Three trailblazers share $150,000 innovation award

Simon Fraser University (SFU), BarrelWise Technologies and Technology Brewing Corporation have each received $50,000 from B.C.’s Agritech Innovation Challenge for leading-edge projects that will help battle the varroa mite in bees, improve winemaking processes and develop robots for mushroom harvesting.

Researchers at SFU are exploring how a non-toxic chemical compound can target the varroa mite, a pest that can cause significant bee colony loss. Effective varroa control promotes healthy hives and increases the probability of hives surviving the winter. Results from this study could lead to healthier hives in B.C., an increased availability of local pollinators, improved honey production and a reduction in imported bee colonies.

BarrelWise Technologies in Vancouver is developing a tool that helps winemakers care for aging wine barrels, making the process more consistent and cost effective. The venture’s equipment allows barrels to remain sealed during the entire aging process, reducing the risk of contamination. It also tracks key chemical data, such as free sulfur dioxide, in each barrel, allowing winemakers to better monitor and control wine production. BarrelWise hopes its tool will help further improve the quality of wine produced in B.C.

Technology Brewing Corporation, a Salmon Arm company, is developing a vision-guided robot capable of accurately picking, trimming and placing mushrooms in store-ready boxes. This project could help get B.C. mushrooms to market quicker and help address the mushroom sector’s labour shortage.

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