Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement (CANOVI)

Canadian Organic Vegetable Improvement (CANOVI)

Growing collaborations for vegetable crop research in Canada

Project Leads

Dr. Solveig Hanson, University of British Columbia, BC (co-PI)

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

Project Team

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

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

Dr. Alexandra Lyon (Sustainable agriculture and food systems), Kwantlen Polytechnic University, BC

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

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

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


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

Photo of Solveig Hanson.

Dr. Solveig Hanson, current co-PI

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. 2021 trial crops are radicchio and rutabaga, while past trials have focused on carrot and sweet red pepper.

SeedLinked variety trial software ( and Tableau data visualization are used to give farmers real-time access to variety performance information from across Canada. In addition, data from the CANOVI on-farm trial network contributes to broader understandings of crop-environment interactions through functional trait analysis. Finally, CANOVI supports participatory plant breeding projects that leverage farmer variety trial input for breeding decisions. These include:

  • 1) selection of a long-storing orange Nantes-type carrot with excellent flavour and early vigor;
  • 2) selection of a red Nantes-type carrot with deep red colour, good flavor and resistance to bolting in BC’s moderate temperatures and long daylight periods;
  • 3) farmer-initiated breeding and commercialization of an early-maturing, blocky, red bell pepper

These projects represent collaboration among universities, NGOs, and farmer groups to facilitate decentralized plant breeding approaches that address regional and crop-specific gaps in seed systems for sustainable agriculture.

The UBC Farm serves as a field site for CANOVI vegetable variety trials and participatory carrot breeding, as well as a host site for field days.


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

Lyon, A., Friedmann, H., Wittman, H. 2021. Can public universities play a role in fostering seed sovereignty? Elem Sci Anth, 9: 1. DOI:

External Links

Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security
LFS Reach Out Magazine Feature
Webinar: Breeding Carrots for Production, Resilience, Flavour, and Fun in Organic Systems