Category Archives: Research & Innovation

NOW HIRING: Computer Programmer Research Assistant position with our AETIC 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 Wednesday, November 3rd, 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.

Niagara College undergoing landmark cannabis-infused edibles research for agri-food sector

Food scientist Zhengtao Zhao, PhD, (foreground) and research assistant Umar Sher, inside the labs at the CFWI Innovation Centre working on standard operations procedures for the Electrosprayer, used to encapsulate CBD and THC for stability purposes.


Supporting product development and advancing scientific knowledge around cannabis edibles

Niagara College is once again at the forefront of cannabis innovation with the launch of its applied research for the safe and reliable development of edibles products to assist the food and beverage sector.

Through the Niagara College Cannabis Edibles Applied Research initiative – administered by the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre, part of the Research & Innovation division – experts are conducting R&D in the development of cannabis-infused products such as non-alcoholic beverages, gummies, confectionery and baked goods for industry partners.

“One of the goals is to contribute to the cannabis industry with scientific knowledge to support and facilitate commercialization of cannabis-infused edibles,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, vice-president, Research and External Relations. “Niagara College has the team to produce and teach cannabis production practices, and perform applied research projects with the cannabis and related industries in the areas of food and beverage product development and food safety.”

With previous legal constraints – cannabis-infused edibles only gained legal status by Health Canada in October 2019 – there is a lack of validated scientific knowledge for the infusion, stability, degradation and interaction of cannabis in foods and beverages and a critical void that needs filling to de-risk the research and product development process for companies. In support of this goal, the CFWI Innovation Centre was granted a Single Site-Multiple Protocol research licence – a unique model in that more generally, cannabis licences focus on one researcher, one industry partner and one protocol.

“This licence model fits Niagara College’s research framework in that it involves multiple foci, with numerous industry partners and a higher volume of unique projects from a range of clients,” said Nantel.

The CFWI Innovation Centre team is applying its expertise by engaging industry in applied research and development, including the infusion and dispersion of active ingredients like CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol – the key psychoactive component in cannabis) for food and beverages containing cannabinoids. Research also focuses on understanding methods of dispersion and detection, stability and degradation studies to guide the cannabis industry when developing new products.

“Understanding how the cannabinoids behave in different media and food matrices is crucial to success in developing safe, stable and consistent cannabis edibles,” explained Ana Cristina Vega-Lugo, PhD, senior food scientist, CFWI Innovation Centre. “At the same time, we are dedicated to contributing to advancing the body of scientific knowledge around this evolving market.”

Several industry partners are currently engaged with the CFWI Innovation Centre for applied research from food science experts, using state-of-the-art equipment in recently upgraded and commercially secure labs dedicated to R&D for cannabis edibles.

Food scientist Zhengtao Zhao, PhD, (foreground) and research assistant Umar Sher, work inside the labs at the CFWI Innovation Centre on method development for the determination of active compounds (CBD, THC) by using molecular analytical equipment HPLC (high performance liquid chromatography).

Dynaleo Inc., Canada’s highest capacity manufacturer of premium cannabis-infused soft-chews, partnered with the CFWI Innovation Centre to build on prior research by local collaborators CBD Innovations for a therapeutic CBD-infused gummy to support muscle recovery for the sports and wellness markets.

“The teams at Niagara College and CBD Innovations have been incredible turnkey partners in our collective pursuit of these exciting new product innovations,” said Michael Krestell, executive chairman, Dynaleo. “We have been thrilled with their focused and highly intelligent approach to development.

“We’re excited to offer these one-of-a-kind enhanced soft chews to wellness-focused consumers under our Dynawellness banner of cannabis-infused products in the near future,” added Krestell.

Dolled Up Desserts is an award-winning and innovative gluten-free and vegan bakery in Hamilton, Ont. and is working with the Research & Innovation team to finalize and test formulations for its first line of infused edibles, said founder Katarina Poletto.

“We are innovating a product that will be completely novel in the legal space, and we needed to ensure, as a small business, we meet federal regulations. We’ve learned a lot about the processes involved with testing potency and how to improve our formulation,” said Poletto, adding she has even been able to apply what she’s learned from the research experts to her non-cannabis-related operations at the bakery.

“The team is enthusiastic, curious and very good at explaining their processes to us. We look forward to finalizing the project.”

Just as the College’s Cannabis Edibles Applied Research initiative supports the food and beverage industry, the research projects themselves also contribute to the experiential learning opportunities for students, said Lyndon Ashton, centre manager, CFWI Innovation Centre.

