Can AI keep up with farmers in the future?

Can AI keep up with farmers in the future?

Tuesday 14 August will mark the start of the Autonomous Greenhouses Challenge as five international teams try to grow cucumbers at a distance with the use of artificial intelligence at the facilities of Wageningen University & Research (WUR).

Taking plant sales to the digital space

Taking plant sales to the digital space

Late this February, online retailer, Amazon, launched the Amazon Plant Store offering shrubs, flowers, and succulents across the United States. Currently, Amazon Plant is restricted to the United States, but Canadians are beginning to go online to source and purchase gardening products.

What your energy screens say about you

What your energy screens say about you

When it comes to maximizing natural light, our “cheapest” resource, the 'best' energy screen depends on your operation's needs.

Facing the future of agriculture with IoT

Facing the future of agriculture with IoT

The next agricultural revolution is already underway, based on the Internet of Things (IoT).

The future of greenhouse labour

The future of greenhouse labour

Labour trouble in the greenhouse industry is not merely a question of minimum wage.

A new weight-based watering system could help growers and retailers ensure uniformity of soil moisture across their hanging baskets.
Smithers-Oasis has recently launched a new retail pack of its Oasis® Horticubes growing media.
The California Spring Trials (CAST) were started by Glenn Goldsmith in 1967 which was for the purpose of educating growers of their breeding programs and their commitment to horticulture, and then other breeders started to join in the event to include almost every horticultural breeder distributor. The name evolved from the ‘California pack trials’ to now ‘California Spring Trials’ since the packs are a very small percentage of the industry.
Photographs can be beautiful, but nothing quite beats the rush of seeing new varieties in real life.
Similar to the All-America Selections Program in the United States, Quebec’s horticultural assessment program, Les Exceptionnelles (the Exceptionals) selects six to ten annual plants each year that have stood out for their performance and ease in growing in the assessment gardens in Canada’s northern climate.
Proven Winners has released its 2019 Trade Collection catalogue for Canadian growers in both print and digital formats. Growers can view the catalog online or request a printed copy from Nordic Nurseries in British Columbia or Ed Sobkowich Greenhouses in Ontario. 
Pre-made mixed planters have been gaining popularity over the past couple of years. But what makes an attractive mix? Researchers at the University of Guelph and Vineland Research and Innovation Centre saw an opportunity to gain a better understanding of consumer preferences for container plants.
With multiple plant breeders and tech suppliers, Windmill Nursery is a must-see stop on the CAST map.
For the first time in Danziger’s CAST history, their trial garden will feature an area exclusively for retailers. This private space will include new and exclusive varieties, as well as retail displays with full-grown individual plants and container combinations. Here are some highlights:
This year’s California Spring Trials are particularly special for Benary – it’s their 175th anniversary. Known for their fun, out-of-the-box activities during CAST, this year is no different. Here's a sample of the new varieties you can look forward to during your visit:
With CAST 2018 on the horizon, Ball’s stop in Santa Paula is ready to tickle the senses with four days of immersive displays. They’ll be showcasing hundreds of products from 10 different brands. Here’s a sample of what you can expect:  Beefsteak Tomato Atlas (Burpee) The first-ever beefsteak for porches, decks and balconies, allowing customers to pick big, tasty beefsteak flavour right outside their door. The plant's bushy, compact habit easily shoulders bountiful loads of 1lb. tomatoes. Atlas is vigorous but grows neatly in patio containers – modern performance with old-time flavor. The fruit delivers unsurpassed balance of sweetness of acidity.  Calibrachoa MiniFamous® Uno Double Pinktastic (Selecta One) The MiniFamous Uno series is an early-to-finish, medium-compact calibrachoa with uniform flower timing across the series. They grow well in quart and gallon containers, but also thrive in hanging baskets as part of Trixi® combos. This series has the most diversity on the market, featuring classic core colours, doubles and stars. Pinktastic features heavily contrasted double flowers and a ball-shaped habit that is half trailing. It was a Fleuroselect winner for 2017.    Verbena Firehouse (Ball Flora Plant) This new series is the perfect medium-mounded basket verbena. It has superior garden performance in the heat – less cycling means more colour in the garden for summer! Firehouse launches with nine colours in the series. They have excellent powdery mildew resistance and make great combo components. Dianthus Corona (PanAmerican Seed) Wow 'em with the biggest blooms of any dianthus of this type. Exceptional flower form and a palette of show-stopping colour choices makes Corona a regal choice for cool-season landscapes, gardens and patio planters. It features uniform flowering time and habit. Plant it along with other spring annuals, such as pansies. Coreopsis Double the Sun (Kieft Seed) This bright newcomer is 2 to 3 weeks earlier than Early Sunrise and other comparable varieties in the early cool season. In summer, it finishes one to