BIBLE HILL – Dalhousie Agricultural Campus officials get excited when they think about the future of organics, even more so thanks to a large government funding announcement.
About 40 people gathered at Dal AC’s amphitheatre in Bible Hill on Wednesday afternoon for the announcement that $8 million will be invested in the Organic Federation of Canada (OFC) to lead an organic science cluster that will help the sector respond to market demand and create new opportunities in the industry. Dal AC’s Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada took a lead in the initiative.
Representatives from Dal AC told the Truro Daily News overall $10.7 million is being invested in the organic industry Canada-wide and hundreds of thousands of dollars of the $8 million will go toward the Dal AC centre.
Chris Cutler, Dal AC professor and researcher, said local funding will go into projects such as using oil extracts from plants for pest control as well continued research and with students’ travel to field sites.
“People don’t appreciate all that happens … the college has a rich history in teaching but 50 per cent of the work done is cutting-edge, world-class research,” said Cutler. “This work is relevant for the economy of Canada, developing new products and environmental aspects.”
Andy Hammermeister, professor and director of the centre at Dal AC, said the financial assistance will make a huge difference.
“This industry is growing rapidly … the domestic supply is not meeting domestic demand,” he said during the announcement.
Hammermeister said more than two years of work, including screening, applications, research and networking with partners, has gone into five main areas – field crops, horticulture, pest control, livestock and value adding, which is using raw products to end products.
“There’s been 37 activities and 200 researchers come together on this,” he said, adding federal funding – which will include 85 researchers receiving funds – will also assist with initiatives such as managing pest control, crop breeding, and improved greenhouse technology to extend growing seasons.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz, who made the funding announcement, said industry focus has been on research, competitiveness, market potential, adaptability and sustainability.
Recent work has centred on activities focusing on expanding organic production for hops, sprouts, ornamental potted plants and poultry. Continued work will embrace crop breeding for improved cultivars, new reduced tillage systems for organic crops, soil improvement and plant health and pest management.
Ritz said the industry is advancing quickly.
“Fifty-eight per cent of Canadians are buying organic products every week (and) there are 4,000 organic farms in Canada,” he said, adding Canada has the fourth-largest organic market in the world.
“We are working on levelling the playing field,” Ritz said.