Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food was at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre to announce a federal investment of up to $5 million to the Automation Cluster under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. The Cluster will be led by the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.
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. 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 research on three key areas, including:
- 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.
"Our Government is proud to support the innovative research at Vineland and we will continue to work with Canada's growers and researchers to keep the sector on the cutting edge. 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", said Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
"Our Government has identified agriculture as a priority sector to achieve growth and job creation. This investment will enhance the sustainability of the Canadian greenhouse sector, delivering economic benefits and job growth opportunities, while enabling the development of more cost-effective practices and production of high quality products", Chris Bittle, Member of Parliament for St. Catharines, commented.
"The greenhouse sector is an important part of our growing economy here in Ontario. Support for projects such as this one emphasize the Government's commitment to work with industry to find new solutions to help the sector address labour shortages, while keeping their businesses strong and competitive", Vance Badawey, Member of Parliament for Niagara Centre, added.
"This funding is critical to the industry and Vineland is pleased to manage a national network focused on developing automation, artificial intelligence and precision technology to improve the competitive position of Canadian growers", said Dr. Tania Humphrey, Chief Scientific Officer, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.