two weeks earlier. Get this favourite perennial class into the store before any other compact, semi-double yellow coreopsis, and listen as those registers ring. The semi-double, clear golden yellow flowers are large. Ideal for quart and 1-gallon production in spring and summer with 13-hour critical daylength. Spreading Petunia Easy Wave® Red Improved (Wave) Red gets a big-time upgrade for 2019, which moves six eye-catching mixes to the next level. Always a standout in the petunia market, bold and creative Easy Wave lets you bring in a wide array of decorator colours. Offers many upgrades compared to original Red: improved seed quality, a denser plant with more branching, and shorter peduncles for a more controlled, holdable plant structure. Foliage is dark green and the flowers are a deeper, richer red colour that does not wash out. Hydrangea Kanmara® (Ball Ingenuity) Brought to Ball from hydrangea experts at the Hydrangea Breeder Association, Kanmara is supplied from Aldershot Greenhouses, who follow their strict protocol for ideal production, performance, and uniformity. It’s a new generation of hydrangeas with large, majestic blooms in unique shades and elegant foliage. It radiates glamour and is sure to steal the show! Kanmara is ideal for the terrace, doorstep or balcony. The beautiful colours of this pot hydrangea guarantee an unrivaled display until well into late summer or fall. Salvia Sky Blue Marvel (Darwin Perennials) Sky Blue is a light-blue addition to the Marvel family, with the same great habit as Blue and Rose Marvel. The Marvel family has the largest flowers of any Salvia nemorosa on the market. Enjoy the stunning display of colour in spring and summer. Little to no maintenance required in the garden. It is hardy in zones 4 thru 9. Bushel and Berry™ Southern Bluebelle™ (Star® Roses and Plants) This petite, low-water and low-chill blueberry plant displays bright red foliage that turns emerald green as it matures. Perfect for small-space gardens or patios in warmer climates (zones 6–10). Plant grows 2-3' high with a mounded habit. Offers medium-sized berries in the summer with a mild, sweet flavour.  Ball is accepting appointments from Saturday, April 14 through Tuesday, April 17. Register online at www.ballhort.com/springtrials Contact Spring Trials concierge Janessa Bender with any questions at 630-588-3187,
With the California Spring Trials (CAST) coming up, Dümmen Orange gave us a small sneak peek of what you can expect at their post.
A  little extra light can make a big difference. Recent innovations have increased the transparency of energy-saving screens for vegetable and ornamental crop production. The ability for higher light transmission further optimizes the growing climate while keeping the heat in, important during the colder seasons when vegetable prices typically peak.
For plants to grow optimally, adequate nutrients and water uptake are necessary to maintain plant growth and development. There are two general methods in which water and nutrients move in and out of plants cells: passive and active.
Every cold-climate greenhouse grower experiences it – it’s cold outside, the heat is on, but the relative humidity levels need to come down to prevent disease. The solution? The vents get opened to get rid of that moist air and exchange it for drier air – except the greenhouse loses heat in the process!
Transport within the greenhouse is about to get faster and easier as Berg Hortimotive heads into their last phase of developing a new autonomous harvesting trolley.
In our last article we examined the potential for saving energy by integrating dimmable horticultural LED lighting systems into various feedback-control strategies. This time, we will review background concepts of LED light spectrum and explore how spectral modifications can be leveraged to improve crop production.
What if monitoring temperature controls was automated, and a grain bin itself could warn suppliers of low levels?
Numerous articles have extolled the virtues of modern LED lighting technology for horticultural applications, particularly as a replacement for HPS in greenhouse environments. Various LED technologies have been proven to achieve comparable or better commodity-specific production metrics to HPS in many different greenhouse production scenarios.
When we talk about ‘water management’ in greenhouses, our thoughts typically consider irrigation scheduling, control equipment or maybe simply having enough. At this year’s Lower Mainland Horticulture Improvement Association (LMHIA) Growers Short Course (held simultaneously with the Pacific Agriculture Show in Abbotsford, B.C.), Olaf van Marrewijk of Hagelunie (Leiden, N.L.) gave a different ‘take’.
The horticultural industry is under constant pressure to improve environmental performance while remaining competitive.
Among the many applications of On Robot’s robot grippers, they’re being used to pack herbs at Rosborg Food Holding, one of Denmark’s largest producers of herbs and miniature flowering plants.
