The provincial government will fund projects to help greenhouse groups improve biosecurity, environmental stewardship, production, and market development
By Jackie Clark
The provincial government announced an investment of $4.5 million in the Greenhouse Competitiveness and Innovation Initiative (GCII) earlier this month.
The Agricultural Adaptation Council will administer GCII, which will focus on three project categories: biosecurity, the environment, and production and market development.
“We are really grateful for the support and the confidence this (funding announcement) indicates that OMAFRA has in us, and that we can partner with them,” Jan VanderHout, director of the Ontario Greenhouse Alliance, told Farms.com.
Of course, since the March 13 announcement, strategies to strengthen agri-food systems through the COVID-19 pandemic have become top priority.
“The intention is still to be (working on GCII projects), but our focus has been significantly distracted by our response to COVID-19, particularly on the labour front,” VanderHout explained.
Once the industry can return to normal functioning, groups can apply to fund a project under one of the categories.
“Only groups of growers or associations of growers can apply for funding. Growers can’t apply individually; (the project) has to be for the benefit of the sector,” VanderHout said.
An example of an initiative that could help greenhouse vegetable growers more generally is developing markets in countries like India, he said.
He pointed to shifts in the economic climate, even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that “the development of the Chinese market has become more difficult because of the strained political (relations). So, the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers would like to begin looking at other possibilities for foreign markets.”
Other potential projects include developing improved cultural methods or breeding practices for pathogen resistance, investigating possibilities for automation, and “developing technology that can help us with the more efficient application of water and nutrients,” VanderHout explained.
Under the GCII guidelines, all projects must have a plan for knowledge transfer. Project leads must share the technical information or lessons learned with the broader greenhouse sector.
Currently, the industry is focused on developing solutions to problems posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Greenhouse sector representatives look forward to a time when they can address more long-term innovation planning through the GCII.
Tom Merton\OJO Images photo