“The CFWI Innovation Centre routinely hires students as research assistants, who work alongside highly qualified experts and industry partners,” added Ashton. “These research activities, especially in an emergent industry, provide unmatched career-ready advantages.”

NC’s award-winning Research & Innovation division provides real-world solutions for business, key industry sectors, and the community through applied research and knowledge transfer activities. Researchers conduct projects that provide innovative solutions, such as producing and testing prototypes, evaluating new technologies, and developing new or improved products or processes for small- and medium-sized businesses.

 Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine science, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. Visit


“Conducting cannabis edibles R&D for the food and beverage sector is a natural extension of the successful applied research that has been ongoing through our Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre and with the College’s School of Horticulture, Commercial Cannabis Production program for the cannabis industry.”

~ Krystle Grimaldi, Director, Research & Innovation

 “We understand Canada has the opportunity to lead the world in cannabis-related innovations, and Niagara College is committed to strengthening this industry in Niagara and across the country through expansion of research and development into edibles.”

~ Andrea Campbell, manager, Niagara College Cannabis Institute (NCCI), the first centre of its kind in Canada’s post-secondary system. The NCCI provides a strategic support role to help drive a coordinated effort and help strengthen all cannabis-related initiatives at the College. 


  • ~ Cannabis edibles can include any food and non-alcoholic beverage: gummies, chocolate, brownies, cookies, hard candy, hot chocolate and tea; only be sold in packages containing a maximum of 10 mg of THC, with no nicotine or added alcohol and limits on caffeine. They must also be in child-resistant packaging, be shelf-stable, and non-appealing to children and contain ingredients and nutritional information.
  • ~ In June 2019, the CFWI Innovation Centre received a $149,345 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to support the purchase of specialized equipment for NC’s Cannabis Edibles Applied Research initiative. The Centre’s existing four food science labs (in food chemistry, food microbiology, shelf life, and food quality), at the Daniel J. Patterson campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake have been outfitted with this equipment. For details on equipment and research areas see:
  • ~ In the second wave of cannabis legalization, Health Canada gave legislative approval to cannabis-infused edibles on October 17, 2019, one year to the day that cannabis received legislative approval.
  • ~ In March 2020, Research & Innovation’s CFWI Innovation Centre was granted a Single Site-Multiple Protocol research licence by Health Canada. All the Centre’s research projects incorporate the government’s Cannabis Act framework through enforcement of strict safety and quality regulations. As well, the intellectual property goes back to the industry partner and strict confidentiality on the project is maintained in this highly competitive market.

This is one example of the applied research capabilities offered by the Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre. To learn more about the full suite of services to support industry innovation and commercialization of new products and processes, or to find out more about engaging in cannabis edibles research, visit the website.


Current Job Opportunities

Research & Innovation is now accepting applications for the following positions with the Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre team:



The deadline to apply is Monday, September 27th at 12pm. Please see links for more detailed job postings.


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

SoilOptix launches AETIC-created data portal

For growers to capture the full potential of their soil, they need to know what the soil is providing. Enter SoilOptix®, a high-definition top-soil mapping company, using precision agriculture technology to help farmers understand and improve the health of their fields to grow better crops.

And the Tavistock, Ont. company has recently launched what it calls its “lifeblood” – a data processing portal created by Niagara College’s Research & Innovation experts.

The web portal is a customized GIS platform that involves the analysis and processing of big data to give growers the most high-resolution digital nutrient soil maps so they can farm smarter. The platform also enables customers and partners to log in, visualize and export the resulting maps, says Ryan Eyre, product integration manager for SoilOptix®.

The newest collaboration saw computer programmers within R&I’s Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC) build the web platform, a powerful tool to streamline SoilOptix®’ data processing into a unified application. 

This has made the data analysis process significantly more efficient, saving time and increasing production capacity.

Previously, SoilOptix® analysts used various applications and other processes to create a soil map and could take upwards of seven or eight hours to process each field. Today, it takes approximately 1.75 hours per field.

To achieve this streamlining, the AETIC programmers created a comprehensive web application that performs all the tasks within a single application and is robust enough to handle an array of different data types.


“The data processing portal that Niagara College has created has become SoilOptix’s lifeblood.”
~ Ryan Eyre, SoilOptix


This new system has reduced processing times on fields by approximately 50 percent, while also reducing the analyst learning curve significantly, notes Eyre.

“The data processing portal that Niagara College has created has become SoilOptix®’ lifeblood,” he says.

Using a combination of strategic physical soil samples and non-contact geological sensors to measure the soil’s naturally emitting gamma radiation, SoilOptix® analysts run this measurement data through proprietary algorithms to deliver the highest definition and most detailed field nutrient maps obtainable today. 

