The most sophisticated sustainable livestock production research centre in Canada officially opened today. At the Ontario Beef Research Centre, University of Guelph researchers will hone the latest technologies in health, welfare and production to benefit the province’s 6,800 beef farms and others across Canada.
Showcasing the success of Partnership programs and research
The labour-intensive task of harvesting and pruning has become a challenge for greenhouse vegetable growers, making up to 30 per cent of their overall costs.
Can robots help?
Prof. Medhat Moussa, School of Engineering, thinks so. He’s developing a robot system he hopes will be able to harvest, package and de-leaf greenhouse crops without assistance from humans. A prototype is currently being put to the test by harvesting tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers—Ontario’s main greenhouse crops—in Leamington greenhouses.
One of the greatest challenges of big data for researchers is the sheer volume of information generated by the rapidly expanding number of studies on any given subject. Another is the wide range of conclusions at which seemingly similar studies arrive. For example, consider the many conflicting reports about the benefits or hazards of a particular food or ingredient, depending on which study is quoted.
Historically, research has been a long-term investment. Whether the subject was health care, engineering or agri-food sciences, advancements have been mostly incremental. Over the long term, the small but steady gains have brought us to current yields, efficiencies and knowledge that were previously unimaginable.
Using fossil fuels to heat greenhouses is expensive and environmentally unsustainable. But how about heating them with plant waste from the greenhouses themselves?
That’s what Prof. Animesh Dutta, School of Engineering, is working towards. He’s producing a fuel-flexible boiler (heater) that can use a variety of non-conventional, yet readily available fuels in an efficient way.
One such fuel is called biocarbon. It’s made from plant matter – leaves, stems and vines of greenhouse plants – that is abundant in greenhouses, is costly to dispose of and has no resale value.
Plants such as milk thistle have been used for millennia to treat disease and promote good health. Now a Guelph-based start-up is enlisting plants to make medicine, and its choice of plants is one not traditionally associated with good health.
PlantForm Corp., established in 2008, uses tobacco plants to manufacture monoclonal antibodies used to treat a host of diseases, ranging from cancer to HIV.
Every little bit helps when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and researchers at the University of Guelph’s School of Environmental Sciences have some suggestions about how to help.
For example, they’ve found that completely emptying livestock manure storage systems is a relatively simple but effective method of reducing methane emissions to less than half of those produced by partially emptied systems.