Can you say CANberries?

Can you say CANberries?
Dr. Mirella Aoun (Photo : Courtesy)

Local universities team up to revolutionize berry cultivation

By William Crooks

Local Journalism Initiative

In an ambitious effort to meet the increasing demand for raspberries year-round, researchers from Bishop’s University (BU) and Université de Sherbrooke (UdeS) are pioneering a sustainable agricultural technique that could revolutionize berry cultivation in Canada. The project, titled “CANberries,” involves extending the natural growing season of raspberries to ensure availability irrespective of traditional seasonal limitations and climate conditions.

Leading this innovative endeavor are Dr. Mirella Aoun of the Department of Environment, Agriculture and Geography at BU, and Dr. Sébastien Poncet from the Faculté de Génie at UdeS.

The project has received substantial backing, with a $1 million grant awarded through the Shepherd Phase of the Homegrown Innovation Challenge, funded by the Weston Family Foundation, according to an April 19 press release. Success in this initial phase could open the door to an additional $5 million in funding during the upcoming Scale Phase, aimed at expanding the project’s scope and impact.

Aoun’s approach focuses on the preconditioning of berry plants, leveraging various plant types and varieties to stagger production. The objective is to manipulate the biological triggers of the plants, coaxing them into producing fruit outside their typical growing window.

Meanwhile, Poncet is set to enhance these efforts by incorporating advanced agrivoltaic and air technologies into a specially designed solar passive greenhouse system. This system will manage essential factors like air, light, heat, and water treatment, compensating for Canada’s challenging growing conditions due to low light levels and cold temperatures.

The collaboration extends beyond these two researchers. Dr. Leyla Amiri, Assistant Professor in the UdeS Mechanical Engineering Department, and Mr. Jean-François Lerat, a Research and Development expert, are also integral to integrating innovative technology into the project.

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