Described by the company as an “MRI for your soil,” the maps provide levels of soil properties, including traditional nutrients and textures, to capture a deeper understanding of the variability and textural components of the soil. This empowers growers to identify strengths and weaknesses in their soil and make the best decisions for the management of their fields.

The company has seen business steadily rise, and its system is now being used in 15 countries. 

With the potential for continued growth, SoilOptix® is working to advance its map-making pipelines by further reducing processing times and increasing modelling capabilities. The company is working with the AETIC team to utilize an array of artificial intelligence (AI)-based approaches to accomplish these goals. The intent is for the AI system to run in parallel to the data processing portal with the ability to fully automate the map-making processing, bringing field analysis times down to a matter of mere seconds. 

“The project will increase the speed of the maps, but we are also investigating increasing the value proposition that we bring to our partner network and their growers,” explains Eyre.

The data-processing portal was the culmination of a multi-year project with the Research & Innovation division. The AETIC team was initially engaged to upgrade the original system into a new innovative web pipeline. The focus continued with the accessibility of the data to the farmers and consultants, including data visualization and data transfer with the implementation of an Application Programming Interface (API) application for field data.


“This new system has reduced processing times on fields by approximately 50 percent, while also reducing the analyst learning curve significantly.”
~ Ryan Eyre, SoilOptix


Brian Culp, a graduate (2021) of NC’s Computer Programmer Analyst (Co-op) program, has been involved with the SoilOptix® project since 2019 during his time with AETIC – first during his co-op as a research assistant and currently as a research associate in a one-year contract. 

He has worked to maintain and improve the web portal for SoilOptix® and insists the benefits of such an opportunity are plentiful to his future career.

“First and foremost, I had to learn a new programming language called ‘Angular.’ This was new to me as we had never learned about it in our class studies,” explains Culp. “Having this language in my portfolio is incredibly helpful to my future as it is quite popular in the programming community.”

Culp can also add to his list of perks the advantage of working with vast amounts of data – like multiple terabytes of data. He has had to keep his math skills in top shape as the formulas and logic used in many portal elements are highly complex. He also learned to work with different visualization programming libraries to display data in various charts or maps.

“You are immersed in a real-world work environment, getting a true feel as to what life as a programmer is like,” he adds.

Eyre says he has been impressed by the work the AETIC team has done over the years. “The students have quickly learned about the needs of SoilOptix® and have created a commercial production level application that will be used for years to come.”

In fact, the company has been so impressed by the student talent, it has hired several NC graduates involved in the project to help expand the application and provide the programming capacity for new projects moving forward.

The multi-initiative projects for SoilOptix® are under the scope of Mike Duncan, PhD, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s Industrial Research Chair for Colleges (NSERC-IRCC) in Precision Agriculture & Environmental Technologies at the College, with phases 1 and 2 also receiving funding from the Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI) through their College Strategic Sector/Cluster/Technology Platform Program (CSSCTP).


Niagara College’s AETIC team works with private and public sector partners to develop innovative solutions to address today’s challenges in agriculture, local and sustainable food production, plant growth, horticulture practices, greenhouse operations, aquaponics and environmental management.

For more information, visit Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Centre.


A novel solution to cannabis pest

Phase 1 BioWorks trials:NC’s Commercial Cannabis Production Program

Working on the phase 1 BioWorks trials: Deana Huntsbarger, (foreground), assistant student technician and 2021 graduate of NC’s Commercial Cannabis Production Program, and Laurie Zuber, horticulture technologist with the College’s Commercial Cannabis Production program.

One of the fiercest opponents facing the cannabis industry is the rice root aphid (Rhopalosiphum rufiabdominalis). Their feeding on cannabis roots can affect plant growth, vigor and productivity. Further, winged adults can become tangled in the sticky trichomes of flowers, and their presence can significantly compromise the plant’s quality and value.

To date, few registered products will reliably control these culprits and the industry continues to experience challenges to find sustainable Integrated Pest Management (IPM) solutions for this pest.

One company may have found a novel solution but required third-party validation of efficacy and safety in order to make a commercial decision as to whether to move forward and register their product for root aphid control.

With offices in both Canada and the U.S., for 25 years BioWorks Inc. has helped customers in the horticulture and specialty agriculture markets successfully grow crops with biological control and plant nutrition products. They’ve looked to the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC) at Niagara College to conduct efficacy trials of its biorational, organic pesticide for control of root aphids on cannabis crops.

“Review of the data will allow us to make a decision as to the value our product can deliver to the industry,” says Michael Brownbridge, biological program manager at BioWorks. “The product must demonstrate high efficacy and low plant risk to be considered viable. These preliminary trials will provide sufficient information as to whether we wish to invest further in product evaluation and development.”

