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It’s not the northern lights — it’s a borealis of greenhouse glows

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Purple, orange and yellow. Those are some of the colours that light up the night sky in Kingsville and Leamington at times, all because of the cluster of greenhouses that fill the region.

The hues have gotten the attention of residents and has municipalities working to address some concerns about light pollution. 

“I’m hearing both sides,” said Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos. 

He explained some residents are concerned from an environmental stand point, in terms of the impact the lights may have on animals. On the other hand, he’s heard from others who enjoy them.

“Some see the different colours as a northern light kind of experience, and they see beauty in it,” he said.

“But certainly, the town has taken the stand overall to try and protect the dark sky so that, you know, we don’t disrupt mother nature anymore than [has] already happened.”

This image was taken on Friday night in Ruthven. (Submitted by Rosemary Tako)

From strawberries to cannabis

He explained greenhouses that grow anything from strawberries, tomatoes, peppers to cannabis use different kinds of grow lights in order to produce year-round. 

“Certainly there’s an experiment going on right now with the different shades of colour,” he said.

In Leamington, a representative for Aphria told CBC News in an email that the lights they currently use in all of their new greenhouses are LED lights, which is a closer match to the light plants use for photosynthesis — and these lights have a purple colour to them.

“They are far more energy efficient and therefore better for the environment. We are not the only greenhouses in the area using LED, but likely we are the largest.”

Santos said he’s also aware of some of those violet glows within the municipality of Kingsville coming from part two marijuana grow-ops as well.

However, to his knowledge, the violet lights are not exclusive to cannabis. 

Dark sky compliant rules

Kingsville does have dark sky compliant rules, but right now, they only apply to new greenhouses. Greenhouses that existed prior to the regulations do not have to follow the same rules.

However, some of them are making adjustments on a voluntary basis, and others are catching up to the new rules when they apply for expansions or amendments to their original site plan agreements. 

This image was taken just outside of Leamington on Highway 3. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

“So, we’re catching up,” Santos said.

“We even have some commitments from one of our bigger growers to capture their existing greenhouses and have them with these basically darkened curtains to that they aren’t intruding into the dark sky.”

Mucci Farms in Kingsville acknowledges the concerns and said it’s not ignoring the public. A representative for the company told CBC News that some dialogue has begun with the Town of Kingsville to figure out the best solutions.

The representative also said the company is planning on implementing blackout curtains in all of its farms in the next three years, although it will probably take less time than that.

Municipalities trying to address it

Leamington, on the other hand, doesn’t have any light emission rules at this point, explained mayor-elect Hilda MacDonald. 

She said the municipality is trying to find the best way to address the issue, while still considering the economic side.

This photo was taken from Road 3 East in Kingsville. (Angelica Haggert)

She said the public has really started to voice concerns around the matter in the last year.

Incoming Kingsville councillor Kimberly DeYong said this issue is on her radar. 

“It is a complaint that I’m hearing, and you know, it would be nice to see the stars again,” she said, explaining people are recognizing that things are different from how they used to be. 

“They don’t want to accept that this is their new reality. So they do want to see something done about it.”

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The ‘Maple Majestic’ wants to be Canada’s homegrown Tesla

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Look out Tesla, Canada has a homegrown electric sedan on the way. Well, that’s if AK International Motor Corporation can drum up enough investment to make its EV a reality. Dubbed the “Maple Majestic,” the vehicle is a battery-electric designed to “excel in extreme climate performance without adversely affecting the climate, as befits a vehicle from Canada,” according to its website.

What’s in a name? — The company says the maple leaf is a “symbol of Canada’s warmth and friendliness towards all cultures,” while “majestic” refers to the country’s “status as a Constitutional Monarchy.”

That patriotism carries over into Maple Majestic’s parent company’s lofty goals. AK Motor founder Arkadiusz Kaminski says he wants the company, which he founded in 2012, to become “Canada’s first multi-brand automotive OEM,” and that the “Maple Majestic is intended to be Canada’s flagship brand of automobiles on the world stage.”

Partnerships are key — “We acknowledge that the best chance for the Maple Majestic brand to succeed, lies in continuing to build the relationship with Canada’s parts suppliers and technological innovators, whether they be academic institutions, corporations, or individual inventors,” the company explains. “We are currently seeking partners in automotive engineering, parts manufacturing, automotive assembly, electric propulsion technology, battery technology, autonomous technology, and hybrid power generation technology.”

