A “centre for excellence” is in the works at the University of the Fraser Valley, one that will not only encourage research and learning, but will strengthen the Fraser Valley’s leading reputation in berry production.
On Nov. 3, representatives of UFV’s Agriculture and Technology department signed a memorandum of understanding with a number of partners in the berry industry to move forward with the Pacific Berry Resource Centre.
The goal of the UFV-based centre is to move the berry industry to the leading edge of research and education. UFV is collaborating with the British Columbia Blueberry Council (BCBC), Raspberry Industry Development Council (RIDC) and the Fraser Valley Strawberry Growers Association (FVSGA) to launch the centre.
Together, the groups will utilize technical expertise, share existing assets, collaborate on projects, and utilize funding within UFV’s upgraded educational facilities.
“This is the perfect time to combine and make use of resources with renewed vigour to develop an industry that is a leader in sustainable growing techniques, and in such areas as soil management, marketing ,and product development,” explained Tom Baumann, a UFV agriculture professor who also works with the BC Ministry of Agriculture.
The centre partnership has received $30,000 from BC Ministry of Agriculture, and approximately $80,000 in “innovations funding “ from the federal Growing Forward program, a which involves a federal/provincial partnership, federal funding with provincial contributions, and provincial delivery of the programs.
“British Columbia is recognized as a world leader in producing great-tasting berries and for having an industry that leads through innovation,” said B.C. Minister of Agriculture, Don McRae. “The resource centre will be a gathering place for B.C.’s shared expertise and is a wonderful example of collaboration between producers, the University of the Fraser Valley, and the Province of B.C. that will ultimately strengthen family farms, the berry industry and B.C.’s economy.”
The Pacific Berry Resource Centre will aim to develop the most environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable industry in North America and provide the industry with resources to be proactive, according to Baumann.
“Not only will the local berry industry will be known, but UFV will be known as a hands-on happening place for the berry industry. It will be a centre for excellence,” said Baumann.
With the inclusion of Pacific in the centre’s title, the project emphasizes its partnerships, which are expected to extend from China to California, Baumann noted.
Joining forces and creating a network will help researchers at UFV tackle problems associated with topics such as variety development, plant husbandry, post-harvest management, and marketing.
Major co-operators will be the growers, the processing industry, the B.C. Ministry of Agriculture, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, private consultants, the Pacific Northwest berry groups, and the Sustainable Horticulture Institute in Langley.
Located in what Baumann refers to as the “hot-bed of berry agriculture,” the centre will be based in both Chilliwack and Abbotsford.
When the new UFV Chilliwack campus at the Canada Education Park opens in May 2012, it will house a growing centre consisting of an agriculture building, labs, greenhouses, offices and field facilities for growing and testing. A partnership with School District 33 will also allow the program to connect with young farmers.
In Abbotsford, planning of a field facility will begin in 2012, with the hopes of having it in place by 2013.
For more information on UFV, visit the UFV Today blog at http://blogs.ufv.ca/