True to their name, these aphids colonize cannabis roots, making them inaccessible to soil predators as a biocontrol solution, and their cryptic nature is one of the reasons for the difficulty in finding suitable IPM tools

BioWorks’ research collaboration with Niagara College includes testing various targeted root/soil-treatments for control of the aphids. This is the first step in identifying effective methods to manage the pest and is a pre-requisite to delivering a customized and effective solution for the Canadian cannabis sector.

“This hands-on learning experience is a great way for us to share some of our experience with the students, and to help them learn some of the nuances associated with the successful implementation of biological control and IPM.”
~ Michael Brownbridge, biological program manager, BioWorks

In this course-based research project, students from NC’s Commercial Cannabis Production program work alongside experts in IPM research to conduct multi-week trials. “This hands-on learning experience is a great way for us to share some of our experience with the students, and to help them learn some of the nuances associated with the successful implementation of biological control and IPM,” explains Brownbridge. “The structure of the project was able to bring all parties together around a shared goal, and to use it not only as a means of generating sufficient data to make a commercial decision, but to help develop critical thinking skills in IPM and plant health management for our next generation of growers as well.”

BioWorks Is currently involved in phase 2 of the validation trials with AETIC, which are expected to wrap up this fall. Results of the trial will provide the necessary information to allow the company to make a go, no-go decision on further commercialization. The trial project is being funded by the Niagara College-led Greenhouse Technology Network (GTN), through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).

Along with crucial benefits for the industry partner, these types of course-based applied research also afford advantages to students preparing for their career in the cannabis field.

As a student in NC’s Commercial Cannabis Production program, Deana Huntsbarger worked as an assistant student technician on the BioWorks trial. She had the opportunity to learn about research protocols, data collection, plant monitoring and report writing.

Since graduating in April 2021, she has been hired as a junior grower at a cannabis cultivation facility in British Columbia.

“My experience with the BioWorks project, as well as access via faculty to the latest cannabis research publications, gave me the skills and confidence to evaluate plant health issues at my facility and to connect with a leading researcher to provide testing via samples I collected and sent off.

“The ability of Niagara College to partner with cannabis industry enterprises to conduct trials and connecting students to real-world issues, is an aspect to this ground-breaking program that is singular in the cannabis education space,” adds Huntsbarger.


Niagara College’s AETIC team works with private and public sector partners to develop innovative solutions to address today’s challenges in agriculture, local and sustainable food production, plant growth, horticulture practices, greenhouse operations, aquaponics and environmental management.

For more information, visit Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Centre.


Welcome to the modern greenhouse

Greenhouse Technology Network - Modern Greenhouse Technology

Photos courtesy of Niagara College and Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.

By Rita Sterne, PhD, project manager
Greenhouse Technology Network

Did you know that modern greenhouses are largely automated and highly controlled environments to produce safe and fresh food and flowers? We are lucky here in Niagara to live close to one of the most vibrant and productive clusters of greenhouses in North America.

Led by Niagara College, the Greenhouse Technology Network (GTN), is a consortium of research centres helping greenhouse growers and related technology businesses solve technology-related challenges – with funding available to support applied research projects. Technologies are tools, equipment, or machines – in addition to methods, systems, or techniques for helping plants grow better, keeping costs down, and maximizing efficiencies that increase sustainability.

The modern greenhouse uses technologies across many activities, for example, plant propagation, growing, harvesting, and packaging processes. Vertical farms, often located in urban centres or remote locations, have capitalized on these technologies to bring food production closer to consumers.

Here are a few interesting examples of greenhouse-related technologies that help put safe, fresh food on our table, and beautiful plants in our homes and gardens:

  • • Automated heating and cooling systems that support optimal growing conditions for each plant crop
  • • Systems that regulate water and nutrient recipes specifically for different plant crops
  • • Networks of sensors in the greenhouse that feed information to growers and help them monitor growing conditions across—and to the top of—the largest greenhouses
  • • Computer software and apps that help growers stay in touch with conditions inside the greenhouse 24/7/365
  • • Artificial intelligence embedded in many technologies can improve sustainability and further lower a grower’s carbon footprint
  • • Drone technology now allows smart, airborne robots to play a role in a grower’s pest management strategy, for example, drones that can distinguish a moth from a bee — and take action

The Greenhouse Technology Network (GTN), is a Niagara College-led consortium of three institutions, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario): NC’s Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC), the University of Guelph’s Controlled Environment Systems Research Facility (CESRF) and Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.

To learn more about the GTN or apply for project funding, visit the website: