The diverse range of projects the Agricultural Adaptation Council (AAC) funds was the focus of the organization’s summer reception and dinner held June 14 in Mississauga.
To date, Ontario organizations and collaborations have completed 195 projects through Growing Forward 2 (GF2), and funding for 385 projects totaling $33.3 million has been approved by the AAC board over the past four years.
The program was launched in 2013 and demand remained strong until the final application deadline this past April. GF2 officially ends March 31, 2018.
“The AAC is a strategic enabler. Projects funded have played a significant role in raising the standard and profile of Ontario's agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector,” said AAC Chair Kelly Duffy in her remarks to the audience. “I know that if we continue to invest in the sector, we will produce long-lasting benefits that will impact future generations.”
Ontario Agri-Food Technologies is currently leading a project on open agri-food data collaboration, Ontario Precision Agri-Food (OPAF).
It’s assessing where Ontario and Canada are with precision agriculture and what needs to be done to manage and enable data for future global market access and sustainability. OPAF is collaborating with an initiative called FIWare Mundus that is creating a global Future Internet (FI) ecosystem to enable easy, fast data sharing.
“We’re on the cusp of an evolution; data is at its centre and it’s the new commodity in agriculture,” said OAFT president Tyler Whale. “OPAF is a facilitator that creates trusted relationships amongst value chain partners to integrate new and existing data resources.”
The Ontario Produce Marketing Association is tackling the issue of food waste through a GF2 funded project, and according to lead researcher Martin Gooch of Value Chain Management International, there is a compelling business case for addressing the problem.
“People outside of the industry are often staggered by the amount of waste in food. This is the first project of its kind in North America,” said Gooch.
The OPMA program includes a series of workshops and a handbook with 10 easy to follow steps for identifying where waste happens in farm, processing or retail processes. According to Gooch, a soon to be released case study clearly shows the opportunity of addressing food waste: a 29 per cent increase in grade-out of potatoes resulted in a 74 per cent increase in producer margin.
“A big thank you to AAC for providing the funding; it’s great working with an organization that encompasses the entire chain,” Gooch added.
Harry Pelissero of Egg Farmers of Ontario spoke briefly about one of EFO’s latest projects involving gender detection in unhatched eggs.
The non-invasive scanning technology developed at McGill University can identify the gender of day-old eggs before they are incubated. This means female eggs can be incubated for hatching and infertile or male eggs can enter the table or processing egg streams, eliminating the need to hatch male eggs.
“AAC gave us the support to take this from the lab to pre-prototype and then prototype stage,” explained Pelissero. “The investment that AAC has put into this provides an economical solution to a challenge in the industry; this is an outcome that will literally go around the world.”
Duffy also used the opportunity to highlight overall GF2 program successes. Funding through this federal-provincial-territorial initiative has resulted in innovative research results, increased knowledge and awareness, access to new markets, and supported the overall competitiveness of the sector.
In addition to delivery of GF2 and other programs, AAC also supports two federally funded research clusters led by the Canadian Food Innovators and the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance.
“At the AAC, we’ve been experts at delivering funding programs and administration services for both levels of government and industry organizations for the past 21 years,” Duffy said and added that she is optimistic about the organization’s future. “The opportunities for innovation are greater than ever and I believe AAC can play a great role in helping the industry move forward.”