Niagara College-led Greenhouse Technology Network expands membership

As published by Niagara College on May 4, 2023.

Dr. Jill Urbanic in the Advanced Production and Design Lab at the University of Windsor.

Brock University and the University of Windsor are the newest members of Greenhouse Technology Network (GTN), a Niagara College-led consortium of academic research institutions supporting the research needs of greenhouse and related technology businesses through applied projects.

In 2019, the new network for research and technology in southern Ontario’s greenhouse sector was established with support from a $5-million Government of Canada investment through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).

GTN is a consortium of research-focused centres that increases innovation capacity to grow the Ontario greenhouse industry. Members collaborate with greenhouse and related technology businesses in southern Ontario and solve challenges through applied research projects. The addition of Brock University and the University of Windsor to GTN now brings the total number of members in the network to five, including: Niagara College’s Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre, the Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility (CESRF) at the University of Guelph, and Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.

“Thanks to the investment by FedDev Ontario, we’ve been able to support greenhouse and technology industries in southern Ontario and allow students to gain experience in applied research projects,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, Niagara College’s Vice-President, Research, Innovation, and Strategic Enterprises.

“As GTN grows, we’re thrilled to have Brock University and the University of Windsor join the network as members. With their unique capabilities, plus the offerings our other members have, we will be able to take on even more innovative projects to help move industry forward.”

Brock University

Brock University has existing relationships with greenhouse ecosystem stakeholders. Being a member of GTN will allow GTN to leverage the research capacity and assets of Brock University where more than 70 undergraduate programs, 50 graduate programs, and 600 faculty researchers in seven faculties offer breadth and depth of research opportunities and research facilities for industry partnerships, student training, and knowledge translation.

Brock’s Validation, Prototyping and Manufacturing Institute is a landmark facility aimed at making Niagara a research and innovation leader in bioagriculture, bioscience and chemical manufacturing sectors. Brock houses over 300 square-feet of sophisticated temperature and humidity-controlled research greenhouse and plant transformation facilities. Brock also has a national grapevine germplasm repository, a facility that maintains high-quality, virus-free plant materials and eliminates viruses and other pathogens of concern in grapevines. Finally, Brock includes strong expertise and research capacity in the areas of environmental sustainability, plant and fungi science, data science and analytics, the Internet of Things, environmental and biomechanical ergonomics, business, and operations management, and more.

“I am delighted that Brock University has joined the Greenhouse Technology Network. Brock’s expert researchers and state-of-the-art equipment, including phytotron and plant growth chambers, have enabled us to develop strong leadership in the agricultural sector, particularly through our research institutes,” said Tim Kenyon, Brock University, Vice-President, Research. “We look forward to contributing to, and learning from, our new partners. Our combined strengths will open new doors in the development, adoption, and implementation of technologies to support the greenhouse industry.”

The University of Windsor

Agriculture at the University of Windsor (AgUWin), enables collaborations between growers, retailers, and technology providers through access to unique research infrastructure, expertise, and resources. It supports the security of Canada’s food supply chain through the adoption of research and technology commercialization while growing the next generation of agricultural leaders.

In engineering, AgUWin supports development in energy systems, waste-water management, sustainable growing practices, sensors and electronics, robotics and automation, network and communications, supply chains and logistics, policy and governance, and sustainability and the circular economy.

Science focus areas include computer science (systems, AI, vision systems), water treatment and chemical analysis, analytical services and testing, integrated pest management (IPM) and integrative biology.

AgUWin will become a centre for commercialization of new technologies, knowledge mobilization, the development of strategic partnerships and innovative training opportunities that incorporates the entire agri/agri-tech ecosystem.

AgUWin has also partnered with Horteca, a joint venture between JEM Farms, a major greenhouse operator in Essex County, and Ecoation, a multi-national agriculture technology solutions provider headquartered in Essex County, to operationalize two acres of active research and development greenhouse space in Ruthven, Ontario into the AgUWin Innovation Greenhouse. This space will further support the research and development of commercially viable research and technology in a live environment and enable experiential learning opportunities for students.

“The University of Windsor is excited to join the Greenhouse Technology Network as we invest in new research, academic programs, and partnerships that will support the growing greenhouse industry in Windsor-Essex and across Canada,” said Chris Houser, PhD, Interim Vice-President, Research and Innovation at the University of Windsor.

Greenhouse Technology Network (GTN)

GTN helps greenhouse and related technology businesses in southern Ontario solve innovation challenges by:

  • Growing connections across the greenhouse ecosystem and facilitating research collaborations;
  • Solving challenges by linking businesses with subject matter experts;
  • Giving greenhouse and related technology businesses in southern Ontario access to the best research expertise, equipment, facilities, and agile research project managers; and
  • Leveraging funding to help businesses lower the risk of innovation.

Members of GTN have a wide range of expertise and capabilities that include:

  • Optimizing production with technology;
  • Value-added sustainability through technology; and
  • Growing businesses using technology.

GTN will leverage over $9 million in cash, which involves $11.5 million in total projects costs directed at research and development. GTN will direct $1.35 million toward productivity improvements. Projects with GTN members will commercialize 65 products, services, and processes. These projects will support $7.6 million in sales resulting from innovations commercialized and create or license over 77 intellectual properties.

Business that have an innovation challenge or a project idea can contact their local institution or the GTN Project Manager Rita Sterne at [email protected] or 905-984-0486. Visit the GTN website for more details.

For 13 years, the Government of Canada, through FedDev Ontario, has worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation, growth and job creation in Canada’s most populous region. The Agency has delivered impressive results, which can be seen in southern Ontario businesses that are creating innovative technologies, improving productivity, growing revenues, creating jobs, and in the economic advancement of communities across the region. Learn more about the impacts the Agency is having in southern Ontario by exploring FedDev Ontario’s pivotal projectsSouthern Ontario Spotlight, and TwitterFacebookInstagram and LinkedIn.

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