Niagara College awarded $1.9 million in funding to assist region’s food and beverage innovators

Niagara College will continue to expand its services and equipment for Niagara’s food and beverage innovators as a result of today’s announcement of $1.75 million over five years from the federal government to create a Technology Access Centre (TAC) for the Canadian Food and Wine Institute Innovation Centre.

The Hon.  MaryAnn Mihychuk, minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, delivered the news as part of a nationwide announcement of grants through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). During today’s event, Mihychuk, on behalf of the Hon. Kirsty Duncan, minister of Science, also announced another $135,710 in funding for equipment for Niagara College’s Agriculture and Environment Innovation Centre.

“Through today’s investment, the Government of Canada is supporting collaborations between talented scientists and engineers working hard on college campuses and their counterparts who are leading local businesses,” said Duncan. “Such partnerships can lead to the commercialization of ideas, job creation for the middle class and sustainable economic growth that benefits all Canadians.”

“This is exciting news for us, as it allows us to broaden and formalize the work begun several years ago,” notes Marc Nantel, associate vice-president of Research, Niagara College. “With this funding, we will be able to ramp up our activity and better serve the food and beverage industry, with increased equipment and services, as well as by hiring a centre manager, a full-time researcher and a dedicated technologist.”

“The Niagara region has more than 1,200 small- and medium-sized businesses in this industry who are working hard to be competitive, yet in many cases they do not have in-house research and innovation capacity,” adds Dan Patterson, president, Niagara College. “That’s where our research division comes in. Our faculty and students work with these businesses to improve their products and efficiency. These projects then contribute to job creation and the overall development of the sector in the region.”

Located at the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus, the Canadian Food and Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre will also provide support services and mentorship to hundreds of companies as a result of training and networking opportunities. The Centre offers a full suite of services to support industry innovation and commercialization of new products and processes in the food and beverage sector. From new recipe development to shelf-life testing and nutritional labelling, the CFWI Innovation Centre pairs industry partners with faculty, recent graduates and students with the right expertise and equipment to meet industry needs.

As a Technology Access Centre, the CFWI Innovation Centre becomes one of 30 such TACs across Canada, supported by the Tech-Access Canada network (tech-access.ca). Tech-Access Canada serves vital industrial sectors across the country, responding to industry applied research needs through innovation support services delivered by college faculty, staff and students.

The Centre was announced in 2012 during a visit by Her Royal Highness, the Countess of Wessex, and came into being thanks to significant funding support from the Government of Canada through NSERC ($2.3 million); the Canada Foundation for Innovation ($680,000); from the Ontario Research Fund ($680,000); and contributions from Niagara College and industry partners.

The minister’s announcement was made at Red River College in Winnipeg, and included more than $36 million in grants for 32 research projects to colleges and CEGEPs across Canada, to support applied research and development activities with Canadian businesses. The grants were awarded under the College and Community Innovation Program.

The additional $135,710 was awarded to Niagara College by NSERC from the Applied Research Tools and Instruments Grants (ARTI), to support the purchase of applied research equipment and installations to foster and enhance the ability of colleges to undertake applied research, innovation and training in collaboration with local companies.

The Niagara College grant has been awarded to the Agriculture and Environment Innovation Centre team to build and install six micrometeorological/weather measurement stations in fields, orchards and vineyards in Ontario. The wireless sensor technology will be used to collect data to be used in analytics for precision agriculture, particularly in developing and programing algorithms that will identify oncoming weather threats.

Each station will be constructed to measure values specific to the individual farm operations. For example, the station in the soy bean field will be a base station accompanied by a remote-controlled rover that travels around the field sampling the heat and humidity of the crop, since soybeans are most sensitive to moulds.

“The overall objective is to find the types of technologies that will comprise the tools needed on the family farm 30 years in the future,” notes Dr. Mike Duncan, NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Precision Agriculture and Environmental Technologies, and project lead. “What will the future farm look like? How much automation versus manpower will be present? Will the manpower be in the form of a tele-presence? Each of these likelihoods has its roots in what we can build today.”

NSERC aims to make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians. The agency promotes and supports discovery research, and fosters innovation by encouraging Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.

Niagara College’s Research and Innovation division provides real-world solutions for business, key industry sectors, and the community through applied research and knowledge transfer activities.