November 15, 2008
For over 100 years, the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre has contributed to the horticultural industry. Those behind the well-known institution are now working hard to ensure it has a successful second century. In 2006 it moved into a new era, when the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs began transforming Vineland into a world-class research and innovation centre.

Back in 1906, the Vineland Research Station was created through a gift from Moses F. Rittenhouse. This endowment is one of the reasons the Niagara Peninsula became one of the major producers of fruit, and in the last few years a Canadian centre in the wine and greenhouse industries.

Now under the leadership of chief executive officer Dr. Jim Brandle, and a board of directors chaired by Donald Ziraldo, Vineland is seeing a major renewal and plans to restore some of the 35 buildings (165,000 square feet) on its 218-acre property. The centre is located in the town of Lincoln, and the property touches the shores of Lake Ontario. The site has a unique micro-climate and represents the “urban-rural” environment protected by Ontario greenbelt legislation.

Brandle says the objective is to make Vineland a world-class research institution and international hub for horticulture and floriculture research, innovation and commercial activity. The process involves a whole value chain including business, science, academia, industry and government.

“The partnerships are the key to our success,” says Brandle. “Vineland could become the centre of interaction for all segments among the players in the agriculture and horticulture industry.”
In order to create the strong partnerships, Vineland has outlined a list of goals:
  • Provide a unique and compelling environment where growers, grower organizations, their industries, scientists and the general public can comfortably gather to have discussions, share information and collaborate — both physically and virtually.
  • Demonstrate a clear, unbiased understanding of key issues pertaining to horticulture, agricultural sustainability, as well as related food and health issues.
  • Discuss farm issues for knowledgeable stakeholders and the public, and engage partners across all areas, including the media, tourism, academia, and retail, to carry key messages on pertinent issues, such as food security, health, the environment and trade.
  • Create opportunities.
  • Draw attention of potential partners in the horticultural, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries to growers and their value chain players, governments and the general public to the work at Vineland and the benefits of that work.
  • Ensure that growers and the general public can track the progress of research programs and activities.

Brandle expects the goals set for Vineland to be attained by 2012 to 2013. “Our success must be what generates dollars to sustain the operation. And that will be all about the people who work here,” says Brandle. A major part of the potential income will come through research dollars. Money will be generated by the success of that research. The CEO envisions a staff of 40 and 50 people working full time when Vineland is at full strength.

Two recent appointments should help enhance the scientific reputation of Vineland. Dr. Hannah Mathers of Ohio State University was named senior research fellow (see October Horticulture Review) and Dr. Daryl Somers is the new research chair, molecular breeding and biotechnology, for the centre. He was a senior research scientist of molecular genetics, bio-products and bioprocesses at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Cereal Research Centre in Winnipeg, Man.
Vineland’s mission is to provide:
  • A tender fruit, grape and floriculture industry where pesticides are no longer necessary to control insects and diseases
  • Innovative cold-hardy plants, as a result of Ontario research, both outdoors and under glass
  • Enhanced year-round capacity to supply locally grown products to satisfy Ontario’s consumers
  • An internationally recognized greenbelt focus and socio-economic research team
  • New links developed among better horticultural produce, better health, better use of resources and better living
  • An international hub for horticultural research, innovation and commercial activity
  • A destination for world-class horticultural and food/health related research scientists to innovate and transfer their knowledge to Ontario growers
  • Enhancements in culinary tourism
  • A new, exemplary model for federal and provincial agri-food research and innovation centres and networks featuring sustainable and green building best practices

With the talent, energy and a far-sighted plan in place, many feel that Vineland will achieve these goals.

Caption: Visitors to Vineland are greeted with a beautiful setting.