Research begins to improve strawberry production in Northern Ontario

Research is beginning on the best conditions for growing strawberries in northern Ontario.

The study is part of a partnership between Collège Boréal and the Rural Agri-Innovation Network (RAIN) in Sault Ste Marie, Ontario.

Strawberries are one of the most imported fruits in Canada.

« Specifically, we’re interested in seeing how we could really develop a strawberry production system that would allow for a more consistent local supply in Northern Ontario, but could also be shared across Canada in areas or similar climatic regions, » said Sabine Bouchard, project manager at Collège Boréal.

The team is currently in the first phase of the project, which involves identifying farmers in Northern Ontario who grow strawberries or use greenhouses to grow the berries.

“Really, this first phase is about better understanding the challenges that strawberry growers or greenhouse growers are currently facing, and then seeing how we can adapt the systems we develop to help them find solutions,” Bouchard said.

“We really hope to take this information and see how we can help current growers adapt or modify their current system for a more productive strawberry growing season,” she added.

A system adapted to the needs of the North

“What we hope to do with Collège Boréal is to design a unique system tailored to the needs of northern growers that would essentially allow them to continue strawberry production in an economically viable way,” said Lauren Moran, research assistant in horticulture at RAIN .

Ms. Moran said she will contact strawberry growers who grow in the fields and in the greenhouses, to hear from them « what type of practices they use and whether or not they would be interested in a system » like the one developed at the College. boreal.

“The idea was to sort of stimulate the domestic production of these berries because they are so popular and because we import so much that we can be a little more dependent on our own systems to supply them,” he said. she adds.

The first phase of the project is expected to be completed by the end of this calendar year.

Collège Boréal’s research center includes precision instruments to enable more advanced research in agriculture. It includes a 2,250 square foot heated greenhouse with state-of-the-art technology. (Jean-Loup Doudard/Radio-Canada)

“I know the folks at Collège Boréal are looking to move into this next phase to get some more funding and hopefully prototype a system,” Moran said.

« Moving forward from there to see if it’s economically viable, how much it produces and if it’s something that could be marketed to people looking to expand their own production. »

The first phase of the research project is funded by the Homegrown Innovation Challenge, which is funded by the Weston Family Foundation.

They also work with Nordic producer Stéphane Lanteigne, co-owner of Truly Northern Farms in Chelmsford.

Lanteigne works for Smart Indoor Farming Solutions, which helps growers who want to get into indoor farming through hydroponics.

Collège Boréal has its own 2,250 square foot high-tech heated greenhouse in which certain experiments will be conducted.

Bouchard said the college team will determine what type of strawberries grow best in a greenhouse.

Students will participate in data collection and the next steps of the project.

Morning North6:04Sudbury researchers study greenhouse strawberries from northern Ontario

There are a few strawberry growers in Northern Ontario, but the juicy berry is still one of Canada’s most imported fruits. We hear from Project Manager Sabine Bouchard about how Collège Boréal is working to change that.


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