TKS Rubber Bounces Back

Vital to all economies and infinitely useful, natural rubber boasts a backstory far more compelling than its pragmatic nature suggests. Discovered in the 1930s in Central Asia, Taraxacum kok-saghyz (TKS) became an important industrial rubber-producing plant, also known as “Russian dandelion.” When cost- effective rubber supplies from Southeast Asia were cut off by the Japanese invasion during World War II, Canadian production of TKS proved indispensable for meeting both medical and military needs during the critical embargo.

While TKS fell into disuse when Hevea rubber became available again after the war, an interest in reviving local production has resurfaced in recent years, fueled by rising rubber costs and latex allergies. One company in Surrey saw an unparalleled opportunity for British Columbia farmers.

After researching the growing conditions and market demand for natural rubber, Nova-BioRubber Green Technologies undertook a series of trials for producing and processing TKS at a commercial scale on several BC farms, in both greenhouses and raised beds.

“TKS offers the potential for a new summer and winter cash crop for BC farms, particularly those that are underutilized and unprofitable,” explains Nova-BioRubber founder Dr. Anvar Buranov, adding that thousands of new jobs in both primary production and processing are anticipated as a result.  

After completing a three-year project funded by the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program, Dr. Buranov and his team have successfully demonstrated that TKS can be grown annually in BC, with crop values of up to $16,000 per hectare!

“Agricultural practices can also be completely mechanized to decrease growing costs,” promises Dr. Buranov, estimating about $100 per acre.

With their new green processing facility, Nova-BioRubber can accommodate an annual production of 100 tons of rubber and 100 tons of inulin, the main TKS by-product that offers a valuable dietary fiber to the food processing and pharmaceutical industries.

And with the price of rubber continuously increasing over the past 20 years, many industries have displayed a heightened interest in alternative sources of natural rubber. While scientists have studied alternatives like Guayule, its product has never reached the market due to its low rubber content, difficult extraction process and three-year growth cycle.

TKS by contrast, offers a steady supply with reliably high rubber and inulin contents (24 and 40 percent respectively), and only takes four months to grow in BC’s climate. Thanks to the harvesting and processing technologies developed by Nova Bio-Rubber, the extraction process is green, simple and affordable.

“Compared to previous methods, our technology offers close to a 50 percent reduction in energy consumption, 80 percent reduction in labour, 90 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, 90 percent reduction in water consumption and 100 percent reduction in toxic chemical consumption,” reports Dr. Buranov, noting that processing time is also 600 percent faster and costs approximately $1 per kilogram of rubber, lower than any known technology.

A TKS production guide is now available to growers in the Lower Mainland and Northwest Coast, featuring climate-specific best practices.

With roughly three million hectares of marginal lands available in BC, Dr. Buranov is confident farmers can meet the growing demand for natural rubber without compromising local food production.

“This may even provide a new industry in rural areas of BC,” he adds hopefully.

Funding: $295,000 provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through Growing Forward 2, a former federal-provincial-territorial initiative. (INN239)

Digging Up The Dirt on Cranberry Field Decline

When it comes to climate, soil conditions and production systems, BC’s cranberry beds are unique compared to other growing regions. Unfortunately, this means that many of the challenges producers face are similarly distinct, sometimes posing unprecedented dilemmas that elude existing resources.

So, when several fields across BC were struck by “Cranberry Field Decline” (CFD), where patches of vines can no longer produce crops and eventually die, there were no tools available to identify at-risk fields, recommendations for prevention, or treatment options for affected fields suffering the devastating impacts on productivity.

And while it became clear that incidents of CFD were increasing, the cases still appeared random with no obvious reason or pattern to the outbreaks observed in different beds. 

“There are fields where one exhibits extreme CFD symptoms while adjacent fields show no indication of symptoms whatsoever,” says Jack Brown, chair of the BC Cranberry Marketing Commission. “There was no apparent cause, so we couldn’t formulate a solution.”

