Category Archives: Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre

NC & U of T researchers publish two academic papers

Niagara College’s Horticultural and Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre (HESIC) has been working with Dr. Adam Martin, Researcher from the University of Toronto, based in the Niagara region, supporting his research in ecology and plant physiology in grapevines.

Through an agreement with Kimberley Cathline, HESIC’s research program manager, and Gavin Robertson, faculty member with the School of Environment and Horticulture, the College has provided Dr. Martin space to work in NC vineyards and has supported scientific papers published by his laboratory, through providing our team’s expertise in editing and reviewing prior to publishing.

We’re excited to announce that since this collaboration, two papers have been published to date.

The first article, published in October 2022, is titled “Soil Compaction Drives in Intra-Genotype Leaf Economics Spectrum in Wine Grapes” [read here].

The second article, also published in October 2022, is titled “Intraspecific Leaf Trait Variation across and within Five Common Wine Grape Varieties” [read here].

NOW HIRING: Greenhouse Research Assistant with our HESIC team

Greenhouse Research Assistant

Reporting to the Research Project Manager for the Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre (HESIC), 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. To apply, please email your resume, cover letter, transcript and class schedule to [email protected] and reference ‘Greenhouse Research Assistant’ in the subject line. The deadline to apply is Friday, January 20 at 12pm.

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

NOW HIRING: Cannabis Research Assistant with R&I’s Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre team

Cannabis Research Assistant

Reporting to the Research Program Manager, the Research Assistant will work with Research and Faculty leads, as well as the Research Laboratory Technologist, to assist with overseeing and establishing research experiments, to maintain plant growth, apply fertilizers/irrigation, etc., and to assess and measure plants both pre- and post-harvest. The successful candidate will collect data from the growing trials and will help to prepare update reports on project progress, as well as a final report and presentation summarizing the project results.

Learn more about the Cannabis Research Assistant job posting. To apply, please email your cover letter and resume to [email protected] and reference ‘Cannabis Research Assistant’ in the subject line.

The deadline to apply is Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022 at 12pm. 

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

Grow Up features NC speakers, education award for academics

Stanley Leggett, Laurie Zuber and Alberto Gerhke Hardt represented Research & Innovation’s Food & Beverage Innovation Centre at the Grow Up Conference & Expo on Sept. 11-13 in Niagara Falls.

Niagara College cannabis experts leveraged their learning at the recent Grow Up Conference & Expo, which took place Sept. 11 to 13 at the Niagara Falls Convention Centre. Besides presenting during a talk titled “The impact of cannabis research on developing cannabis technology,” the team took home the Cannabis Education Award, for the work being done through the Commercial Cannabis Production Program.

The talk was moderated by Laurie Zuber, technologist with the Commercial Cannabis Production program, and included a discussion by Peter Brewer, research associate with the Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre (HESIC), which is part of the Research & Innovation division at Niagara College, and Daniel Lirette, CEO of GrowDoc. The two discussed GrowDoc’s successful collaboration with Niagara College in an applied research project to enhance the capabilities of a mobile app that helps address plant health issues.

To learn more about the Education Award, read the news release.

Learn more about the Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre’s cannabis research expertise in growing & edibles

Project helps company overcome pesky pests in cannabis crops

Finding a natural solution for one of the most challenging pest pressures in cannabis production fits perfectly with the mission of Koppert Biological Systems.

But Tom Groot, Koppert’s Manager of Research and Development, Macrobials, knows that asking growers to contribute their own crops to test biological controls against the cannabis aphid is a big ask.

They’re potentially putting their growing season — their livelihood — at risk for something that may or may not work.

So, when faced with finding a solution for what Groot calls “the hardest challenge” of growing cannabis in Canada, the team at Koppert knew it would need support from well-equipped researchers capable of working in a confined setting.

“In order to do pest control, you have to see it, you have to touch it, you have to see the results for yourself,” Groot said.

Thanks to Niagara College alumni working at the Canadian office of the Netherlands-based global corporation, Koppert found help through the NC’s Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre (HESIC).

Led by researcher Sebastien Jacob, a faculty member and researcher, with his deep knowledge of integrated pest and disease management, the HESIC team started testing biological controls in the CannaResearchBunker in January. For four months, the team studied natural candidates that could take on the cannabis aphid and be a product that Koppert could then market to growers as a vital part of their integrated pest management plans.

