenced the beetle’s genome, probing its genes for clues to its surprising adaptability to new environments and insecticides. The new information sheds light on how this insect jumps to new plant hosts and handles toxins, and it will help researchers explore more ways to control the beetle.

Schoville and colleagues from 33 other institutes and universities report their findings in the Jan. 31, 2018 issue of Scientific Reports.

The Colorado potato beetle’s rapid spread, hardiness, and recognizable tiger-like stripes have caught global attention since it began infesting potatoes in the 1800s. The beetle was investigated as a potential agricultural weapon by Germany in the 1940s and its postwar spread into the Soviet bloc stoked an anti-American propaganda campaign to pin the invasion on outsiders. More benignly, it has been featured on many countries’ stamps and is used in classrooms to educate about insect lifecycles.

But it was the beetle’s ability to rapidly develop resistance to insecticides and to spread to climates previously thought inhospitable that has fascinated and frustrated entomologists for decades.

“All that effort of trying to develop new insecticides is just blown out of the water by a pest like this that can just very quickly overcome it,” says Schoville. “That poses a challenge for potato growers and for the agricultural entomologists trying to manage it. And it’s just fascinating from an evolutionary perspective.”

Within the beetle’s genome, Schoville’s team found a diverse and large array of genes used for digesting plant proteins, helping the beetle thrive on its hosts. The beetle also had an expanded number of genes for sensing bitter tastes, likely because of their preference for the bitter nightshade family of plants, of which potatoes are a member.

But when it came to the pest’s infamous ability to overcome insecticides, the researchers were surprised to find that the Colorado potato beetle’s genome looked much like those of its less-hardy cousins. The team did not find new resistance-related genes to explain the insect’s tenaciousness.

“So this is what's interesting – it wasn't by diversifying their genome, adding new genes, that would explain rapid pesticide evolution,” says Schoville. “So it leaves us with a whole bunch of new questions to pursue how that works.”

Schoville and his collaborators see their research as a resource for the diverse group of scientists studying how to control the beetle as well as its life history and evolution.

“What this genome will do is enable us to ask all sorts of new questions around insects, why they’re pests and how they’ve evolved,” says Yolanda Chen, a professor at the University of Vermont and another leader of the beetle genome effort. “And that’s why we’re excited about it.”

The genome did provide a clue to the beetle’s known sensitivity to an alternative control system, known as RNA interference, or RNAi for short. The nucleic acid RNA translates the genetic instructions from DNA into proteins, and RNAi uses gene-specific strands of RNA to interfere with and degrade those messages. In the beetle, RNAi can be used to gum up its cellular machinery and act as a kind of insecticide. The Colorado potato beetle has an expanded RNAi processing pathway, meaning it could be particularly amenable to experimental RNAi control methods.

Schoville and Chen are now sequencing another 100 genomes of the Colorado potato beetle and its close relatives to continue investigating the hardiness and adaptability that have captured so many people’s attention for the past 150 years.
Published in Insects
January 11, 2018 - The growing popularity of robotic weeders for vegetable crops has grown partly out of necessity, says Steven Fennimore, an extension specialist at the University of California, Davis.

The need for robotic weeders stems from two issues: a lack of herbicides available for use in specialty crops, and the fact that hand-weeding has become more and more expensive. Without pesticides, growers have had to hire people to hand-weed vast fields.

Hand-weeding is slow and increasingly expensive: it can cost between $150 and $300 per acre. That motivates some growers to look to robotic weeders.

“I’ve been working with robotic weeders for about 10 years now, and the technology is really just starting to come into commercial use,” Fennimore says. “It’s really an economic incentive to consider them.”

Fennimore works with university scientists and companies to engineer and test the weeders. The weeders utilize tiny blades that pop in and out to uproot weeds without damaging crops. He says that although the technology isn’t perfect, it’s getting better and better.

The weeders are programmed to recognize a pattern and can tell the difference between a plant and the soil. However, they currently have trouble telling the difference between a weed and a crop.

That said, Fennimore explains how some companies are training the machines to tell a lettuce plant from a weed. He’s also working with university engineers on a system to tag the crop plant so the weeders will avoid it.

“The problem with the machines right now is that they are version 1.0, and there’s tremendous room for improvement,” he says. “The inability to be able to tell the difference between a weed and a crop requires the grower to be very exact when using them. The rows have to be a little straighter, cleaner, and more consistent because the machines aren’t that sophisticated yet. The robots don’t like surprises.”

