Greenhouse Canada

Alberta a world leader in two hort specialties

November 15, 2013  By Dave Harrison

Nov. 14, 2013, Edmonton — Alberta is quickly establishing itself as a world leader in two areas of future industry growth.

Nov. 14, 2013, Edmonton — Alberta is quickly establishing itself as a world leader in two areas of future industry growth.

Aquaponics is one of the specialties of Dr. Nick Savidov of Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (AARD). He is widely regarded as one of the leading experts in this field and a frequent speaker at conferences and workshops.

Joining AGGA directors Carmon Frick (left) and Debbie Foisy at the association booth is Andrew Morse of Flowers Canada Growers.

This past week, he spoke at the two-day Aquaponics Workshop sponsored by Noa Fisheries. It was held at the University of Alberta, and the highlight was a tour of Savidov's aquaponics projects at AARD's Crop Diversification Centre North, located in Edmonton.

(See web story and photos posted yesterday at

And earlier today, work on biochar in the province was highlighted during a research update session at the Green Industry Show and Conference , also hosted in Edmonton. The show, held at the Edmonton Expo Centre Northlands, concludes Friday.

Dr. Jian Yang, of the Alberta Innovates Technology Futures program of Alberta Research Council, outlined some of the work underway on biochar. Alberta has clearly staked itself out as a world leader in research in this field.

Applications being studied include using it as:

• A growth medium in hydroponic systems for vegetables.

• A growth medium amendment for bedding plants.

• A growth medium amendment to reduce herbicide damage to plants.

Biochar is a carbon rich solid produced by low-temperature (400 to 600 C) pyrolis of biomass under complete or partial exclusion of oxygen. It is called biocoal or biocarbon when used as a solid fuel.

It is generating positive reviews. Biochar is porous with high adsorptive capacity and offers a good environment for micro-organisms. It is highly stable in soils and has high water and nutrient holding capacity.

"Vegetables grown in biochair have similar yields as those grown in coconut coir," said Yang.

Crops grown in it also have reduced levels of root diseases.


AITF is also studying the efficacy of silver nanoparticles in reducing or eliminating plant pathogens. Silver nanoparticles can kill bacterial and fungal cells and spores.

The researchers want to develop a silver nanoparticle-coated water treatment filter to remove plant pathogens in greenhouse water systems.

Among other projects, AITF is studying biological controls of plant diseases, along with etiology and control of Internal Fruit Rot, a new pepper disease.

Among other speakers Thursday were Dr. Kwesi Ampong-Nyarko, a researcher with AARD, who outlined work on ethnic vegetables; Emmanuel Anum Laate, a senior crop economist with the Economics Branch of AAFRD, who discussed his 2013 report on the economics of greenhouse production; consultant Dr. Mohyuddin Mirza, who discussed fertilizer challenges and strategies; and Dr. John Zhang, of AARD, who outlined some of the research themes at the Crop Diversification Centre South in Brooks.

Friday’s sessions will include a garden centre workshop led by marketing guru Judy Sharpton; a growers’ workshop featuring researchers Drs. Chris Currey (Iowa State) and Roberto Lopez (Purdue University) with ideas to improve crop performance and profitability; and succession planning advice from AARD business specialist Joel Bokenfohr.

Friday’s education sessions begin at 8:15 a.m., and the trade show will be open from 10:30 to 3:30.

During tonight’s annual meeting of the Alberta Greenhouse Growers’ Association, it was announced that the 2015 edition of the show will be held in Calgary. It will alternate between Edmonton and Calgary after that. (Next year’s show will be held in Edmonton.)

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