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CAN (ON): Growing smarter and for longer in the North

Can technology help alleviate labor and climate challenges facing Northern Ontario’s horticultural sector? That’s the question the Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance (NOFIA) set out to answer during a year-long research project in conjunction with the Vineland Research & Innovation Centre.

Horticulture is a niche area within Northern Ontario’s agriculture industry, largely because of the limitations presented by climate and labor, according to Daniel Bath, a research scientist in horticultural innovation at the St. Catharines-based research center.

“Generally, there’s not much horticulture happening relative to the rest of the agriculture activities because it’s cold here,” Bath said. “There are many reasons, of course, but that’s the big one.” Bath presented the findings of the NOFIA-Vineland research study during the two-day Northern Ontario Ag Conference hosted by NOFIA in Sudbury Feb. 15-16 at the Holiday Inn.

In operation as a research station since 1904, the work done at the Vineland Research & Innovation Centre is multi-faceted. Scientists there cultivate new plant varieties, create new ag technologies using robotics and artificial intelligence, perform market research for clients, develop new approaches to greenhouse growing, and search for alternatives to pesticides and pest control. In developing a “technology roadmap” for Northern Ontario growers, Bath said, researchers, surveyed both producers and consumers to glean insight into their growing and purchasing habits.


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