Niagara’s agri-business sector
Thanks to a unique combination of deep sandy soils and favourable microclimates, Niagara is well known for its vineyards and tender fruit farms, but that’s not the entire picture. Agri-business here extends far beyond the wine cellar and the fruit stand. The region also has a successful network of cash crop and dairy farms as well as greenhouses that specialize in fresh flowers, fruit, vegetables and licensed cannabis growth. The region has multiple agri-business processors and value-added agribusiness services that extend to support the entire industry.
Agriculture is a fundamental pillar of Niagara’s economy thanks to its climate, land base, pool of experienced operators, research capability and skills that make it a leader in the production of agri-food products.
Niagara’s agri-business sector is growing. In 2016, agriculture in Niagara contributed $1.41 billion to regional GDP and contributed 19,900 jobs – an increase of 15.5% over 2011. Niagara also represented 42.8% of the total agricultural economic impact of the Golden Horseshoe area, despite the fact that Niagara represents only 23% of its total farmland.
Niagara is home to over 1,800 farms and agricultural operations. With two-thirds of Ontario’s tender fruit orchards located in the region, Niagara’s orchards are responsible for the bulk of the province’s peaches, cherries, pears, plums, prunes and grapes.
In addition to fruit farms, cash crops, greenhouses growers and poultry and egg producers are the most common type of operations found within the region.
Niagara is responsible for 90% of grape production in Ontario and is the largest wine producing region in Canada, making up 80% of Canada’s total grape and wine production.
According to 2016 Canadian Census data, Niagara farms experienced a 16% increase in gross farm receipts between 2011 and 2016, with average farm revenues up by 47%. This is thanks in part to higher value crops as well as technology and automation creating higher yields per acre.
As of 2016, Niagara’s agri-business sector was using just under 22 million square feet of greenhouse space in over 200 greenhouses. While greenhouses in Niagara have historically been focused on floriculture, there has been a 29% increase in vegetable production and a 57% increase in greenhouse other products, including licensed cannabis production for medicinal marijuana.
Niagara College’s Agriculture and Environment Innovation Centre works with private and public sector partners to develop innovative solutions to address today’s challenges in precision agriculture, GIS, computer programming, sustainable food production, plant growth, horticultural practices, greenhouse operations, aquaponics, environmental management and renewable energies.
Niagara College’s Canadian Food and Wine Institute has 40 acres of on-site vineyards, a hop yard, culinary gardens, and a greenhouse to provide students with valuable hands-on farming experience and collaboration opportunities with local industry. The Innovation Centre team offers a full suite of services to support industry innovation and commercialization of new products and processes.
Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) has established itself as a successful, internationally recognized research institute that is producing important work focused on growing and harvesting cool climate grapes.
Brock University’s Advanced Biomanufacturing Centre pairs the cutting-edge work of Brock’s plant biologists and chemists with biotechnology companies that develop this research into innovative products and services. With its research strengths in plant biology and natural product chemistry, Brock’s partnerships with Niagara’s agricultural businesses are expected to create jobs and economic growth in Niagara and beyond.
Vineland Research and Innovation Centre is home to 20 on-site PhDs who are driving ground-breaking agricultural and horticultural research that is changing the way things are grown in Niagara and across the globe.
Niagara Parks Botanical Gardens and School of Horticulture in Niagara Falls was established in 1936 and is Canada’s only residential school for Horticulture studies.