Weston Seeding Stronger Communities

Seeding Food Innovation

Awarded Project 2018

Altering Plant Microbiomes for Flavour and Nutrition

Project Description

The goal of this project is to use naturally occurring bacteria to improve the flavour and nutritional properties of food grown in hydroponic and aquaponics systems. This study will investigate ability of plant associated bacteria to alter the metabolic profile of select vegetables and leafy greens.

Relevance to the field of food innovation

Vertical farming is an increasingly popular solution for the production of vegetable and leafy green produce year-round at a local level. This concept has the potential to reduce food miles, increase employment in the food sector in local communities and to drastically reduce the use of pesticides in food production. However, it involves the growth of plants in engineering systems without natural soils. Soils are comprised of tens of thousands of species, some of which move into plant tissues and contribute to the natural nutritional and flavour profile of plants. Our aim is to match produce plant metabolisms to bacterial capabilities and to test the ability of formulated microbial inocula to enhance these critical components

Anticipated outcome

Our idea is to develop methods to introduce naturally occurring bacteria onto seed coatings so that they can colonise food plant tissues. These plants, augmented with helper bacteria, will be able to develop full flavour and nutritional profiles even in the absence of actual soil substrates. The produce derived from augmented plants will be better suited to the artificial soil-less systems that are characteristic of the hydroponic and/or aquaponic systems both currently in use and envisioned for expanded vertical farming facilities in the future. This will lead to a greater acceptance of the produce by the end consumer and therefore a greater likelihood of vertical farming success with all its intended benefits.

Grantees:

Dr. Roberta Fulthorpe

Dr. Roberta Fulthorpe

Dr. Fulthorpe is a Full Professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough, where she has been researching the genetics and metabolic capabilities of bacteria associated with soils, water and plants since 1994. Between 2012 and 2017 she was Graduate Chair in the Department of Physical and Environmental Sciences of University of Toronto Scarborough. Dr. Fulthorpe has published over 83 articles in peer reviewed journals, contributing new knowledge of the importance of bacteria to the breakdown of toxic organic chemicals in soils » More Info

Dr. Apollinaire Tsopmo

Dr. Apollinaire Tsopmo

Dr. Tsopmo is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Carleton University, where he teaches in the Food Science and Nutrition Program. Since taking up his position there in 2008, he has worked on natural products chemistry, food chemistry, sensory analysis and the analysis of micro- and macro-nutrients of foods. He brings expertise in plant metabolism and natural products analysis to the team. His PhD thesis focused on the isolation and characterization of natural compounds - mainly polyphenols and alkaloids » More Info

Mr. Brandon Hebor

Mr. Brandon Hebor

Brandon Hebor is the COO and Co-Founder of Ripple Farms Inc. He holds an HBSc. in Environmental Science and Biology and Sustainable Business Management Certificate from McMaster University and Seneca College respectively. Brandon has accumulated over 8 years of applied experience in horticulture with 3 years of experience in Aquaponics operations. » More Info

Dr. Enilson Saccol de Sá

Dr. Enilson Saccol de Sá

Dr. Enilson has been a professor in the Soil Department of the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul since September 1992, currently in the position of Full Professor. He has experience in the area of Agronomy, with an emphasis on Microbiology and Soil Biochemistry, mainly working on the following topics: bacterial plant growth promotion and symbiotic nitrogen fixation, selection of rhizobia strains, soil mesofauna and soil microbiology, seed and plant inoculation methods, inoculant formulations and techniques » More Info

Dr. Patricia Dörr de Quadros

Dr. Patricia Dörr de Quadros

Dr. Quadros has been a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto Scarborough since January/2017 when she was awarded a MITACS Globalink Fellowship in partnership with Vale and CNPq/Brazil. She has expertise in soil science, biochemistry, microbial ecology, molecular biology, high throughput sequencing, and bioinformatics. She has been working on the selection, characterization, and validation (lab and greenhouse trials) of plant bacterial endophytes that promote growth in agricultural species » More Info