Horticulture automation research gets $5 million funding boost

The news

Lawrence MacAulay, Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has announced a federal investment of up to $5 million to the Automation Cluster led by the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre Inc. The funding is provided under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

The funding will be used to address current and anticipated labour challenges within the greenhouse industry through “automation, artificial intelligence, and precision agriculture technologies.”

It is estimated that labour shortages can cost the sector up to $1.5 billion in lost productivity and sales each year. This funding will, over 5 years, be used to:

  • develop and test robotic harvesters for greenhouse cucumbers;
  • develop smart, wireless irrigation technologies for potted flowers and vegetables; and,
  • develop state-of-the-art sensors that will help detect and monitor moisture levels in the soil and air.

About the industry

The Canadian greenhouse sector is the largest and fastest growing segment of Canadian horticulture. This past year, Canadian greenhouse vegetable sales totalled over $1.4 billion, with over $900 million of sales in Ontario.

The Government of Canada has identified the agriculture and agri-food sector as a core driver of jobs, growth and prosperity, setting a target to grow Canada’s agri-food exports to $75 billion annually by 2025.

Quotes

“Our Government is proud to support the innovative research at Vineland and we will continue to work with Canada’s growers and researchers to keep the sector on the cutting edge. This investment in automation will allow farms and greenhouses to work smarter and deliver higher quality jobs, ensuring they continue to meet the growing demand for top-quality products for Canadians and consumers around the world.”— Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

“This funding is critical to the industry and Vineland is pleased to manage a national network focused on developing automation, artificial intelligence and precision technology to improve the competitive position of Canadian growers.” — Dr. Tania Humphrey, Chief Scientific Officer, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre

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