With funding from the governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Growing Forward 2 Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program, the Commission undertook a three-year project to find answers that would not only enable them to deal with CFD, but to also gain a deeper understanding of BC’s unique production system.

Researchers began by mapping the distribution of CFD over the past ten years in BC cranberry beds and conducting field trials on six local farms. After extensively analyzing the physiological plant and soil characteristics associated with the symptoms, they were able to identify one possible cause and develop diagnostic tools and potential management strategies to prevent, manage and treat CFD.

According to the findings, the root of the problem may have been the roots themselves.

“It appears the primary culprit behind the disorder may be poor root health or ‘low rooting capacity,’” Jack explains. “As a result, plants became deficient in water and nutrients which reduced photosynthesis and carbohydrate reserves, weakening their structural integrity and causing canopy collapse.”

Initial recommendations to growers include monitoring the cranberry canopy for balanced root and shoot development and implementing management practices like sanding and/or pruning to maintain a desirable canopy architecture and rooting capacity. Researchers also developed the “Pull-Test” which provides growers with a tool to detect reduced rooting capacity and assess mature fields for their risk levels of developing CFD.

The project team also found that utilizing aerial imagery may offer growers another diagnostic tool for early detection of CFD, prior to the symptoms visually manifesting in the field.

In addition to yielding information for managing this formerly mysterious disease, Jack credits the study for contributing to broader, long-term industry benefits.

 “This project represents one of the most comprehensive physiological assessments of cranberries in BC to date,” he asserts. “We now possess valuable information that will not only help address the challenges of CFD, but will also improve cranberry production practices in general.”

Funding: $28,451 provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through Growing Forward 2, a former federal-provincial-territorial initiative (INN235); and $7,790 through former federal adaptation funding.

A Natural Defense for Poultry Biosecurity

As the pressure to ease antibiotic use in animal agriculture rises within Canada, industry faces the considerable challenge of finding effective alternatives to protect animal health and food safety. Luckily for BC’s poultry industry, a new tool developed by Cedar Biotech promises to help treat and prevent a variety of diseases in both farms and processing facilities.

Derived from the Western red cedar, thuja plicata and possessing unique anti-microbial properties, Cedar Biotech diffuses Cedar Leaf Oil into vapour form to provide safe and environmentally-friendly building-wide treatment and decontamination.

With funding through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program, Cedar Biotech initiated a series of field tests to demonstrate that Cedar Leaf Oil Vapour (CLOV) can offer commercial poultry producers and processors with a cost-effective biosecurity tool.

According to Kelly Crosby, president and founder of Cedar Biotech, the project trials were successful in demonstrating that their patented CLOV diffuser significantly reduced both airborne and surface bacteria and viruses, including Salmonella and E. colicontamination.

“We’ve now validated the potential of CLOV to reduce chicken mortality rates, improve grower returns, help producers become antibiotic-free and decrease the use of harmful chemicals,” says Crosby, adding that the cost to install and operate the system is offset by the premium paid for antibiotic-free chicken.

During a six-week trial, Nutrichick Feed Consulting witnessed the CLOV difference firsthand, with the diffuser applied to its antibiotic-free chicken barn. By the end of the trial, the Abbotsford broiler farm achieved lower mortality and higher average weight than previous trials without CLOV.

“Lowering the birds’ exposure to pathogens is an essential part of growing healthy flocks,” explains Traci Wautier, nutritionist with Nutrichick. “CLOV provides us with an effective alternative to chemical cleaners that has proven to lower mortality and improve performance.”

And when it came to the processing sector, the results were similarly promising.

Crosby selected a local facility with readings of campylobacter detected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency four times over the four months prior to installing the CLOV system. Post-installation, no discernable levels were evident, and the diffuser continues to remain in operation.

“The vapour is able to get into areas which are difficult to clean in equipment as well as providing hourly control,” says Crosby. “This allows poultry processors to control bacteria and fungi which enhances both food safety and product shelf-life.”

The CLOV project has since become an area of considerable interest for the poultry industry, not only within Canada but for other countries anxious to control pathogens from farm to table. Cedar Biotech is currently working with Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to explore the potential of CLOV in controlling H1N1 in its poultry sector.

