September 30, 2022
Ontario Horticultural Trades Foundation collaborates with Vineland on innovation team aiming to expand berry production in Canada
​Ontario Horticultural Trades Foundation will be collaborating with Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, OMAFRA, Fenwick Berry Farm as well as other industry partners to explore long-cane raspberry production under protected environments in Canada.

The project will develop a high yielding, energy efficient, fully integrated and scaled long-cane raspberry production system for Canada’s climate. The protected environment system will be capable of producing raspberry crops at farm-scale outside of the normal growing season for long-cane raspberries.

Additional outcomes of the project include: providing flexibility to stagger the planting time and manage labour demands ultimately achieving year-round production. Protected structures will also create a more sustainable environment, alleviate the environmental stress factors related to climate change while generating renewable energy.

A proof-of-concept research production system will be installed to evaluate and develop technologies improving resource use efficiency and optimizing the system performance. Market size and acceptance, various variety performance, growing substrates, fertigation regimes, integrated pest management strategies, solar panel and automation technology integration will be evaluated. Growers will have options to fully adopt the system with new construction or partially adopt for retrofitting existing facilities. The system also has the potential to be adapted for other crops with modifications and/or additions.

Ontario Horticultural Trades Foundation is proud to lead one of 15 teams granted a Spark Award, the initial award phase of the Homegrown Innovation Challenge. The challenge aims to discover innovative tools and technology solutions to enable Canadian growers to cultivate a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

Qinglu Ying, PhD, Vineland’s Research Scientist, Plant Production was one of the successful grant recipients leading Vineland’s participation in the project application.

“We’re thrilled about the announcement. Participation in the challenge is limited, so we’re excited to be part of an exclusive group who can significantly contribute to research focused on food resiliency and sustainability," says Ying. "Vineland is well-positioned to take on this project, being a leader in applied research in Canadian horticulture. We also have a strong legacy of working closely with growers, not only in Niagara but across the country.”
The Homegrown Innovation Challenge, funded by the Weston Family Foundation, aims at increasing the sustainability and competitiveness of the out-of-season berry industry in Canada. 

The $50,000 seed funding will support the first of three phases of the challenge.

Results are expected by December this year, at which time the team will apply to the Shepherd phase. If successful, there is a potential to advance the project with further research and funding of up to $1 million to develop proof-of-concept of the system within a time period of up to 18 months. Innovation teams advancing through each phase of the Challenge have the potential to receive in total up to $8 million dollars.