Led by Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, the Automation Cluster will help address labour costs and availability through automation, artificial intelligence and precision agriculture technologies in the horticulture sector. Over the next five years, world-class researchers at Vineland will focus their research in three key areas:
• developing and testing robotic harvesters for greenhouse cucumbers;
• developing smart, wireless irrigation technologies for potted flowers and vegetables; and
• developing state-of-the-art sensors that will help detect and monitor moisture levels in the soil and air.
Canada's agricultural sector faces significant labour challenges and the greenhouse industry has the largest labour gap. It is estimated that labour shortages can cost the sector up to $1.5 billion in lost productivity and sales.
“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,” says MacAulay.
The Canadian greenhouse sector is also 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.