Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

June 09, 2006 13:13 ET

AAC/Tipsheet:The Monster Mash!

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - June 9 2006) - Steam, a bi-product of many food processing operations, is often an untapped potential energy source that is overlooked for other processes. Until now, that is. Scientists from an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research centre in Kentville, Nova Scotia, have developed an energy-efficient way to cook potatoes and other foods with steam, which reduces costs for food processors. Steam is being used to reduce the steps and energy consumption needed to prepare mashed potatoes for "ready-to-eat" foods. Sensory tests were also undertaken by the team to ensure that consumers would be satisfied with the quality of the product.

Not only is this new steam-cooking system more environmentally friendly, but the food looks and tastes great! It was discovered that, compared to the more energy intensive water production process, the steam-processed mashed potatoes were more uniform, with improved colour. Taste tests showed the steam-cooked potato product was perceived as having a significantly richer potato flavour. Now, just imagine the possibilities for saving energy and improving quality of prepared foods by adapting this steam technology to process other "ready-to-eat" foods.

Reusable storage container for fresh fruits and vegetables-a winner!

Imagine the quality of fruits and vegetables that are never handled after picking! That is more or less the idea behind the reusable plastic box developed as part of a number of tripartite collaborative research projects involving research scientists from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Laval University and the company IPL Inc.

The box was especially designed and optimized to hold horticultural products as soon as they are picked and to chill them well by any of the four existing prechilling techniques, thereby preserving
their quality to the maximum. The products remain
in the box until they reach the grocery store and can even be displayed in it, without ever needing to be handled again. Once emptied, the box are piled and returned to the owner, who can reuse them up to 15 times a year.

An independent study by the University of California demonstrated that the container reduces quality losses and fruit and vegetable spoilage by an average of 15 percent. Buying the containers and using them in a closed loop (including return, washing and sterilization) reduces the costs of packaging horticultural products for short-distance delivery by 80 percent. A competitively priced rental system facilitating the use of the boxes already exists throughout North America.

The latest version of the reusable plastic box manufactured according to the patented plans was produced in the early 2000s, and over 20 million are now being reused multiple times a year. So many trees spared-and so many pampered fruits and vegetables!

In the ag business, retaining water is a good thing

How can a farmer increase crop yields, store water for dry spells and prevent agriculture runoffs? The answer is in the integrated reservoir and irrigation system developed by Dr. Chin Tan, a researcher at the Greenhouse and Processing Crops Research Centre in Harrow, Ontario.

This system captures excess water from fields through surface and tile drainage and stores it in a reservoir for future use. This helps to stop sediments and agricultural nutrients and chemicals carried by the water to run off the farm and to recycle them. During dry periods, the water (including all the nutrients) can be delivered to the crops through the tile system or through existing centre pivot or trickle irrigation systems. To the environmental benefits of this water management system are added increased crop yields. Dr. Tan's study showed soybean and tomato production was up 50 percent, and corn crops increased by as much as 90 percent!

Producers interested in implementing water-related projects like Dr. Tan's system may be eligible for assistance through the National Water Supply Expansion Program (NWSEP). Through this program offered by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, applicants such as producers and producer groups can apply for technical and financial assistance to help develop projects which promote the protection or creation of agricultural water supplies. For more information on the program, visit

New agri-environmental portal on-line

Will this type of crop affect the water supply? What types of trees, shrubs and flowers will most likely survive in this region? How much fencing is needed, and at what cost, to protect the area bordering a stream? Can this land support an expanded livestock operation? These questions, among many others, can all be answered by information that is now available on the new bilingual Web portal developed by the National Land and Water Information Service (NLWIS) of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC).

The portal offers easy access to agri-environmental maps, data, tools and expertise, all on one Web site: This single window service provides data on land use, soil, water, climate and biodiversity collected from different sources using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology. It will also provide expertise to help decision makers interpret the information.

Currently, there are over 20 GIS applications available on-line in English and French. For example, the portal has a broad range of interactive maps, which provide an effective way to visualize and explore the data created and/or maintained by AAFC and its collaborators. Some are general-purpose maps, such as the Plant Hardiness Zones of Canada, which are very popular with Canadian gardeners. Others are important frameworks, such as the Soil Landscapes of Canada, providing geospatial data - information tied to a geographic location - that forms the basis for description, research, or modelling by a range of users from high school students to journalists to scientists. Other maps are more focused, including fence calculators or buffer-zone generators.

The launch of the Web portal marks the successful completion of the first phase of a four-year project to implement the new service, which becomes fully operational in 2009. The portal is the result of partnerships with departments from the three levels of government, along with non-government organizations and the private sector.

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