In other words, don’t expect to be able to buy a Maple Majestic any time soon… and don’t expect to pour over 0-60 mph times, power output, range, or other key stats, because those don’t currently exist. For now, all we have are pictures and a short video clip. But at least those are arresting.

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PE-backed Quorum Software to merge with Canadian energy tech firm

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Houston-based energy technology company Quorum Software will merge with a Canadian tech firm to bolster its presence in oil and gas services.

Quorum announced Feb. 15 it plans to merge with Calgary, Alberta-based Aucerna, a global provider of planning, execution and reserves software for the energy sector. The combined firm will operate under the Quorum Software brand.

Gene Austin, CEO of Quorum Software, will continue in his capacity as chief executive of the combined firm. Austin, former CEO of Austin-based marketing tech firm Bazaarvoice Inc., became CEO of Quorum in December 2018.

Aucerna co-founder and CEO Wayne Sim will be appointed to the Quorum Software board of directors. Both companies are backed by San Francisco- and Chicago-based private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

“Over the last 20 years, Quorum has become the leading innovator of software deployed by North American energy companies,” said Austin. “Today, Quorum is expanding the scope of our technology and expertise to all energy-producing regions of the globe. Customers everywhere will have access to a cloud technology ecosystem that connects decision-ready data from operations to the boardroom.”

In addition to the merger announcement, Quorum Software announced it had entered into an agreement with Finnish IT firm TietoEvry to purchase TietoEvry’s entire oil and gas business. The agreement, which includes hydrocarbon management, personnel and material logistics software and related services, is valued at 155 million euros, or $188 million, according to a statement from TietoEvry.

“Our three organizations complement each other — from the software that our great people design to the energy markets where we operate,” said Sim. “Our new company will be able to deliver value to our stakeholders, while accelerating the growth of our combined business and the energy industry’s software transformation.”

The combined company will serve over 1,800 energy companies in 55 countries, according to the announcement. With its headquarters in Houston, Quorum will continue to have a significant presence in Calgary and in Norway, the headquarters for TietoEvry’s oil and gas software business. Quorum will have other offices throughout North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

As of Sept. 30, 2020, private equity firm Thoma Bravo had more than $73 billion in assets under management. In late December 2020, Thoma Bravo agreed to acquire Richardson, Texas-based tech firm RealPage in a roughly $10 billion acquisition.

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Piece of Kitchener technology lands on Mars on Perseverance rover

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KITCHENER — A piece of Kitchener technology has landed on Mars, thanks to NASA’s Perseverance rover.

The rover settled on the planet’s surface on Thursday afternoon. It’s been travelling through space since it was launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla. in July.

“The whole idea of being on a device that we’re sending to another plant with the express mission of looking for traces of past life, it’s pretty mind boggling actually,” said Rafal Pawluczyk, chief technical officer for FiberTech Optica.

The Kitchener-based company made fibre optic cables for the rover’s SuperCam that will examine samples with a camera, laser and spectrometers.

“The cables that we built take the light from that multiplexer and deliver it to each spectrograph,” Pawluczyk said.

The cables connect a device on the rover to the SuperCam, which will be used to examine rock and soil samples, to spectrometers. They’ll relay information from one device to another.

The project started four years ago with a connection to Los Alamos National Lab, where the instruments connected to the cables were developed.

“We could actually demonstrate we can design something that will meet their really hard engineering requirements,” Pawluczyk said.

The Jezero Crater is where the Perseverance rover, with FiberTech Optica’s technology onboard, landed Thursday. Scientists believe it was once flooded with water and is the best bet for finding any evidence of life. FiberTech’s cables will help that in that search.

Ioannis Haranas, an astrophysicist and professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, said the rover isn’t looking for “green men.”

“They’re looking for microbial, single-cell life, any type of fossils and stuff like that,” Haranas said. “That’s why they chose a special landing site. This could be very fertile land for that.”

“It’s very ambitious,” said Ralf Gellert, a physics professor at the University of Guelph.

Gellert helped with previous rover missions and said it’s the first time a Mars rover has landed without a piece of Guelph technology on it. While he’s not part of Perseverance’s mission, he said the possibilities are exciting.

“Every new landing site is a new piece of the puzzle that you can put together with the new results that we have from the other landing sites,” he said.

“It’s scientifically very interesting because, even though we don’t have an instrument on that rover, we can compare what the new rover Perseverance finds at this new landing site,” he said.

Now that Perseverance has landed on Mars, FiberTech is looking ahead to its next possible mission into space.

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