By David Sweet
The recent warm weather, interspersed with spring rains, has everyone thinking about getting outdoors and working the garden. After the longest winter in recent memory, spring could not be more welcome.
Meanwhile, local farmers are carefully eyeing the weather and tuning up their farm equipment in anticipation.
It was timely that last week when I had the privilege of representing the government of Canada in announcing $26.5 million in joint federal-provincial funding for the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Niagara.
The centre is a hub of horticultural technology — from robotics, to biocontrols in horticultural production systems, to consumer insights labs. It’s a world-class facility and we’re very fortunate to have it right in our back yard.
Through the federal-provincial Growing Forward 2 program and its support for agricultural innovation, the centre has received this funding.
The PhDs and greenhouse technicians there will put it to good use in developing horticultural innovations such as locally-adapted sweet potatoes, Indian red carrots, hardy roses, sustainable turf, Chinese Yard-Long beans, new varieties of apples and more.
As a result local greenhouses, nursery operators and farmers benefit from better products, better yields and the ability to grow products locally that might otherwise be imported.
Meanwhile, a month ago I joined another federal colleague at Maple Leaf Foods in Hamilton for an investment in new meat processing technology that will give their Hamilton plant the capacity to produce 82 million kilograms of deli products annually.
Why is this important? Because Ontario has the largest food processing industry in the country and is among the top three in North America.
Plus, even more on the agricultural innovation front. Just last week I had the pleasure of joining Councillor Lloyd Ferguson and other local elected officials at the Grand Opening of ActLabs in the Ancaster Business Park.
This lab uses world-class technology to analyze soils, mineral deposits and more. In 2012, ActLab’s Ancaster facility received federal funding for a soil analysis program that is important to Ontario agriculture — putting science to work to improve crop yields and defend against pests and diseases. It was great to see this innovation expanding with the Grand Opening last week.
There’s no doubt that agriculture and food are key sectors in our local economy. I’m proud to help bring federal support for technology and innovation.
Local growers are the best in the world, we recognize that, and thank them for all they do for our communities and country. Farmers Feed Cities!
— David Sweet is the MPP for Ancaster, Dundas, Flamborough, Westdale.