Funding: $146,000 provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through Growing Forward 2, a former federal-provincial-territorial initiative (INN319).

Richmond Enterprise Expands Gummy Empire

In its quest to make nutrition both fun and functional, Herbaland Naturals has evolved into Canada’s largest manufacturer of nutritional gummy products – but as any successful entrepreneur knows, staying on top requires continuous creativity, innovation and an ability to adapt to market trends.

With North American consumer demand of gummy supplements forecasted to continue, Herbaland co-founders Musharaf Syed and Aisha Yang needed a way to differentiate their product line against larger corporate competitors in the crowded nutraceutical industry.

“The US market in particular is highly competitive and demanding of innovations in the gummy product sector, including flexible and green packaging options,” explains Aisha. “We received numerous requests from large US companies for these capabilities and were convinced this was the way to expand.”

Luckily for the family business, the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program was there to help meet that demand. Cost-shared project funding allowed them to purchase and calibrate two pieces of equipment that would secure them a coveted advantage.

With their new dual texture gummy production machine, they can now combine two gummy formulas into a single piece, expand their product range, and use ingredients that are sensitive to air, light, crystallization or other factors without a protective coating.

The new equipment also enables them to design different active ingredients and colors for inside and outside layers, allowing them to offer an enhanced variety of nutritional characteristics tailored to specific client requests.

For Aisha, one of the many benefits the new technology affords is an enhanced relationship with their local network.

“Increasing our volume has increased our purchasing power, allowing us to be more discriminating of suppliers and able to more effectively liaise with local agri-suppliers,” she says, noting that they’re currently working with more than ten local producers as a result of the project.

North of 49 Naturals, for instance, supplies Herbaland with organic cranberry and blueberry powder sourced from farms in Richmond, Abbotsford, Delta and Langley. With the new machinery in place, North of 49 president, Andrew Small is excited to see a steady increase in purchasing from Herbaland.

“It’s great to see the support as we all know we need it to get our local products value-added into new markets!” he says.

And with the addition of a flexible green packaging machine, Herbaland has also emerged as a leader in corporate sustainability, offering one of the only form and seal solutions to fully comply with all commercially-available biodegradable film types.

With increased production, enhanced quality and reduced bottling costs, Herbaland expects these new features to generate at least $2.5 million in additional sales over the next five years and has already hired eight more full-time staff to meet the surge in demand.

“We’ve been receiving lots of positive feedback and orders from our local and overseas customers, including large American nutraceutical companies,” Aisha reports. “We have even embarked on several new projects with GNC Global, expected to generate over one million USD annually.”

And thanks to additional funding delivered by IAF for local and international marketing initiatives, Herbaland has also been able to increase domestic sales by over 400 percent and export revenues by 120 percent between 2016 and 2017.

While excited about the immediate increase in returns, Herbaland is focused on their longer-term vision, determined to become a global leader in the nutraceuticals industry.

“There are not many gummy manufacturing companies that create new and innovative products that will shape the future of the supplement industry—this will be Canada’s first dual texture two active-ingredient gummies that will raise the bar in natural health product markets everywhere,” Aisha predicts.

Funding: $146,223 provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through Growing Forward 2, a former federal-provincial-territorial initiative for the innovation and export projects (INN285, EX001, EX124, EX253, EX364, EX475); $28,250 committed by the Government of British Columbia for the Buy Local project (BL412).

Local Start-up Changes Breakfast in BC

Anyone ever in line at a café or deli knows the familiar sight that fruit and yogurt cups present—what is less common (at least in BC) is a local, organic version of this popular staple.

Fortunately Chilliwack entrepreneur and passionate locavore Jillian Hull decided to fill the gap by undertaking two IAF projects that would help her develop, commercialize and market Jumpstarter, a unique BC product that now boasts mass appeal.

For Hull, the founder and CEO of JillyV’s Enterprises, the ability to access multiple funding sources for each phase of her venture was critical to achieving market success.

