Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement (CANOVI)

Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement (CANOVI)

Growing collaborations for vegetable crop research in Canada

Project Lead

Dr. Alexandra Lyon, Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, Faculty of Land and Food Systems (co-PI)

Dr. Hannah Wittman, University of British Columbia, BC (PI)

Dr. Loren Rieseberg (Crop genomics and pre-breeding) University of British Columbia, BC

Dr. Andrew Riseman (Agronomy, plant breeding) University of British Columbia, BC

Dr. Marney Isaac (Agroecology, functional traits) Univ. of Toronto Scarborough, ON

Dr. Michael Mazourek (Horticulture, organic vegetable breeding) Cornell University, NY, USA

Dr. Helen Jensen (Crop evolution, resistance to biotic stress) SeedChange, ON


Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm, Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, USC Canada

About the Project

Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement (CANOVI) is a five-year collaborative project launched in 2018 by the UBC Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, and FarmFolk CityFolk.

The goal of CANOVI is to contribute to the resilience and growth of Canada’s organic vegetable sector through the characterization and development of varieties that excel in Canadian organic farming systems. Working with regional farming organizations, the CANOVI team coordinates a network of on-farm variety trials in which farmers generate and share data about regional variety performance, currently for peppers and carrots. In addition to providing farmers with up-to-date information on commercial variety performance, data from the CANOVI on-farm trial network is contributing to broader understandings of crop-environment interactions through functional trait analysis. Finally, CANOVI supports three participatory plant breeding projects which use information from the variety trial network for breeding decisions. These include:

  • 1) selection of a long-storing orange Nantes-type carrot with excellent flavour and early vigor;
  • 2) continuation and expansion of farmer-initiated breeding of an early-maturing, blocky, red bell pepper; and
  • 3) on-farm selection of squash varieties (acorn and delicate types) based on a range of farmer goals.

These plant breeding projects provide examples of universities, NGOs, and farmer groups can collaborate to facilitate decentralized plant breeding approaches that address regional and crop-specific gaps in seed systems for sustainable agriculture.


Nawaz, S, et al. 2020. Tensions at the boundary: Rearticulating ‘organic’ plant breeding in the age of gene editing. Elem Sci Anth, 8: 34. DOI:

Lyon, Alexandra, William Tracy, Micaela Colley, Patrick Culbert, Michael Mazourek, James Myers, Jared Zystro, and Erin M. Silva. 2020. “Adaptability Analysis in a Participatory Variety Trial of Organic Vegetable Crops.” Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems 35 (3). Cambridge University Press: 296–312.

Isaac, M.E., Martin, A.R. Accumulating crop functional trait data with citizen science. Sci Rep 9, 15715 (2019) doi:10.1038/s41598-019-51927-x

External Links

Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security
LFS Reach Out Magazine Feature