The robotic weeders currently on the market cost anywhere between $120,000 and $175,000. For some growers, it is a better long-term option than expensive hand-weeding. Others think it’s a lot of money for a new technology, and are waiting for it to get better and cheaper.

Fennimore believes robotic weeders are the future of weeding in specialty crops. Because of higher labour costs and more incentives to grow organically with fewer pesticides, European growers have been using robotic weeders for some time.

Fennimore is focusing his work on physical control of weeds because it offers the best option. He’s also started working in crops besides lettuce, such as tomatoes and onions. He adds that each crop will require a different system.

“I believe what makes the robotic weeders better than herbicides is that this electronic-based technology is very flexible and can be updated easily,” he says. “We all update our phones and computers constantly, which is a sign of a robust and flexible technology.”

Fennimore recently presented his research at the annual meeting of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America in Tampa, FL.

 

Published in Spraying
Delta, BC, November 20, 2017 – Farmers know the importance of keeping the land, water and air healthy to sustain their farms from one generation to the next. They also know that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand.

The federal government recently announced a $1.8 million investment with the University of British Columbia to determine carbon sequestration and GHG emissions, and develop beneficial management practices (BMPs) for increasing the efficiency of fertilizer use in blueberry, potato and forage crops.

“This project will provide new science-based knowledge on net GHG emissions by accurately measuring GHG emissions and developing mitigation technologies for blueberry, potato and forage crops in the Lower Fraser Valley,” said Dr. Rickey Yada, dean of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems at UBC. “The research team will use state-of-the-art instrumentation and automated measurement techniques to quantify annual GHG emissions. While the specific research objectives are targeted to fill regionally identified gaps in knowledge, they will be applicable more broadly to similar agricultural production systems across Canada and Global Research Alliance member countries.”

This project with the University of British Columbia is one of 20 new research projects supported by the $27 million Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP), a partnership with universities and conservation groups across Canada. The program supports research into greenhouse gas mitigation practices and technologies that can be adopted on the farm.
Published in Research
September 20, 2017, Calgary, Alta – New research released recently by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI) shows that an increasing number of Canadians feel the food system is headed in the right direction.

According to the study, which examined consumer concerns and expectations surrounding food transparency and the overall food system, showed an increase in the number of Canadians who believe the food system is headed in the right direction from 30 per cent in 2016 to 43 per cent this year.

While consumer confidence is increasing, an equal number of Canadians (43 per cent) say they aren’t sure if the food system is on the right track, down from 50 per cent in 2016. These findings are significantly different than the American consumers’ findings from 2016, which showed more definitive opinions with 55 per cent choosing right direction and only 23 per cent saying they were unsure.

The 2017 CCFI Public Trust Research occurred in-the-field in June, asking 1307 Canadians about top life concerns, specifically their level of concern, trust and transparency expectations related to food and how it’s grown. Those polled clearly identified food companies to be the most responsible for providing information about food and how it’s grown. Other food system partners including farmers, government, restaurants and grocery stores also ranked highly as being responsible for transparency.

“Canadians are looking for credible information to make informed decisions about their food,” stated Crystal Mackay, president of CCFI. “This research reinforces that everyone in the Canadian food system, from the farm through to grocery stores and restaurants, should engage in conversations about food.”

Those polled are personally concerned and want more information about specific topics, including food safety, environment and farm animal treatment. Consumers are looking for information on food company websites such as third party audits, track record, practices and policies that demonstrate their values. When studying these elements of transparency, accuracy rose to the top as the most important attribute to Canadians.

Many Canadians are unsure about their food or how it’s grown, but want to learn more. Canadians ranked the rising cost of food and keeping healthy food affordable as their top two life concerns above rising energy costs, healthcare and the economy for the second year in a row.

These findings and other insights are key areas for discussion when leaders from across the entire Canadian food system meet at the CCFI Public Trust Summit in Calgary.

Find out more by reading the full 2017 CCFI Public Trust Research report on www.foodintegrity.ca.
Published in Associations
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 9, 2017, Charlottetown, PEI – Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay recently opened the first regional engagement in Charlottetown, PEI, as part of the ongoing consultations regarding the development A Food Policy for Canada.

“Today’s session marks the continuation of the important, in-depth conversation we are having about A Food Policy for Canada,” he said. “The decisions we make as a government, and as individuals, about food have a major impact on not only our health and well-being, but on our environment, our communities, and our economy. Conversations like the one we are having today are vital to ensuring the food choices we make are the right ones, while ensuring we meet the growing world demand for high quality foods produced by our farmers and ranchers.”