Agri-Innovation funding, for instance, enabled the development of the food technology needed to create the freeze/thaw formulation for Jumpstarter, a yogurt-based breakfast product layered with chia, oatmeal and low-sugar fruit compote that is now expanding the JillyV business.

“Being able to distribute nutrient-dense frozen products to vendors who then thaw and serve means we can distribute far beyond our current geographical capacity,” Hull explains.

So far Jumpstarter is the only dairy product in North America offering this feature, an innovation that has fostered broader opportunities not just for Hull but for her local partners and suppliers.

“We use local sources for our yogurt, including Avalon Dairy and Pacific Coast Fruit Products, as well as local distributors for all other products like oatmeal and chia,” she reports, adding they also use a local box manufacturer, refrigerated trucking and storage, and a co-packer in Chilliwack that employs about ten staff to assemble Jumpstarter.

In 2018 alone, Hull estimates the trickle-down effect on many agriculture and food-related industries will surpass $600,000 in increased revenues.

But moving the product to market was only half the battle.

Creating brand recognition in the increasingly competitive “whole meal replacement” category presented the next challenge in the Jumpstarter saga.

After repeatedly dealing with customers unaware of her company’s locale, Hull decided to undertake a local marketing initiative to highlight Jumpstarter as a truly proud BC brand.

“We consider ourselves ‘triple local’ as our product is grown, raised and made here in BC,” says Hull proudly. “Emphasizing this attribute offers a considerable marketing advantage as being ‘Made in BC’ has become synonymous with quality, cleanliness and trustworthiness.”

And thanks to funding for a comprehensive campaign that included online advertising, in-store demonstrations, and upgrades to their website, social media platforms and promotional materials, their sales have more than doubled and they are now available in most major retailers across BC.

“This year alone we added Thrifty Foods, expanded our reach with Safeway, added two new distributors, entered into food service/hotel catering, and have agreements with dozens of smaller retailers from hockey arenas to arts centers and organic grocers,” says Hull, who foresees steady growth and already has several new products in the pipeline.

As with their original product line, Hull plans to continue sourcing local ingredients and is looking forward to adding more BC agri-businesses to their network.

“Local is more than a buzz word or a marketing ploy,” she insists. “It’s a commitment to your community that creates a genuine bond and benefits all members, whether you’re making, selling or eating BC food.”

For more information about innovation funding visit iafbc.ca/funding-opportunities/innovation/

Funding: $8,263 provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through Growing Forward 2, a former federal-provincial-territorial initiative for the innovation project (INN244SP); $24,569 provided by the Government of British Columbia for the Buy Local project (BL293).

New BC Product Offers More Nutrition to Diabetics

For Raveen and Shane Kullar, unique needs deserve unique solutions – and fortunately for their Burnaby-based business, finding unique solutions is what IAF is all about!

So when the dynamic duo decided to create an innovative meal replacement drink that diabetic and pre-diabetic consumers can confidently enjoy, we were only too happy to offer project support to pilot, demonstrate and commercialize Zuun Nutrition.

Now after two years and two innovation projects, the Whole Food Meal Replacement is headed for stores this July! For the first time ever, diabetic British Columbians can access a convenient, local, all-natural, whole-food based alternative that can optimize blood sugar and sustain energy when combined with a well-balanced healthy meal plan.

“We’ve managed to utilize a blend of proteins, complex carbohydrates, fiber and omega acids to provide the equivalent of a full meal’s worth of calories and nutrients, including a full serving of fruits and vegetables,” explains Raveen Kullar, adding that the project was deeply personal to him and his family given their own struggle with diabetes.

With their ongoing frustration with carb counting and meal replacement, the Kullars wanted to be the first to develop an effective, all-natural product to help people thrive within the diabetic community.

“We were desperate to find a convenient option that met our nutritional requirements, but the only options we could find were either full of preservatives and fillers or lacking in crucial carbohydrate energy,” Raveen recalls.

