Do you have a technology or research that would be of value to vegetable and fruit farmers from Nova Scotia? Horticulture Nova Scotia are members of Agri-TechE and will be hosting a meet and greet event on 21st of April.
We talked to Marlene Huntley, Executive Director of Horticulture Nova Scotia why the organisation and its membership are keen to develop closer links with the Agri-TechE ecosystem.
MH. We have primarily family farms in Nova Scotia of all sizes and many are multi-generational. Our farmers sell to retail, farm markets, and direct from farm.
Nova Scotia is connected to the rest of Canada by an isthmus, so it surrounded by salt water and this means that the climate is conducive to a massive number of crops. The Annapolis Valley can be quite hot, and some crops typically grown in warmer climates, like sweet potatoes, are now grown here successfully.
The growing season can run from May through to October/November, depending on the crop. To extend the season, many are now being grown under cover such as day neutral strawberries. We also have year-round greenhouse operations and over the last few years there has been a lot of interest and growth in innovative tier farming for greens.
Has the pandemic created challenges for your farmers?
Isolation protocols have created challenges for sure, especially with gathering limits, etc.
The main challenge has been with labour as many of our farmers depend on offshore workers.
Initially the pandemic caused many delays in bringing them to Canada and to our province, but the regulations to protect both them and the existing farm workers and families caused challenges as well, especially with housing while ensuring proper distance, facilities and gathering numbers.
What are you keen to gain through membership of Agri-TechE?
We see Agri-TechE as a door to all the information we seek, and a source for the connections we need to move forward in our industry; we want and need to be part of that larger worldwide network!
Before the pandemic, our growers were travelling across North America and Europe seeking new machinery ideas and growing innovations to help in their success.
We don’t want to attempt to re-create and waste limited resources on research and innovation that we know must exist, but we don’t currently have access to.
What type of innovation are your members interested in?
Members of our organization are always interested in technology – they live and breathe this on their farms!
Our farmers are vegetable, greenhouse vegetable, strawberry, highbush blueberry, bramble and associated nursery stock growers. They are interested in any tech that leads to more successful farming operations.
Scotia Horticultural Congress is a mixture of business, production, with an insert of others from outside the industry who bring motivation and insights.
We already use AI extensively, and are increasing the use of robotics, especially in areas such as weeding and disease assessment. So yes, a great appetite for technology!