June 15, 2012
The Government of Canada announced $2.5 million will be coming to Vineland Research and Innovation Centre to support the development of innovative horticultural technologies.

The announcement took place Apr. 27 at the Centre. Rob Nicholson, MP for Niagara Falls, and Dean Allison, MP for Niagara West-Glanbrook, represented the Minister of State for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), Gary Goodyear.  

Vineland plans to develop and commercialize two horticultural innovations that include a robotic automation system for use in greenhouses and nurseries, and a frost protection system for use in vineyards, orchards and fields.

“This investment will help Canada’s horticulture industry become more competitive, and open new markets to businesses participating in this project,” said Nicholson. The funding is provided through FedDev Ontario’s Prosperity Initiative.

Technicians from Hamilton’s Harvest Robotics demonstrated the prototype robots, using blue plastic models of tulip bulbs. One robot picked up a bulb and passed it smoothly to another, which planted it in a foam-filled tray. The robots use a single camera to identify the bulbs. John Renfrew of Hamilton Harvest Robotics noted that the robots in the demonstration were just a test bed for what is to come. Actual agricultural robots will
need to be smaller, more robust, and independent.

Raytheon’s Tempwave prevents frost damage by using radio waves to maintain specific temperatures in crops and plants without heating the surrounding area. The system has been tested since 2010 at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre. Towers broadcast microwave rays tuned to water molecules, heating plants just enough to keep them from freezing Everyone echoed that the industry must remain competitive. They felt that automation is an important component to stay in the market. Nicholson highlighted the problems associated with cold weather, pointing to past examples where spring frosts caused damage to crops.