Networks have power in rapidly evolving industries

As published on Niagara College Research & Innovation on May 25, 2023.

Written by Rita Sterne, PhD, Project Manager of the Greenhouse Technology Network.

Agriculture is changing rapidly and so is indoor horticulture. Growers of flowers, trees, and vegetables that support human health and wellbeing year-round—and their supporting value chain businesses—are part of a rapidly evolving ecosystem. We are witnessing new structures and systems being developed to grow plants more efficiently, new varieties of plants that support consumer appetite for variety and nutrition, and new technologies that help to grow plants indoors from input level to output level, where technologies will support resource reclamation, sustainable packaging, and logistics electrification.

The variety and pace of innovation creates a challenge for humans: How can supporting organizations in the ecosystem better support industry businesses in the face of such rapid change? 

Research about innovation tells us that intermediaries (for example, networks) provide an efficient pathway by which to support businesses in rapidly changing environments. Put simply: Organizations can achieve more through collaboration than they can alone.

“By working together, the members of a network can achieve more for industries in dynamic environments, and more quickly and effectively power investments in innovation.”

 – Rita Sterne, PhD, Project Manager, GTN

Conceived by Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division and the Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre, and funded by FedDev Ontario, the Greenhouse Technology Network (GTN) saw immediate interest from greenhouse-related technology businesses when it launched in 2019. Businesses recognized that project funding and member expertise helps them find solutions—but the network model also helped businesses connect with the right expertise to better support innovation. Why is this?

First, the network model allows multiple organizations to combine their collective expertise to better support businesses developing and testing novel technologies. Second, the network model allows network members to share best practices and connections and capitalize on unique strengths in service of industry. Third, the network model offers an efficient way for businesses to more quickly locate expertise (time is money!) that will support innovation, even if that expertise is beyond the network itself.

The adage that “all boats float higher” applies in this case! By working together, the members of a network can achieve more for industries in dynamic environments and more quickly and effectively power investments in innovation.

If your business would like to develop, test, or implement technologies that could be applied in a greenhouse setting, by accessing state-of-the-art equipment, tools, services, and expertise, the GTN is here to help.