Innovative thinking leads to international honour for master’s student

Kerrie Pickering receives the Award for Innovation at the recent International Conference on Innovation and Trends in Wine Management.

Kerrie Pickering receives the Award for Innovation at the recent International Conference on Innovation and Trends in Wine Management.

A Brock University presentation about the Ontario wine industry adapting to climate change has been honoured as one of the three best papers delivered at a major conference in the heart of France’s wine country.

Master’s student Kerrie Pickering won the Award for Innovation when her presentation was cited from 60 submissions at the International Conference on Innovation and Trends in Wine Management, held recently in Dijon.

Her paper was titled “Innovation and adaptation in the Ontario grape and wine industry: An integrated, transdisciplinary response to climate change.” The full list of authors includes Brock scientists Debbie Inglis, Gary Pickering, Ryan Plummer and Kerrie’s supervisor Tony Shaw.

As Ontario grape growers see an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, Kerrie said the Brock team is examining the industry’s ability to implement strategies that reduce the impact of climate change.

“We are trying to look at the industry’s capacity to cope with extreme events,” she said. “We are developing some strategies to address this but now we need to know what the industry needs to be able to implement and mobilize them.”

The research is a collaboration of the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) and Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, where Kerrie is a project manager. This unique partnership has researchers from different disciplines working together to examine the challenge of adapting to climate change.

“A lot of interest with climatic change has addressed and continues to address mitigation,” said Plummer, director of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. “Increasingly there is a realization that adaptation, how you build the capacity to deal with change and adapt, is critical.”

Traditionally, research looking at adaptive capacity has focused on one aspect that affects the ability of an industry to adapt to change. Kerrie’s approach was to look at the full set of determinants to have a complete picture of how to build adaptive capacity.

The project identified that the industry’s capacity to mobilize resources to support new products and strategies was largely determined by eight key considerations. They are:

  • financial – is there access to economic resources
  • institutional- is there effective leadership in the industry
  • access to technology
  • political connections
  • perception of risk
  • diversity in income
  • knowledge transfer
  • and social capital.

Although this project focused on Ontario, the framework developed can be applied to any wine region in the world by considering the same determinants.

The next step for this project involves gaining valuable feedback from the industry. An online survey has been sent to grape growers and vintners in Ontario. Kerrie hopes the responses will give researchers insight that will help them target the support structure to implement adaptive strategies.

This initiative is supported by funding through the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation’s (MEDI) Ontario Research Fund, which supports industry-led research and innovation. This project is a collaboration between MEDI, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Grape Growers of Ontario and Brock’s CCOVI. This is part of CCOVI’s heightened emphasis on outreach to the grape and wine industry.

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