Category Archives: Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre

R&I grad takes on grower role at berry farm

Vladimir Rogov is a 2020 graduate of Niagara College’s Greenhouse Technician program and research assistant with R&I

Vladimir Rogov is a 2020 graduate of Niagara College’s Greenhouse Technician (Co-op) program and was a greenhouse research assistant with Research & Innovation’s Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC) for eight months. Vladimir is now employed as a grower at BoemBerry Farms in Kingsville, Ont.

Tell us about where you work:

I currently work as a grower at BoemBerry Farms in Kingsville, Ont. Our company is one of the largest strawberry greenhouses in North America. The greenhouse has doubled in size this year and now totals 30 hectares, which is all climate controlled under glass. The strawberries can be found with the “Smuccies” label in stores, and they are distributed by Mucci Farms.

I began working full-time at BoemBerry Farms as an assistant grower in September 2020.

Describe your role and what you like about it:

With the most recent completion of the expansion this year, there was a lot of work to be done. We had to simultaneously plan for the new expansion while continuing to push for better production numbers in the original greenhouse. This has been an extraordinary challenge, but I am confident that everything will go as planned throughout the summer of 2021.   

How has your experience with Research & Innovation helped prepare you for your current role?

I cannot begin to express the importance of familiarizing myself with Microsoft Excel while working with the R&I team at Niagara College. Microsoft Excel has helped me with organizing data from our various trials, registering water measurements, logging climate data, and so much more!

A memorable applied research project during your time at R&I?

My first project with the R&I team at Niagara College had me collecting data on reusing rockwool with various growing media mixes. The preliminary data showed us that plants grown in a mix with a higher rockwool percentage were able to mature in a shorter amount of time. The small pieces of rockwool helped with aerating the rootzone and gave a boost to the plant’s early development.

What led you to Niagara College in the first place?

I enrolled in NC with the hopes of getting a job in the cannabis sector but got involved with growing strawberries instead!

Most memorable experience at NC?

This would have to be the various karaoke nights we had at the end of each month!

Is there a particular mentor at either R&I or a faculty member who influenced you?

I would say Derek Schulze, who was my greenhouse professor and mentor for the duration of my time with R&I, influenced me the most. He was the individual that helped me land the job with Boem Berry Farms!

“Networking is one of the biggest factors helping me reach my goals. The more people you know, the more opportunities will be made available to you.”

What advice would you impart to current research students or future alumni?

Your time in college will fly by you, and I would suggest enjoying every moment of it.

Also, networking is one of the biggest factors helping me reach my goals. The more people you know, the more opportunities will be made available to you. 

After being in the workforce, what have you learned?

Always listen more than you speak. Obtain a valuable skill that helps people. Always be willing to do the work that you might feel you are “above” doing.

Proudest achievement since graduating?

Landing a growing job shortly after graduation and learning a lot within the greenhouse industry.

What are you passionate about at the moment?

I’m currently working on ideas to start a tree nursery business. I am experimenting with propagating various trees and shrubs.

Interests outside of work?

I am a huge advocate for improving my physical health, and I will mostly be found in the gym after work. In the summer, I spend most of my evenings long-distance swimming, doing laps in a pool until exhaustion. However, since I moved down to Kingsville and no longer have a pool, I will be swimming at Point Pelee National Park after work. I’m practising to someday swim across Lake Ontario when I build up enough endurance and pain tolerance.

If you could have a billboard message seen by many, what would it say?

Work hard in silence, let success make the noise.

POSITION AVAILABLE: Research Technologist with our Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre team

Research Technologist, Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre

Reporting to the Research Project Manager for the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre, the Research Technologist is responsible for the laboratories, supplies, equipment, experiments and methods for the greenhouse and horticulture laboratory components of the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre and research program.

The Research Laboratory Technologist works with faculty and staff researchers and student and graduate teams, and acts as supervisor to student and graduate research associates in the absence of faculty and staff researchers. The incumbent manages all Horticulture and Greenhouse research labs and equipment on campus and is responsible for quality and safety in the labs. 

Click HERE to see the full job posting. The deadline to apply is Thursday, May 20th, 2021.

We thank all applicants; however, only those qualifying for an interview will be contacted.

NOW HIRING: Advanced Manufacturing Scientist position available with our Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre team

 
Advanced Manufacturing Scientist- Product Innovation and Manufacturing Research,
Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre

Working in collaboration with the Centre Manager, the Research Project Manager, and the Research Laboratory Technologist, the Advanced Manufacturing Scientist will provide the technical service lead in advanced manufacturing technical service and applied research activities.

The successful candidate will be responsible for providing internal technical lead for all 3D Printing, 3D Scanning, 3D Design activities, and other technical services and/or applied research activities, as assigned. Some duties will include: disseminating pre-sales technical expertise to industry partners; executing customer visits; recommending solutions; following up with potential customers; and achieving deadlines/completion of deliverables.

Click HERE to see the full job posting. The deadline to apply is Wednesday, April 14th, 2021.

POSITION AVAILABLE: Greenhouse Research Assistant position available with our Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre team

 

Greenhouse Research Assistant, Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre

Reporting to the Research Project Manager for the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre, the Research Assistant will work with the Greenhouse Research Laboratory Technologist as well as Research and Faculty Leads to oversee plant growth, apply fertilizers/irrigation, etc., and assess and measure growth.

The successful candidate will collect data from the growing trials and help to prepare update reports and a final report summarizing the project results. Some duties will include: carefully observing plant growth progress, taking regular measurements and careful notes on plant growth progress, and reviewing and providing input on watering, lighting, and nutrient needs. 

