Regional Innovations Awarded In Harrow
The following are Regional Award winners of the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence:
Buis Beef - Chatham
Farm fresh takes on a whole new dimension at this beef farm. Ultrasound technology is helping Mike and Joanne Buis determine the best marketing dates for their on-farm beef retail business. The system allows a "best before" date to be assigned to each animal at birth, and this knowledge is helping the producers increase control of their product at all times. Cuts of beef are also individually stamped, so that each piece can be traced back to the animal it came from. The system has enabled the farm to reduce overall feeding costs and inefficiencies and boost retail sales and customer satisfaction.
Kejay Investments Inc. (Kevin and Jason Stallaert Farms) - Chatham
Over-wintering carrots for spring harvest extends the market for this crop - a practice already taking place in the United Kingdom. This knowledge led some Ontario growers, with 10 years experience growing carrots, to research and adopt existing techniques for their own operation. They blanketed a 25 acre test plot of mature carrot tops with black plastic mulch and large square bales of straw, creating a natural, in-ground cooler for the carrots. The result yielded more than 30 tonnes of beautiful carrots with fantastic appearance and flavour. The buyers were so pleased with the end product that they asked for 100 acres of over-wintered carrots. This field storage technique is helping to bring domestically grown carrots to the marketplace 52 weeks of the year.
Maizex Seeds Inc. - Tilbury
This innovative seed company "gets it." They recognize that one of the biggest challenges in new product development is generating the large volume of field testing data needed to move a product forward to commercialization. The company's Genetic Environment Tape Trial or "GETT" system is helping to speed that process up. This innovative system enables an operator to plant up to 12 different seed varieties in as little as 15 minutes and helps to replace or augment conventional, small plot research trials. Over the past five years, more than 300 GETT trials have been planted on farms across Ontario and Quebec and the system is attracting interest from major international agricultural companies. It's an innovation that will give producers the best yielding genetics and varieties at unprecedented timelines.
Cedar Beach Acres - Kingsville
Rob Mastronardi and Amy Butcher have filled this 16-acre greenhouse operation with cocktail tomatoes, Roma and Beefsteak tomatoes, eggplants, red, yellow and orange peppers, and mini-cucumbers, all marketed under the "Pure Flavor" brand. They farm with pinpoint precision as a result of a traceability system that tells not only where each vegetable came from, but who picked it, what the yield was from the row it was picked, and what inputs were used to grow it. This allows the operation to trace the produce through the process, have better control inventory, and reduce costs. The computerized system was adapted as a result of OMAFRA's 2007-08 Traceability Project, and has given Cedar Beach Acres a strong competitive edge in the marketplace.
Essex Nurseries Ltd. - Harrow
Trimming new growth from the main stalk of fruit trees ("suckering") can be hard, labour intensive work. Dale Kimball, of Essex Nurseries, found a way to improve the efficiency of this necessary job, and make it less onerous for the workers. Kimball created a machine that attached five toboggans to a small tractor. The workers sit on the toboggans, which slide along, to sucker the plants. The hydraulic controls of the tractor have been modified so that one of the workers on a toboggan can control the tractor driving at very low speeds. With this innovation, the workers at Essex Nurseries are more efficient and able to sucker 40 rows of trees in the time it used to take to complete 12.
Great Northern Hydroponics - Kingsville
Great Northern Hydroponics in Kingsville has installed a natural gas-fired heat and power generator. It is efficient, cost saving and environmentally responsible - and it generates enough energy to sell 12 megawatts into the grid. In addition to electricity production, hot water and carbon dioxide from the co-generation facility is used by the company for heating and fertilizing crops in its 50 acre hydroponics greenhouse.
Leamington Area Drip Irrigation Inc. - Leamington
Ontario tomatoes are getting pumped over this innovation. The Leamington Area Drip Irrigation is a group of 13 farmers who wanted to improve water efficiency for their operations. They spent years consulting with agencies and specialists across Canada, using that expertise to design and construct a new communal irrigation system that increases the reliability of supply and quality of water to local producers. The 36 kilometre pipeline, pump house and filter system can precisely monitor the amount of water being delivered from Lake Erie to 2,500 acres of tomatoes in the Leamington area. Participating growers have seen a reduction in energy and input costs and an increase in the quality and yield of their crops. The fixed structure eliminates the need for much of the annual set-up associated with traditional drip irrigation and has reduced water costs in the growing season by 66 per cent.
The Leamington Area Drip Irrigation Inc. group is also the recipient of the top Premier's Award of $100,000 under the Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence program.
Viewpointe Estate Winery - Harrow
After 10 years of research, H.P. Pfeifer and John Fancsy, of Viewpointe Estate Winery, developed an improved, high-quality wine grape cultivar that is adapted for local conditions, and is now available for commercial plantings. The cultivar requires less labour to prune and train the vines, and has less need for pesticides due to disease resistance. Its demonstrated winter hardiness makes it ideal for Ontario, and the first wines produced from the grapes have received positive reviews at tasting events.
About the Awards Program
Awards - The five-year, $2.5-million Premier's Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence program is now in its fourth year. There can be up to 55 regional award winners chosen annually, with a cash prize of $5,000 each. From these winners, a Minister's Award of up to $50,000 and a Premier's Award of up to $100,000 are selected.
Who is eligible? - A farmer, primary producer, groups of farmers, combination of agri-food businesses, or an agri-food related organization are all eligible for recognition under this initiative. A farmer must be one of the applicants of any group. This program is not intended for the research community as there are other government recognition programs available to this sector. Applicants/nominees must reside in Ontario and be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada. Ontario Public Service staff and immediate family are not eligible to apply for this program.
Types of eligible innovations - Examples of innovations for this program include (but are not limited to) improved farm practices, responding to consumer demands, environmental stewardship, health and safety on the farm, energy innovations, education and marketing of agriculture to society, local food, and traceability initiatives.