Prof. Keith Warriner is a food scientist, but when he heard about the shortage of N95 masks for front-line health-care workers battling COVID-19, he saw an opportunity to contribute.
Showcasing the success of Partnership programs and research
Treating sick cows is never fun, for either the animal or the farmer. Just ask dairy producer Brad Hulshof. While he’s in the barn tending an animal, everything else he has to do around the farm takes a back seat. Plus, it’s costly—producers like Hulshof invest about $1,800 in life’s usual necessities (particularly feed) from the time a calf is born, up until the animal calves in turn and starts producing milk. Add the cost of extraordinary veterinary treatment to the mix, and that number can climb appreciably.
Being a carbon footprint-conscious dairy farmer improves the planet and farm profitability, say University of Guelph researchers. They’ve determined that environmental best practices, such as manure management, also improve producer profit margins.
Research associate Susantha Jayasundara and Prof. Claudia Wagner-Riddle, School of Environmental Sciences, collected production data from dairy farms across Ontario and classified them as having a high or low carbon footprint.
To support the demand for goat products, University of Guelph researchers are involved in an intensive, three-year, Ontario-wide herd health and management study.
Prof. Cathy Bauman, Department of Population Medicine, and a team of researchers have surveyed or visited almost 60 goat farmers over the past 18 months to investigate mortalities and management practices among their herds.
The researchers are also wrapping up a project to conduct autopsies on all goat kids under four months of age that died on about half of the farms.
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.
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.