It takes a lot of work – and a lot of water — to grow healthy trees and shrubs for Canada’s ornamental plant sector. The industry, which boasts approximately 3,500 nurseries across Canada, uses an estimated 190 million cubic metres of water every year.But new research suggests this is two to three times more water than healthy trees need. And soon a new tool will be available to help nursery managers determine when to turn on–and turn off–the hose.Jared Stoochnoff, a University of Guelph graduate student in the School of Environmental Sciences Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility, is pioneering a new irrigation management strategy designed to reduce water consumption and mitigate the environmental impact of ornamental nursery operations.“Because many nursery irrigation managers lack reliable ways to quantitatively predict a plant’s actual water requirements, they tend to err on the side of caution and overwater,” Stoochnoff says. “This results in unnecessarily high water and fertilizer run-off that negatively impacts local watersheds.”Stoochnoff’s team used high-tech sensor equipment to measure plant water status and quantify crop water stress tolerance thresholds. When they put those irrigation schedules based on actual requirements to the test, they reduced the nursery’s water use by 60 per cent without affecting the total growth or wholesale value of the crop.“It’s not economically feasible to implement the equipment we were using at every nursery in Canada, but by characterizing the relationships between crop water stress levels, weather conditions and species-specific water stress tolerance thresholds, we’re now able to predict optimal irrigation frequency using onsite weather station data,” says Stoochnoff.Stoochnoff wrote a prototype program that used onsite weather station data to predict plant water stress tolerance thresholds. Each time the threshold was reached, the program triggered irrigation and alerted Stoochnoff via text message. He was able to monitor the nursery’s current weather conditions and water use to date, and could even trigger irrigation directly from his cell phone if needed.As a next step, Stoochnoff’s team will develop the program into an app that can be made available to a larger group of nurseries for testing. He says the program will be flexible depending on the nursery’s irrigation preferences.“Once adopted by the nursery sector, this has the potential to conserve millions of litres of water each year and reduce the environmental footprint of ornamental nursery operations,” says Stoochnoff.Financial support was received from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, Landscape Ontario, and The Gosling Research Institute for Plant Preservation. In-kind contributions of materials, labour and field site access were provided by Connon Nurseries, C.B. Vanderkruk Holdings, ICT International and Root Rescue Environmental.This project was funded by Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. For more, visit AgInnovation Ontario
An Alberta Agriculture and Forestry specialist says commercial greenhouses in Alberta should be able to benefit from some new research into construction materials and greenhouse design. “Greenhouses have traditionally been energy intensive operations, but with increasing scrutiny and slowly shrinking margins, producers need to find ways of trimming costs wherever possible,” says Dustin Morton, commercial horticulture specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
Palladium fungicide was recently approved for a minor use label expansion in Canada. But what does that mean?
Greenhouse owners are always looking for new ways to increase yields quickly, as well as their return on investment. But soil probiotics and microbial fertilizers are not new.
Having trouble controlling foxglove aphids in your greenhouse? You’re not alone.
Japanese beetles have been recently spotted in southern Ontario. 
Guelph - Ontario’s greenhouse sector has made significant advances in water, nutrient and energy technology to manage the year-round, high-efficiency production of crops like tomatoes, peppers, herbs, berries and a wide variety of green vegetables.
It seems there is never a dull moment in the greenhouse ornamental industry. From transitions to new crops, new export requirements to novel pest problems (I’m talking about YOU, mealybug!) the industry has seen a lot of change lately. And it’s not over yet.
The disease triangle is a concept used by plant pathologists to explain factors necessary for disease to occur. Disease will only occur when a virulent pathogen is present, the plant is susceptible to the pathogen and the environment is conducive for disease. If one of the three components is absent, then disease will not occur. That is why when we think about preventing plant diseases, we should keep the disease triangle in mind. Ask ourselves, which parameters can we control?
While recently watching a television special on the great women of ancient Egypt, I was reminded that depictions of containerized plants, specifically non-native trees being transported in large containers, can be traced back millennia. By the fifth century, containerized plants were common, and some fast-growing herbaceous species were grown in containers for use in festivals.
One of the most predictable and chronic pests of greenhouse crops is the western flower thrip.
Peat moss is a frequent, major component of potting mixes, but harvest of the material is becoming unsustainable. Not only is peat being removed faster than it can re-form, its harvest and use in potting mix contributes to the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
December 2017 – Cannabis sativa has been used medically, recreationally and spiritually throughout the world for about five millennia now. In recent times there has been an increasing trend of the public being more accepting towards the use of cannabis as a medical treatment option for various illnesses.
Oct. 11, 2017, Umeå, Sweden – Researchers at Umeå University and Wageningen University have discovered how plants can defend themselves against aphids.