By April, Groot and Koppert had valuable insight into which direction they should go in their pursuit of a game-changing biocontrol.

“It was a pleasure to work with Sebastien and his team. We were happy. They did an excellent job,” Groot said.

“In order to do pest control, you have to see it, you have to touch it, you have to see the results for yourself.” ~ Tom Groot, Koppert Biological Systems

Since the project with HESIC wrapped in the spring, Koppert has taken what it learned from Niagara College outside the lab to test in real-world growing conditions in an effort to confirm the findings of Jacob and team.

“That, I can say, is so far, so good. The lessons we learned (from Niagara College) really helped us a lot,” Groot said.

Koppert has even been able to start marketing the biological control to Canadian growers, who work in a highly regulated industry that emphasizes natural pest control over the chemical interventions used elsewhere in the world.

“I think you should consider that a compliment because from what I see, Canada has one of the most stringent controls on what can be used, especially what cannot be used on crops for pest control,” Groot said. “It’s a compliment but it’s also why this was a tough challenge to solve.”

And a challenge that Koppert is seeing in other cannabis-producing regions that are moving away from chemical pesticides. That means there’s a wide market for this new biological control beyond Canada.

“We are learning in Canada solutions that will be used in other places as well,” Groot explained. “That’s the great thing about Canada controlling what’s being used (on cannabis crops). It’s a brave move and Canada will be ahead of everybody.”

The great thing for Koppert and Niagara College is they now have a partnership that could one day lead to more critical industry-advancing research when the need arises.

“If there’s a good topic to work on, I’d be happy to collaborate,” Groot said. “They delivered more than we asked for.”

NC helps Quick Plug find best product for Canadian cannabis growers

It seemed like a straightforward operation when Quick Plug recently moved production of some of its growing media to St. Catharines from a facility in Portland, Maine.

Bill Maartense and his team in the Garden City followed the recipe to a ‘T’ to create a private label plug – a product used to propagate cannabis cuttings. They added the same ingredients at the same ratios and then incorporated the same binding agent.

But the growing plugs that came off the new production line in St. Catharines were “subtly different” and it didn’t go unnoticed by growers who relied on them to start and sustain new crops.

The growing plugs were denser than usual. There were also issues with how they held moisture and allowed air to move around plant roots.

Stable growing media is essential for plants to thrive, so the changes to a product that had been an industry staple for 10 years were a conundrum for the Quick Plug team.

“Our customers noticed it was slightly different so that inspired us to look at what we were doing,” Maartense said. “How do you maintain continuity for customers with a big SKU in our world? And how do you guarantee the same results with the same products? All the ingredients are the same but the cookie sheet is a little different and the cookies are a little different.”

To solve the issue, Maartense and Quick Plug, which also produces growing media for plant propagation in floriculture, greenhouse vegetable production and hydroponics, turned to Niagara College’s Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre (HESIC).

The HESIC team had been on Maartense’s radar after crossing paths over the years at industry conferences. He knew its dedicated CannaResearchBunker was the right setting for his problem to be solved.

A team of researchers, including students led by Research Program Manager Kimberley Cathline, set about testing a few different styles of Quick Plug growing plugs starting last October. They looked at moisture content and how the growing media held moisture and air.

By January, they had results to offer Maartense and Quick Plug. The way in which the growing media was produced in St. Catharines was adding humidity to it.

That information enabled Quick Plug to make the changes needed to get production back on track.

“It guided us to know that if we go in this direction, it’s going to be good. If we go in this direction, it’s not going to be good,” Maartense said. “It pointed us to the light at the end of the tunnel because we were told there was a better product out there. That’s the way this company rolls. We’re always in search of the next best product.”

That didn’t go unnoticed by Quick Plug customers, either.

“The customers are now smiling again and the orders are coming in again,” Maartense said.

For that reason, Maartense would recommend others in the industry connect with Niagara College for help with production and other business solutions.

“The college has the resources for that, depending what the needs are,” he said. “They’re good people. They’re smart. They were professional. They were organized. They absolutely did what they said they would, so how can you complain?”