Bothwell’s Haggerty AgRobotics and Alvinston’s BioLiNE and CanGrow are three of 10 Ontario companies splitting $2 million in provincial funding.
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The three Lambton- and Chatham-Kent-area companies have each been awarded $200,000 in grant funding as part of the province’s Fertilizer Accelerating Solutions and Technologies Challenge. It was launched to drive the commercialization of fertilizer products and related technologies to help Ontario farmers mitigate high fertilizer costs and ongoing supply issues.
Why it matters: Technologies and products designed to make fertilizer go further are increasingly important as farmers face high costs, supply problems, greenhouse gas reduction targets and other issues.
Applications for the challenge closed last November and winning entries were chosen by Bioenterprise Canada, a national non-profit business accelerator with experience in bringing products from concept to market in the agri-food space.
Winners had to be able to provide an effective product, tool, or other solution readily accessible Ontario growers.
Focusing on use efficiency, Haggerty AgRobotics developed an automated soil fertilizer indexing robot. The machine is designed to provide real-time fertility analysis to support precision 4R application.
BioLiNE Corporation is also focusing on use efficiency and reducing fertilizer rates through a fulvic acid-based nutrient efficiency enhancement product called BioLiNE Gold. Mohammad Rahbari, executive vice-president of BioLine, describes BioLiNE Gold and the company’s other products as biostimulants that help crops improve their ability to transport and absorb fertilizer and organic amendments.
BioLiNE Gold has been selling to Canadian and American customers, namely input retailers, for four years. It has also secured its first European customer.
“What that means is the grower can improve their production with applying less inputs. The research behind it dates to 2012-13,” Rahbari says.
“We are working to improve formulations by looking at additional technologies to improve its nutrient efficiency.”
CanGrow Crop Solutions, a traditional liquid fertilizer company, is focused on the application of microbials with fertility products. The company is the first Canadian distributor of microbial technology products from Biodyne USA. These products release macro and micronutrients from bonds within soil, or release enzymes to act as residue degraders so residue-based nutrients are more available.
“Normal farming is tough on biology, and there’s a lot of interest in biologicals,” says Shawn Brenneman, certified crop advisor and commercial growth and strategy director for CanGrow.
“The products we’re bringing are all teams of bacteria and fungi. The biology in soil feeds on exudates, then the nutrient is released to the plant.
“There are hundreds of dollars in crop residues. How can we get them back to feed the crop and not lose them? We’re trying to recycle those nutrients and recycle that carbon …
“Biologicals work in complementing commercial fertilizer, but we also have some growers which will reduce their fertilizer by five to 10 per cent … It depends on the soil type and crop, but generally we are comfortable reducing phosphorus and nitrogen by that amount.”
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Brenneman adds research trials of Biodyne products have consistently produced better crop root masses and more early-season vigour, particularly in soybeans. However, this does not always equate to higher yields. He and his colleagues continue to research products and their effects
“We’re educating about what these are, how they work and how they are going to benefit that farm operation. If you put a biological on, it’s going to stay there and continue to colonize. It’s also about working with growers to communicate the benefits in subsequent crops, water retention, etc.”