The session, which includes stakeholders, Indigenous representatives, experts, and key policy makers, is the first in a series being held across the country over the next two months.

Public consultations on A Food Policy for Canada were launched on May 29, 2017, via an online survey. Due to a strong response from across the country, the comment period for the online survey was recently extended to August 31, 2017. A Food Policy Summit also took place in June that brought together more than 250 participants with diverse expertise and experience to discuss a broad range of food-related issues, related to:
  • increasing access to affordable food;
  • improving health and food safety;
  • conserving our soil, water, and air; and
  • growing more high-quality food.
Published in Federal
August 2, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. - Domestic subsidies in many countries encourage production increases that result in considerable surpluses and lower prices on global markets, according to a new study released today by the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute (CAPI).

The study also found these production increases fuel highly unsustainable production practices and the misallocation of natural resources.

The comprehensive study, Understanding Agricultural Support, was prepared by Al Mussell, Douglas Hedley, Kamal Karunagoda, and Brenda Dyack of Agri-Food Economic Systems, with support from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The report seeks a better understanding of the impacts of domestic income support programs in key markets and competitors on the competitiveness of Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector.
Published in Research
August 2, 2018, Guelph Ont. – Reducing food waste is not just the right thing to do; it’s also a way to improve business efficiency and profitability.

That’s the outcome of a food waste reduction project spearheaded by the Ontario Produce Marketing Association (OPMA) with funding provided by Growing Forward 2.

OPMA teamed up with Value Chain Management International (VCMI) to develop a workbook, prepare several case studies, and roll out a series of workshops to help OPMA members wrap their heads around how they can reduce waste in their businesses while making more money in the process.

“This is to identify opportunities for improvement in the value chain; if you improve process, you automatically reduce waste in areas like labour, energy, product, packaging and transportation,” project lead Martin Gooch told participants in the Agricultural Adaptation Council’s summer tour on June 14. “This will position the Ontario produce industry as a leader in reducing food waste, but it’s also a business opportunity for the entire value chain.”

The first Ontario industry case study was recently released, with three more nearing completion. The case study with a progressive Ontario potato supplier, EarthFresh Foods, clearly shows the business opportunity in addressing food waste: a 29 per cent increase in grade-out of potatoes results in a 74 per cent increase in producer margin.

Most of the produce loss can be directly attributed to production practices, storage and handling, but addressing the problem requires a slight shift in thinking for farmers.

“Farmers often look at what their production per acre is, but don’t connect that with how much is actually being marketed and that’s where they are paid,” he said. “If you can prevent that 29 per cent loss of product, that’s an overall $17,000 increase in return on a single trailer load of potatoes. Businesses also benefit from incurring lower costs.”

To date, close to 100 people have participated in the waste reduction workshops developed by VCMI. The accompanying workbook uses a whole value chain perspective, and was designed to be an easy to use tool for businesses small and large with 10 easy steps to follow.

“You don’t need to have a PhD in math or be a statistical genius to improve your business,” Gooch said. “It’s about identifying where the opportunities are, what the causes are, and how do we address those causes in a constructive way.”

Overall, participants come away from the workshop with solutions they can use to improve performance in their businesses and no longer simply accept waste and “shrink” as part of doing business. Media interest in the initiative has been strong with global coverage, and other sectors, like meat processing, are making inquiries about applicability of the program to their industries.

More information is available at www.theopma.ca.

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 Research

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 28, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. - To support economic opportunities and to protect human health and the environment, Canada's federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) ministers of agriculture endorsed the Plant and Animal Health Strategy for Canada at their annual meeting. The strategy is a shared vision between partners across governments, industry, academia and others, and charts a path forward for collectively addressing evolving risks to plant and animal health.

Agriculture is an important driver in today's economy and has been identified as one of Canada's key growth sectors. Implementation of the Plant and Animal Health Strategy for Canada is essential to economic growth, and for the health of all of our citizens and the environment.

Effective action depends on the combined and co-ordinated work of numerous partners. By taking a collaborative approach, the partners will be even more successful at protecting plant and animal resources from new and emerging risks. The action-oriented strategy outlines how all parties will work together to protect these resources, unleashing the potential for growth in Canada's agriculture sector.

"Agriculture is a key growth sector for Canada's economy. By working in collaboration with partners we have been able to create a strategy that will improve how we work together to advance the protection of plant and animal health, reduce risk to Canadians and improve our economic opportunities," said the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
Published in Federal
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