Late this February, online retailer, Amazon, launched the Amazon Plant Store offering shrubs, flowers, and succulents across the United States. Currently, Amazon Plant is restricted to the United States, but Canadians are beginning to go online to source and purchase gardening products.
The next agricultural revolution is already underway, based on the Internet of Things (IoT).
Labour trouble in the greenhouse industry is not merely a question of minimum wage. We will not solve our problems by trying to find people who work hard for long hours and do not ask for too much money.
The Canadian gardening season is well underway and many of the planting trends now coming into flower across the nation are expected to continue into 2019. Mark Cullen, national spokesperson for lawn and garden at Home Hardware, notes that the use of eco-conscious plants – indigenous, pollinator-friendly, drought-tolerant – is really no longer a trend but here to stay. “It’s getting bigger and bigger all the time,” he says. “For the new generation of gardeners, millennials, supporting the environment is why they are gardening. That and for food.”
Among its nine definitions of ‘variety’, Dictionary.com1 defines this noun as:
Today’s labour market is tight. Profits are tight. As hiring managers, our job has become increasingly difficult. We can talk all day about the challenges we face – the aging labour force, millennials, skilled labour – the fact is, most people are already working. Their families depend on it. The question is, how do we motivate people to work for us?
Last December, Long Island Iced Tea Corporation announced that they were looking into how they might utilize blockchain in their business practices. As part of this announcement, they changed their name to “Long Blockchain Corp”. Shares of the company rose 200 per cent following this news.
Local food, a topic that is, and has been, on the mind’s of many, is a growing industry; however the question of transportation of local food is one that has been left behind, until recently, that is. Over the last few years there has been a resurgence of companies focusing on local food distribution, however Foodshed.io differentiates itself by incorporating technology not only to connect producers and consumers but to enhance efficiency, reliability, flexibility and transparency throughout the entire platform. Their tagline reads: reinventing local food distribution.
We are all aware that retailing is changing and changing rapidly. The key to success is to identify where your business fits into the retail model of the future.
Creative growers and retailers are always looking for new and innovative ways to capture consumer attention. This is particularly true in the historically conservative and stoic world of perennials. No longer are retailers simply lining out an A to Z offering of hardy plants, hoping consumers will be equipped with enough knowledge to select the right plant for the right space.
Pure Flavor credits their partnership with IFCO as one of the keys to providing fresh produce to North America year-round.
This year’s article reporting on the 2017 trial season will look at both the favourites of visitors to the trial gardens as well as other unique entries that performed very well in the trials at Vineland (containers only), Guelph (containers and ground beds), Milton (ground beds) and the Royal Botanical Gardens (ground beds).
It’s been over a decade since the first ‘Inside View’. So I thought I’d look back to the first heating and energy article. The sixth ‘View’ (Dec. 2007), noted that “Canada is the 3rd largest energy consumer on the planet – demand is up 21% since 1990”.
When it comes to adding energy curtains (sometimes referred to as thermal blankets) to a greenhouse everyone focuses on energy savings. And certainly energy savings should be a major factor in any greenhouse grower’s decision to purchase energy curtains.
June 17, 2017, Mona, UT – In recognition of leading energy saving efforts, Houweling’s Group was among four companies honored recently as part of Utah’s Energy Efficiency Challenge.
March 16, 2017, Simcoe, Ont. – With the Ontario government’s cap and trade program now in effect, many greenhouse growers in the province are quickly discovering the high cost of fighting climate change. To some, that cost appears unsustainably high.
March April 2017 – Spring is a time of hope and renewed energy with longer days of sunshine and warmer weather. It is also a great time to reflect on how energy costs in the past months have impacted your bottom line, and to work with your team to make your greenhouse more cost-effective for the year to come.
March 10, 2017, Guelph, Ont. – Ontario farmers can finally expect some relief with lower electricity bills on the way.
Nov. 25, 2016, Guelph, Ont. – Affordable energy is a serious issue in Ontario. Rural Ontario is the hardest hit by energy inflation with most businesses, residents and farms relying on electricity, propane or heating oil to support their way of life.
Nov. 7, 2016, Guelph, Ont. – The need for natural gas across rural Ontario is a top priority for the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and rural municipalities.
November 2016 – Greenhouses provide vegetable and flower growers with the ability to control all the inputs needed to yield healthy, plentiful crops. In a greenhouse, growers can tailor the amount of light, CO2, moisture, heat and cold, and other variables in order to improve both the quality and quantity of their production.