Their new power shakes will fill a sizable gap in the market for diabetic consumers, which according to the Canadian Diabetes Association has more than doubled since 2000 (and is expected to increase by another 1.5 million people by 2020).

Soon to be available in chocolate or vanilla at local retailers like Choices Markets (as well as at myzuun.com), Zuun is the only available whole food sourced blend that contains slow and steady releasing complex carbohydrates and a complete protein blend, with healthy fats and high fiber to boot.

“Zuun Nutrition has an optimal glycemic response in the human body,” says Raveen. “It provides rich nutrition and steady carbohydrate energy without hyperglycemic or hypoglycemic effects on blood sugar levels.”

As they approach their launch date, the Kullars credit a number of project activities for enhancing their market prospects, including pilot trials at key retailers and farmers markets, a new website, product packaging and a digital marketing campaign, all of which enabled them to connect with hundreds of retailers interested in listing their product.

Raveen and Shane are especially pleased they were able to secure a contract with a 100 percent BC operated manufacturer that employs well over 150 local residents. If all continues to go well, Raveen is optimistic that this single new product will help support the local economies and small retail business owners throughout BC, as it allows them to carry a product unique from what is currently available in the mass market.

“We are confident that the commercialization of this product will help build BC’s reputation as a leader in health and lifestyle oriented products,” he declares, noting that they are anticipating company expansion and job creation, with potentially new and similarly healthy product lines in the future.

For more information about innovation funding visit iafbc.ca/funding-opportunities/innovation/

Funding: $52,245 provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through Growing Forward 2, a former federal-provincial-territorial initiative. (INN255/INN328)

Innovation Award Winner Creates New Opportunities for Canadian Dairy

And the award goes to…Philip Vanderpol, president and CEO of Vitalus Nutrition! The visionary entrepreneur was honoured with IAF’s 2018 Award of Excellence for Innovation at the Project Showcase in Abbotsford on April 12th.

After seven years of research and a series of IAF projects funded through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program, Vanderpol and his team at Vitalus were able to develop the technology to produce a new value-added ingredient from milk permeate that can potentially transform the Canadian dairy industry and enhance consumer health.

While milk permeate is normally a by-product of milk processing that has minimal value, Vanderpol was convinced there was untapped potential and began to pilot a process with the help of Innovation funding. Thus VITAGOS™ was born, a recognized prebiotic fiber created from dairy permeate that now offers food processors a way to enhance the health benefits of infant formulas and other foods, including functional foods, natural health products, sports nutrition products, nutritional bars, dairy products and beverages, fruit drinks, fruit preparations and animal feed.

The VITAGOS™ plant is now the first manufacturer in the Americas of a high-value fraction from dairy permeate, representing an unprecedented opportunity for the dairy and food processing sectors.

“The development and commercialization of this new ingredient will help increase dairy industry returns while enabling food processors to develop new products for digestive health,” explains Vanderpol.

With the launch of the new line, food processors not only have access to VITAGOS™ but to other value-added options such as MPC 85 – the result of another Vitalus-led Innovation project, this low lactose milk protein concentrate offers a protein level of 85 percent while allowing the development of reduced-lactose cheese, yogurt, soups and more.

“IAF has been proud to support the process and product development stages for VITAGOS™, and we are thrilled to celebrate Philip’s leadership in helping the Canadian dairy industry become internationally competitive,” declared IAF director Alistair Johnston as he presented the award.

In addition to Vanderpol, the award selection committee was pleased to recognize two Honorable Mentions – Dr. Victor Lo from the University of British Columbia, for his pioneering efforts to enhance the environmental stewardship of BC dairy farms through the development of a more sustainable manure and nutrient management process; and Silvio Lettrari, owner of Kaslo Sourdough, for introducing the world’s first sourdough pasta to help address the needs of a growing number of consumers with gluten sensitivities and other dietary concerns.

“Having provided the early support to these nominees through federal and provincial Innovation funding, we are especially gratified to witness the incredible achievements that have resulted from these investments,” said Alistair. “These projects represent long-term gains that extend beyond agriculture to impact consumer, environmental and economic health.”

