From the Editor: June 2012

May 28, 2012
Written by
The dust has not yet settled on the federal budget delivered on March 29. There is a price to pay for returning to a balanced budget by 2015-16, which, not surprisingly, happens to be an election year. The country can’t continue to live beyond its means. We knew there were to be cuts all around.

Agriculture was one of the hardest hit departments, which makes very little sense given the importance of farming sustainability, healthy eating and the generous economic spinoffs provided by agriculture. In 2010, agriculture was responsible for one in eight jobs, employing two million people, and accounted for 8.1 per cent of total GDP. Employment in the industry increased by 14 per cent between 1997 and 2010.

There is talk of Ottawa investing $1 billion in research and innovation, which is great news, provided greenhouse horticulture gets its share.

We’re buoyed by the attention the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre is getting from both senior levels of government, and in particular a pair of announcements made earlier this year.

Ottawa is investing some $2.5 million at VRIC to support a pair of new research projects.

Included is work on a robotic automation system for the packaging of potted flowers, and the planting of bulbs and seedlings. Vineland will adapt existing robotic technologies. “This investment will help Canada’s horticulture industry become more competitive,” noted federal cabinet minister Rob Nicholson in making the announcement, “and open new markets to businesses participating in this project.”

The work has attracted the attention of a number of leading companies, including AEMK Systems, Anoven, Cambridge Metal Products, and John G. Wilson Machine Ltd. Having those companies involved is great news; they may see other robotic opportunities within the industry and collaborate further.

VRIC and the University of Guelph have established a new partnership, headed by noted researcher Dr. Youbin Zheng. This position will improve collaboration across Canadian research networks and speed access to new technologies and innovations. Vineland is funded in part by Growing Forward, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative.

“Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine,” said U.S. president Barack Obama. “It may make you feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you feel the impact.”
Tim Bishop, another U.S. politician, also noted that, “in this time of budget cuts, we cannot forget that basic science is a building block for scientific innovation and economic growth in the information age.”

The late Apple Computers chief executive officer Steve Jobs once noted that, “innovation
distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

Canada’s greenhouse sector must be a leader in technology, or it will lose market share. We no longer have a 65-cent dollar. Relatively cheap natural gas will not last.

Science is not an expense; it is a solution.

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