December 15, 2020
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Vineland Research and Innovation Centre (Vineland) released The 2020-2021 Innovation Report, containing updates on several multi-year projects designed to bring innovation and benefits to the agricultural, floriculture and horticulture industries.

Tania Humphrey, Vice President, Research and Development, writes in the report that after 12 years of operations, Vineland also went through the process of updating its innovation strategy to determine where the organization should focus in the future. Vineland will "narrow its innovation focus to just three key areas in its new strategy: plant products, automation and environment," Humphrey wrote.

Vineland has been working closely with Ontario greenhouse growers to produce tomato-on-the-vine seed that will help Canadian producers stay competitive in a tough global market, currently dominated by three Dutch varieties. The seeds are now available on the market and Travis Banks, Director, Plant Variety Development, and his team have now shifted toward improving the flavour and disease resistance of the first three selections.

Vineland's Research Scientist of Biological Control, Rose Buitenhuis, is working closely with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) and the University of Guelph to tackle pest problems affecting the floriculture industry, including how to minimize the damage to a wide range of ornamental plants due to thrips.

Vineland has been looking into automation for the agriculture and horticulture sector for a number of years as a way to address labour shortages and reduce costs. Labour accounts for 40-60 per cent of production costs for growers. The labour shortage was even more prevalent in 2020 due to restricted access to foreign workers due to Covid-19.

Vineland's Director of Automation, Hussam Haroun, writes, "With automation, we can solve the labour shortage problem, while also bringing a new generation of workers into the industry by being able to offer people challenging jobs as engineers, technicians and system operators."

The project has been using robotics in fruit and vegetable production, specifically in mushroom and cucumber harvesting, which requires a new decision-making process driven by artificial intelligence.

Greening the urban landscape to create a healthier environment for all Canadians has been a long-time project of Vineland's Senior Research Scientist, Darby McGrath. The project aims to drastically improve the survival rate of urban tree plantings in order to better combat climate change and provide a healthier landscape for all.

With the average lifespan of a major roadside tree being only five to 10 years, the project also has significant economic benefits to municipalities and growers via the additional costs to replace failed trees.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced many city planners and residents to realize just how valuable our urban greenspaces are, and Landscape Ontario has been a strong partner of the project.

Located in the Niagara Region, Vineland is an independent, not-for-profit organization, funded in part by the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. Vineland researchers work together to deliver innovative products and production solutions that address the needs of the horticulture industry and advance Canada’s research and commercialization agenda.

The 24-page report is available below in both English and French or via the Vineland website.