The IAF Award of Excellence for Innovation in Agriculture and Agri-Food celebrates BC’s agriculture and agri-food leaders who have implemented specific projects or initiatives leading to economic, environmental or social benefits to British Columbia and the industry in general, or to a specific sector. For more information, visit our Awards page.

Project funding was provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

Innovation Front & Center at Project Showcase

Leaders from across the industry came together at the 2018 Showcase of BC Projects in Abbotsford to collectively illustrate some of the latest (and greatest!) ideas that offer a bright future for BC agriculture.

The event, held in conjunction with the IAF Annual General Meeting on April 12th, featured exhibits from close to 40 projects funded through IAF that are helping to fuel innovation and market growth in primary production and food processing.

Hedy Dyck, Chief Operating Officer for the BC Landscape and Nursery Association (BCLNA), was among many funding recipients who have witnessed significant impacts unfold for her sector thanks to project support.

“Showcasing BCLNA’s projects is important to the nursery industry as well as other sectors, as we learn from the diversity of projects and how they can enable industry to move forward to face challenges,” says Hedy. “It is a pleasure to work with IAF to find the pathways to address emerging issues and build a strong and vibrant industry.”

Programs like the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program proved particularly instrumental for a variety of sectors. For Dr. Saber Miresmailli, Founder and CEO of Ecoation Innovative Solutions, Innovation funding played a vital role in his efforts to advance crop health technology. With the development and commercialization of Crop Sense™, a wireless crop health monitoring system, growers can now identify where and when treatment is needed based on plant-generated signals before symptoms arise, significantly reducing crop loss, labour and pesticide applications.

Zuun Nutrition received Innovation funding to develop and commercialize an all-natural diabetic meal replacement drink, while Big Mountain Foods (BMF) accessed support through different funding programs to help expand their product line and grow their business. After developing the unique meat-free and allergy-friendly CauliCrumble Veggie Grounds with the help of Innovation funding, the family business turned to the BC Government’s Buy Local Program and the BC Agrifood & Seafood Export Program to revitalize their brand. The resulting increase in listings, sales and online exposure in both local and international markets is creating more lucrative opportunities for both BMF and their value chain partners in BC.

“With the increased demand we have been able to evolve from a small- to a medium-sized food manufacturer that is creating more jobs and sourcing more local ingredients,” BMF vice president, Jasmine Chamberland explains, noting that BMF has since employed several more full-time staff and now purchase truckloads of local ingredients instead of pallets.

Whether funding research into more sustainable pest control, technology to enhance animal welfare, or moving new products to market, we are proud to support BC’s leaders and innovators as they drive our industry forward one project at a time.

Project funding was provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

Funding for the BC Government’s Buy Local Program is provided by the BC Ministry of Agriculture.

Poultry Production Goes Paperless

The first of its kind in Canadian poultry production, the BC Chicken Marketing Board’s new Grower Dashboard is pioneering how BC poultry farms are managed.

While the online system was primarily intended to replace and simplify the Daily Activity Sheet (a federal requirement for all flocks as they move through the production system), it has happily evolved into a single-serve database that promises to improve grower management and enhance industry communication.

“Previously our sector used paper-based reporting and tracking of flocks to adhere to the On-Farm Food Safety, Animal Care and BC Poultry Biosecurity Program requirements,” explains Shawn Mallon, the architect of the dashboard and Manager of Administration with the Board. “The new web-based, mobile-ready platform provides a single point of entry that not only reduces time and waste generated by paper-based reporting, but allows producers to compare data from year-to-year, organize and prepare for audits, and provides real-time access for industry managers to potentially identify issues as soon as they arise in an individual flock.”

With the ability to assess their performance based on past cycles and industry averages, growers can now make more informed management decisions regarding feed consumption, mortality and antimicrobial use.

According to Mallon, the key to the Dashboard’s success lies in industry adoption, which will generate more data for the Board to work with.

