Nearly $1 million in provincial funding has been given to Brock University Viticulture Institute to support the research of a new virtual reality lab that will help researchers gain deeper insights into consumer wine choices.
The funding, worth $960,000, comes from the Ontario Research Fund which aims at supplying over $137 million worth of investments into over 53 research projects at 17 institutions across the province. What’s especially notable about the funding is that it is being supplied by economic benefits specific to their regions, Brock being in the centre of Niagara’s fruitful wine industry.
The grant was announced on January 8 by Reza Moridi, the Minister of Research, Innovation, and Science, matching a federal grant of the same amount by partnering with support from the grape and wine industry to allow Brock’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) to begin it’s groundbreaking facility. The new virtual reality lab is to be known as R3CL.
“Supporting Ontario’s researchers as they make breakthrough discoveries will help advance technology and drive economic growth across the province,” said Moridi in a statement with Brock News. “Making sure they are working in state-of-the-art facilities with the most up-to-date technology will help researchers do their best work and lay the groundwork for new products and services, and economic opportunity for people in Ontario.”
The project is estimated to cost $2.4 million and will go towards the creation of R3CL, or augmented reality, virtual reality, and consumer reality consumer laboratory. The idea is to create a virtual reality that will combine sights, sounds, and smells to help researchers further understand what comes into play when consumers choose wine.
“The concept of coupling consumer behaviour with technical tools of augmented and virtual reality is not only going to put Canadian researchers on the forefront of this research, but it’s also an international first,” said Debbie Inglis, the CCOVI director in a statement to Brock News back in October.
The funding will not only be utilized in the creation of R3CL but through additions to the CCOVI research lab. This will include new fermentation equipment as well as gas and liquid chromatography mass spectrometry machines which will give researchers the opportunity to further examine viticulture treatments that have an influence on aroma, colour, and flavour of wine.
What is especially important about this equipment is that it will allow researchers the opportunity to monitor how climate changes impacts the quality of wine and in what ways this can be combated to protect future crops.
As for fermentation equipment, the CCOVI is purchasing 30 stainless steel tanks, individually controlled, as well as a computerized glycol heating and cooling system that helps control the heating and cooling process of fermentation within each tank.
This is especially important as the process of winemaking needs specific biochemical conditions to create good wine —too hot and the wine will come out tasting too cooked, and too cold stalling the fermentation process entirely.
Through the new fermentation equipment, Brock researchers are looking to determine ideal fermentation temperatures and conditions for different wine styles.
Beyond the news advances that will be made through the funding, the CCOVI has played a significant role in the Niagara wine industry, it’s Oenology and Viticulture program being the only one of its kind in Ontario. The grant is yet another reminder of the impact that the wine industry, and Brock has on the Niagara economy.
Brock president Gervan Fearon says, “We are pleased that the Ontario government recognizes the important role Brock University’s research plays in helping Ontario’s grape and wine industry be more strategic and successful in a competitive global marketplace.”
The CCOVI offers an array of both research and outreach services that support the Ontario wine industry.