Our guest speaker, Lana Culley, Director Business Development at Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, spoke to us on “Innovation and the Future of Food and
Agriculture”. She began by pointing out a number of factors which shape our thinking and direction:
- population of 9 billion;
- productivity growth, more with less;
- technology changes needed;
- trust in food supply;
- demographic shift and new crops;
- government support and the shift from rural to urban.
She broke down the stages of agricultural innovation
- 1900-40 — Age of mechanization;
- 1940-70 — Age of chemistry – pesticides and fertilizers;
- 1960-2000 — Age of Abundance – the Green Revolution;
- 1990 + — Age of Biology.
Lana also provided a history of Vineland which began when it was gifted to the Province in 1906 by the Rittenhouse family for research to benefit local and Canadian growers. Downloaded on to the University of Guelph in the 1990’s but much of the facility was shut down as functions shifted to the main campus. Local grower pressure resulted in a re-birth in 2007 as the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, a not-for profit company focusing on horticultural science from seed producers to the retail/consumer sector, and adopting a hybrid model incorporating the best of the private and public sectors.
Programs include the following:
- The consumer comes first: involving the consumer in the new apple and pear research;
- Feeding diversity: $80 million per week of food is imported by various Ontario ethnic groups.
- Vineland is now introducing many of these vegetables so that imports can be reduced;
- Breeding vegetables – the more healthy sweet potato fries;
- Opening new markets, new plant varieties;
- Enhancing quality and production – a tastier tomato;
- The right tools – biological control systems;
- Putting technology to work – automation and reducing labour costs;
- Greening the Canadian landscape – ecological project to stop new highway trees from dying;
- The opening of a new greenhouse technology centre with a state of the art “commercial” facility.