Greenhouse Canada

Niagara College receives $2M in research funding

June 17, 2019  By Niagara College (edited)

Hamill Machine Co. owner and president Bob Benner (left) credits the Niagara College partnership for his company’s ability to expand into new markets, and doubling his machine shop and workforce. He is pictured with the Microgreens Harvester Dryer along with Lucas Howe, Mechanical Engineering student and former research assistant with NC’s Research & Innovation division (centre); and James Dahl, NC Mechanical Engineering graduate and now Hamill’s lead engineer.

Nearly $2 million in federal funding has been announced to fund ongoing research at Niagara College.

$1.75-million in Technology Access Centre (TAC) funding was renewed for the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC), whose previous collaborations include designing a microgreens conveyor belt with Hamill Agricultural Processing Solutions, streamlining Westbrook Floral’s production line and improving greenhouse construction efficiency with GGS Structures.

Another $149,918 was allocated to equipment supporting a cannabis production research unit for the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre.


Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, delivered the news as part of a nationwide announcement of grants through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) College and Community Innovation (CCI) program.

“Our government is committed to returning science and research to their rightful place,” noted Duncan. “We’re investing in students and small- to medium-sized businesses so they can work together on a diverse range of research projects to boost economic development and create jobs across the country. With these projects, colleges, cégeps and polytechnics will be making a real difference in the lives of Canadians in their own communities.”

“We are grateful for NSERC’s significant investment in research and innovation at Niagara College, which enables us to further enhance the work we have been doing since the inception of the TAC in 2014,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, NC’s vice-president, Research, Innovation & Strategic Initiatives. “Our TAC has established itself as a go-to place for technical services and applied research projects for manufacturers in Niagara, and its continuation is key to the economic development of our region.”

Nantel added that, in addition to its current project and technical service offerings for small- and medium-sized businesses, the TAC will expand to include industrial automation, machine learning, robotics, sensors, and generative design with this five-year renewal. In doing so, WAMIC will continue to help accelerate the adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies and new product development, while creating a competitive business environment in the region and beyond, he said.

“Our regional collaborative innovation model continues to achieve great success, providing industry partners access to advanced technologies, services and expertise and has had a strong impact on manufacturers in the Niagara region,” added Dan Patterson, president, Niagara College. “Importantly, one of the most vital products that the TAC has offered industry partners are the job-ready, highly qualified graduates we train for them to hire.”

The additional $149,918 was awarded by NSERC from the Applied Research Tools and Instruments Grants (ARTI), to support the purchase of a cannabis production research space and specialized equipment to support the unit and complete applied research trials for the cannabis industry. The space, which will be ready in the fall of 2019, will enable the testing and utilization of sensors, unique lighting arrays, and other innovative concepts that require applied research work prior to use in licensed producers’ spaces, and commercial adoption.

“Since legalizing recreational cannabis on a federal level in October 2018, Canada has an opportunity to be the world leader in cannabis production and related innovations,” said Patterson. “Leading in cannabis production will include innovating and executing applied research in growing methods, production technologies, crop management, support products, crop inputs, pest and disease management, sensors, and a combination of those elements.”

The news was well received by the College’s industry partners. “We’re thankful that we have an R&D partner like the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Niagara College,” said Bob Benner, owner of Hamill Machine Co. “It has been integral to our innovation success, demonstrated through our collaborations both in tech services and applied research projects.”

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