Media releases

  • Brock research urges Niagara agribusiness to collaborate with other sectors

    MEDIA RELEASE: 18 June 2019 – R00108

    When asked what Niagara is known for beyond the famous Falls, many people say vineyards,  fruit trees, wineries and greenhouses that grow flowers and vegetables year-round.

    But that thriving agribusiness sector — which runs from basic operations to high-end commercial products — could be even stronger if there was closer co-operation with sectors such as manufacturing, tourism, government and institutions conducting research.

    This is one of the findings of “Niagara’s Agribusiness Sector: Towards a More Resilient Innovation Cluster,” the latest policy brief from Brock University’s Niagara Community Observatory (NCO) in collaboration with the Niagara Region’s Economic Development division.

    “Niagara’s agribusiness sector should link more closely to the manufacturing and tourism sectors so that the region’s economy can better adapt to change,” says NCO Director and policy brief author Charles Conteh, who presented the brief on Tuesday, June 18 at the Meridian Community Centre in Pelham. “Research and innovation are among the tools that could increase Niagara’s resiliency in this way.”

    Niagara agribusiness categories that generate the most jobs are farming as well as beverage and food manufacturing.

    Valerie Kuhns, the Niagara Region’s Acting Director of Strategic Economic Initiatives, Economic Development, called agribusiness “a critical component to Niagara’s economy, contributing more than $1.4 billion to regional GDP.”

    “We continue to see new investment and economic opportunity across many agribusiness industries,” she said, “however, there are challenges in the sector that we must better understand.”

    One concerning trend is the “modest to weak showing” of jobs in areas such as agricultural machinery manufacturing and equipment merchant wholesalers.

    The policy brief identifies three looming challenges in the sector’s pursuit of greater resilience and adaptability. One is “lock-in syndrome,” being stuck in a cultural rut with few fresh ideas and resistance to change. As a remedy, the authors suggest that agribusiness operators “build conduits of research and innovation” with manufacturing, tourism and other sectors, which would add value to all stages of agribusiness from farming and harvesting to the creation of products and processes.

    Another challenge is “organizational thinness,” or the lack of platforms or networks to create broader development through innovation and adaptation.

    The brief lists several institutions — including Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, Niagara College’s Agriculture and Environment Innovation Centre and Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, among others — that could form an “innovation infrastructure support system.”

    “This means building an infrastructure of knowledge generation and mobilization that is well aligned with the needs of not only particular industries but also the sector as a whole across the value chain of activities,” says the brief.

    A third challenge is “internal fragmentation,” or lack of a shared understanding of  agribusiness among farmers, entrepreneurs, workers, industry associations and educational institutions.

    The brief says such a common understanding is “a prerequisite for strategic information flows between research centres and industry groups and across the industries that make up a sector’s value chain.”

    Niagara’s agribusiness sector covers more than 215,000 acres of farmland and around 22 million square feet of greenhouse area. There are more than 1,800 farms, about 200 greenhouses, nearly 100 wineries and more than 112 food processing companies, says the brief.


    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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    Categories: Media releases

  • Top VQA wine promoters honoured at Experts Tasting

    MEDIA RELEASE: 18 June 2019 – R00107

    More than 120 wine writers, educators and industry professionals gathered at Brock University on Tuesday, June 18 for the 30th annual Experts Tasting, which promotes Ontario VQA wine and celebrates individuals who have helped grow and promote the grape and wine industry.

    Organized by Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), the 2019 tasting focused on Riesling, from sparkling to Icewine. Five flights showcased a total of 35 wines with industry experts guiding guests through the tasting.

    “The Experts Tasting has been designed for the trade — primarily media, product consultants, sommeliers and wine educators who promote VQA wines,” said event organizer Barb Tatarnic, Manager of Outreach and Continuing Education at CCOVI. “This event allows guests to taste and learn alongside their peers in the industry. This tasting showcased multiple vintages and styles of Riesling and clearly showed what this variety can bring to the Ontario industry year after year.”

    The event also honours outstanding achievements and contributions by presenting VQA Promoters Awards to individuals who advance the industry through promotion or education.

    The Sparkling Winos — wine bloggers Jeff Graham and Michal Matyjewicz — were recognized for promoting and raising the profile of VQA wines in the promoter-at-large category.

    “This is something that we do purely as a hobby. This isn’t a full-time job,” said Graham. “We invest so much of our time and effort into Sparkling Winos, so it means everything to be recognized for that from our peers and other industry professionals we admire.”

    The social media influencers say they are passionate about educating people about VQA wine.

    “There is so much going on in this area, so many quality wines and such a focus on quality winemaking,” said Matyjewicz. “I think that is what makes it a unique wine region and makes it a really easy sell for us to help spread the word about sparkling and other VQA wines.”

    The lifetime achievement award was presented to Helen Fisher, retired viticulture research scientist at the University of Guelph, who was recognized for her groundbreaking work in the vineyard and her research into wine grape selections for cool climate regions.

    The 2019 VQA Promoters Award winners include:

    • Retail: Meg McGrath, Retail Manager, Hidden Bench Winery
    • Hospitality: Maribeth Mckey, Food and Beverage Manager, Inn on the Twenty
    • LCBO: Victor Borja-Sheen, Product Consultant, LCBO
    • Education: Ron Giesbrecht, Professor, Niagara College
    • Promoter-at-Large: Jeff Graham and Michal Matyjewicz, The Sparkling Winos
    • Lifetime Achievement: Helen Fisher, retired researcher, University of Guelph

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews: 

    * Britt Dixon, Communications Officer, Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x4471

    * Dan Dakin, Manager Communications and Media Relations, Brock University, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

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    Categories: Media releases