Events by invitation-only became the norm in 2020 as the pandemic curbed in-person contact. The impacts of COVID-19 on research, new product launches and extension efforts will be felt for years to come. 

Dejected workers gather to tear down the brittle leaves of a cucumber crop that perished after Nature Fresh Farms was shut down by public health authorities on June 30, 2020. In a recent short documentary, the story is told how 199 asymptomatic workers tested positive for COVID-19 but no one was ever hospitalized. The devastating effects of losing 7.8 million pounds of produce aren’t just economic but emotional as guest workers have testified. 

Meetups are increasingly scarce. That’s why technology transfer is challenged in the age of COVID-19. Ontario vegetable crop specialist, Travis Cranmer and his colleagues are using new platforms to reach garlic growers Ian and Nathan Teetzel near Exeter, Ontario.

After 45 years of farming, it’s safe to say 2020 has been a year like no other for Ernie Wiens. Due to scant rainfall and high temperatures, grape tonnage volumes are expected to be down by 20 per cent. He’s poised to take a brix test of Chardonnay grapes, one of many varieties grown at the family’s 400 acres of vineyards near Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.

High-wire cucumbers require a lot of labour for transplanting, staking, tying, pruning and harvesting. At Vine Fresh Acres, Jake Neufeld says it takes two people per acre to tend to the crop. Photo by Glenn Lowson.

The repetitive task of crop scouting in greenhouses is being replaced by an automated system with artificial intelligence which can detect pests and disease in real time. This bleeding-edge technology is not for everyone. But it’s a new consideration for Jake Neufeld who manages a labour-intensive crop of high-wire cucumbers near Leamington, Ontario. 

The Greenbelt Foundation has identified that vertical farming as well as several fruits and vegetables are ripe for expansion in Ontario’s $2.2 billion horticultural sector. They are garlic, eggplant, sweet potatoes, fresh grapes, pears and strawberries. Jeff Tigchelaar, Jordan, Ontario is one berry grower enjoying robust sales at the Ontario Food Terminal.

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