Click HERE to see the full job posting. The deadline to apply is Thursday, April 1st, 2020 at 12pm.

To apply, please email your resume, cover letter, transcript and class schedule to [email protected] and reference job posting ‘Greenhouse Research Assistant’ in the subject line.

We thank all applicants; however, only those qualifying for an interview will be contacted.

NOW HIRING: Computer Programmer Research Assistant position available with our Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre team

Computer Programmer Research Assistant, Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre

 
The successful candidate will work with the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre team. The work includes programming, testing and troubleshooting of agricultural data management and mapping web software. The position could involve development of web/cloud/IoT services, and helping to develop robotics technology. You will work with senior team members in Computer Programming and the Industrial Research Chair for Colleges in Precision Agriculture & Environmental Technologies.

Click HERE for the full job posting. The deadline to apply is Friday, February 12th, 2021 at 12pm.

To apply, please email your resume, cover letter and transcript to [email protected] and reference job posting ‘COMPUTER PROGRAMMER RESEARCH ASSISTANT – AETIC‘.

 

We thank all applicants; however, only those qualifying for an interview will be contacted.

Ecology study reaps key results at Niagara College vineyard

Ecologist Adam Martin, a professor in the Physical and Environmental Science department at the University of Toronto Scarborough, conducted a study at NC’s vineyard with the AETIC team and NC’s head winemaker to explore leaf economics spectrum traits of chardonnay grapes.

The leaf economics spectrum (LES) characterizes traits and their relationships to provide key insights into the ecology of plants, and their responses to environmental change.

Ecologists believe there are six leaf characteristics of importance: photosynthesis rate, leaf nitrogen concentrations, leaf mass per area, respiration rates, leaf phosphorus concentrations and leaf lifespan. These traits tell scientists about how plants are likely to “behave,” explains ecologist Adam Martin, a professor in the Physical and Environmental Science department at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

While much is known on how LES traits vary across wild plants, less is known how these traits vary in crop genotypes growing in managed agroecosystems, such as grape vineyards.

A new study, led by Martin, and in collaboration with Niagara College’s Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC) team and NC’s head winemaker, aims to explore these leaf traits on chardonnay grapes from NC’s vineyard at the Daniel J. Patterson campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Martin has been working with Kimberley Cathline, project manager with AETIC; Michael Duncan, PhD, NSERC Industrial Research Chair for Colleges; and Gavin Robertson, NC head winemaker and research lead for Research & Innovation, to research where on the leaf economics spectrum grapes – chardonnay in particular – are located.

“The general thought is that grapes – and most crops – should be really “high” on the leaf economics spectrum: really high photosynthesis rates, really high leaf nitrogen concentrations, but rather flimsy leaves. This is because crops have been bred to grow very, very fast compared to all other plants in the world,” explains Martin.

“The other thing that is pretty clear is that despite these plants being genetically identical, soil compaction really dictates chardonnay leaf characteristics at the farm…”

The research also sought to figure out if individual plants of the same grape variety differ in their leaf economics traits. Since all the chardonnay grapes at the NC vineyard are made of more or less the same genetic material, Martin says it might be expected for them to have the same leaf characteristics. But things like soil compaction are likely to have a big influence on these traits.

“The final thing is to understand if these leaf economics traits predict grape yield, quality, or both – though we haven’t measured that explicitly this time around.”

Martin says the work at the College’s vineyard is “looking really good” so far. As expected, he says, grapes are fairly high on the spectrum as compared to all other plants in the world.

“The other thing that is pretty clear is that despite these plants being genetically identical, soil compaction really dictates chardonnay leaf characteristics at the farm. In areas of higher compaction, photosynthesis is reduced by almost 75 percent in some cases, and the leaves are really tough.”

However, in areas with less compaction, the chardonnay photosynthesis is right up there with some of the fastest-growing plant species in the world, like wheat or corn, adds Martin.

LICOR-6800 portable photosynthesis instrument, measuring grape photosynthesis at the chardonnay vineyard at NC’s Daniel J. Patterson campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Ecologist Adam Martin utilized the LICOR-6800 portable photosynthesis instrument, to measure grape photosynthesis at the chardonnay vineyard at NC’s Daniel J. Patterson campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Martin and the AETIC group have coauthored a poster presented at the 2020 Annual Meeting of the British Ecological Society, and will write a scientific paper related to the research, to be published likely in the next few months, he says.

“I have also been tinkering with the idea of using drones and remote sensing to measure these traits from the sky. This is really Michael’s [Duncan] specialty, so I hope and think there is some room for collaborations in this area down the road.”

What brought the University of Toronto professor to Niagara College’s vineyard for research? Martin and his wife, originally both from Welland, recently moved back to Niagara to reside in Niagara-on-the-Lake. With that move came a decision to relocate his research in agroecology from tropical regions (he used to work in coffee agroforestry systems in Costa Rica), towards something closer to home.

“Grapevines seemed like a good choice, particularly considering I love pretending to be a wine buff,” he laughs. “From there, it certainly seemed like Niagara College and their team would be an ideal place to start, in terms of sparking new research and development collaborations. Thus far, working alongside Kimberley, Gavin and Michael has been a true pleasure.”

This research is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Martin’s lab currently has support from an NSERC Discovery grant to explore how crops respond to environmental conditions (like drought or extreme heat).

To follow Martin’s further research with the College, or to view more AETIC applied research projects, visit the website.