Canadians love strawberries – they are the second most imported fruit in Canada, representing approximately $750M in retail value. Yet Canadian strawberry production has remained stagnant over the past two decades, largely due to climate challenges that inhibit year-round production.

Recognizing this issue, a team of scientists and private sector partners, led by Associate Professor Allyson MacLean from the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Science, is set to revolutionize strawberry production in Canada.

“Our approach will use a leading controlled environment agriculture platform, layered with compounding innovations for efficiency, margins, and quality. These innovations include photosynthetic optimization, growth-promoting microbes, and CO2 micro-capture-and-use technology,” explains Professor MacLean. “The team also plans to cultivate a blend of red and white strawberries, to be marketed as “True North berries”, radiating a distinctly Canadian vibe 365 days a year.”

The research began in July 2023 and is set to run until December 2024 in collaboration with Marina Cvetkovska, an assistant professor of biology at the University of Ottawa, and Patrick Dumond, an assistant professor of engineering design also at uOttawa, along with four industry partners: Ceragen (Waterloo, Ontario), Fieldless Farms (Cornwall, Ontario), Vertiberry (Brussels, Belgium), and Skytree (Amsterdam, Netherlands). Most of the research will take place at uOttawa and on location in Cornwall and Waterloo.