June 2016 – If it’s true that each food unit we consume now takes about 10 units of carbon energy to produce, then perhaps the food system is broken. Surely it does not make sense to use more energy to produce something than we can get back out of it in useful food energy. What options do we have?
June 2016 – In our August edition last year we presented an overview of a few of the new alternative energy projects across the country. This year, we have more exciting news to share, along with some recent updates.
Oct. 1, 2015, Moberly Lake, B.C. – The Saulteau First Nations are replacing a plant nursery’s propane heating with a biomass heating system, with funding support of $150,000 from B.C.’s First Nations Clean Energy Business Fund.
For horticulture, propagation using tissue culture is nothing new. In fact, the technique has been used in crops like lettuce, hops, mint, potato stock, orchids, ornamental plants and berries.
With greenhouse vegetables, there are many different varieties available. Each one is selected for higher yields, larger fruit, disease resistance, flavour and more, but how well do those attributes hold up in the greenhouse?
“The road from the initial idea in 2013 (of a medical marijuana operation) to where we are today … I could write a book on that,” says Edwin Jewell, president and CEO of Canada’s Island Garden (CIG) the only medical marijuana operation in Prince Edward Island.  
Vancouver, BC – Ashburton Ventures Inc. has recently announced a zeolite efficacy trial in partnership with InnoTech Alberta.
As a grower, one of your worst nightmares is finding out that you have a potential pest in your grow space. The sight of your hard work looking sickly can be very disheartening to say the least.
The 2017 poinsettia season was much better than even the top sales we saw in 2016. This past year marks three years in a row where poinsettia production, sales and consumer satisfaction has improved. Sales were better for the growers in general, but not great for all retailers – depending on the product sizes, packaging, displays and sales timing. And consumer satisfaction depends on which product they ended up with.
Overall, 2017 was a pretty good year for Ontario’s spring flower crops in terms of pests. Insects like western flower thrips were fairly low (no heavy fly-ins like in 2016) and more severe diseases were scarce. Here are some tips for how we can keep 2018 going in the same direction.
Ball Horticultural Company is thrilled to announce a breakthrough years in the making. Through a collaborative effort with KeyGene, both companies are pleased to announce the successful sequencing and assembly of the Impatiens walleriana genome. This first-of-its-kind project creates a highly accurate tool for breeders looking to provide new solutions to the industry in Impatiens.“Genome sequencing and assembly not only provides a more efficient approach to breeding and plant trait identification, but it provides a deeper understanding of our products and their ultimate potential in the marketplace,” says Matt Mouw Chief Technology Officer for Ball Horticultural Company.Over the course of this project, Ball and KeyGene achieved 100x coverage using long read sequencing technology, which has already led their breeding teams to better utilize significant key plant genes, specifically, genes that confer high resistance to Impatiens Downy Mildew (IDM). The disease has severely impacted global sales of I. walleriana since 2008. By utilizing this new resource of high resistance, along with these newly available genomics tools, breeding companies like PanAmerican Seed are closer than ever to producing Impatiens with high resistance to IDM.While PanAmerican Seed has worked to address IDM solutions over the past five years, the impatiens genome project took more than two years to complete. It included disciplines from many areas of the industry, including pathologists, breeders, seed technologists, product development teams, and production.According to Mouw, Ball Horticultural Company has committed to a significant investment in the area of advanced plant technology, with the goal to deliver products, services and solutions to the industry. “This is the first in what will promise to be a pipeline of opportunities in seed and vegetative products that wouldn’t before have been possible.”
The talk of the town at this year’s Canadian Greenhouse Conference was, you guessed it, marijuana. Not shady back-of-hall cloakroom conversations, but openly in the show aisles, on the bus during the tours and over dinner. One of the tour stops was even to a production facility: “… Aphria, the former Leamington flower grower that transformed its flower greenhouses into a state-of-the-art regulated medical marijuana production facility.”1
November 2017 – Here in southwestern Ontario, we have just experienced a wetter than usual summer, with cooler than average temperatures especially at night. The continuously rainy days and nights and the cooler temperatures put the plants in the Sawaya Garden Trials through new Mother Nature stress or benefit tests, depending on the varieties.
November 2017 – It’s difficult to think of a more diverse, interesting and misunderstood category of plants in the horticultural industry than perennials. A colleague once said that “all plants are annuals somewhere and perennials somewhere else.” Although she oversimplified this just a bit, the point was well taken.
Oct. 27, 2017, Smiths Falls,Ont. – Tweed Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Canopy Growth Corporation, and DNA Holding LLC  have renewed and expanded their partnership through to October 2022.

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