“The more growers use the program, the more useful the information will be and the more meaningful the data becomes when looking at industry trends” Mallon emphasizes, adding that this will also enable the Board to develop better and more accurate programming for producers.

One of the first to test the new platform at his broiler farm in Abbotsford, Brad Driediger of Windberry Farms is now a vocal proponent of the Dashboard and echoes the call for broader usage.

“We have a vital tool that will allow for a more coordinated approach in dealing with industry-wide issues such as flock mortality,” he explains. “This type of data isn’t usually captured or reported collectively, making it difficult for the Board to determine either causes or solutions.”

For Driediger, the Dashboard’s ability to facilitate greater industry connection is perhaps its most important feature, allowing him and other growers to receive timely news and notices on their main page.

Over time, the Board anticipates increasing environmental and economic impacts.

“As producers use the program to measure baselines and increase efficiencies, they will be able to optimize feed and the use of other inputs, decreasing waste and increasing returns,” Mallon predicts.

At the moment there is also talk of expanding the dashboard to other members of the value chain, and even nationally through the Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC).

“If CFC adopts the dashboard for all broiler producers in Canada, then they can use their communication resources to launch the dashboard to the other provincial Boards,” says Mallon. “Other poultry commodities would find this dashboard useful, as well as hatcheries and processors, which would further enhance industry traceability and efficiency.”

Funding: $33,641 provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. (INN200)

Biopod Paves Way for Greenhouse Innovation

There’s been a lot of buzz over the Surrey BioPod Project recently and with good reason—the joint initiative between the University of Fraser Valley (UFV), the John Volken Academy (JVA) and the City of Surrey is an unique enterprise that is advancing agricultural research and food production technology, while offering job training and certification to JVA students in recovery.

While the BioPod may sound like a page borrowed from science fiction, its potential is equally fantastic and real. With funding through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program, UFV spearheaded the construction of the novel light-diffusing greenhouses where researchers could pilot new technologies related to pest prevention, liquid nutrient delivery, vertical growing systems and water and heat conservation, among others.

According to Garry Fehr, director of UFV’s Agriculture Centre of Excellence, the innovations are everything they had hoped.

“With two new greenhouses now fully operational, we not only have a new venue for research, demonstration, teaching and job training, but can offer industry new tools to keep on the forefront of sustainable practices in both organic and conventional production,” says Fehr.

The Affinor Growing Towers installed in the BioPod proved especially promising, yielding 14 times what would conventionally be grown in the same floor space, while reducing grower costs related to energy, water and pest control.

For Fehr, another advantage is the vertical growing system’s adaptability to existing greenhouses.

“A one-acre greenhouse can potentially expand vertically to the equivalent of a 15-acre greenhouse without the additional costs of expansion,” he explains, adding that vertical growing also reduces the cost of nutrients and fertilizers through its recirculating system.

The UFV team is particularly excited about the BioPod’s potential to produce new crops in BC, or in the case of Wasabi, to fill a gap in the local, organic market.

“Despite considerable consumer demand, there were previously no organic trials performed since local production began in 2013,” says Fehr, noting that unlike conventional wasabi, which is produced in a water-based environment, organic wasabi requires a soil-based approach.

But thanks to plants donated by a local producer, researchers from UFV and Simon Fraser University (SFU) have been successfully growing organic wasabi in the BioPod for the last year!

Having proved the BioPod’s economic, social and environmental benefits and won the BC Union of Municipalities award for Leadership and Innovation in Agriculture, the project has continued to garner attention and grow in momentum.

UFV is currently considering proposals from five companies eager to demonstrate or test additional greenhouse technology prototypes in the BioPod, while Fehr coordinates future research projects with SFU, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and the BC Institute of Technology.

So far two students have received their Statement of Completion in the Horticulture Technician Apprenticeship Program at the JVA and are now able to pursue a career in agriculture, as several more await their turn.

Funding: $232,421 provided by the Governments of Canada and British Columbia through the Canada-BC Agri-Innovation Program under Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. (INN121)