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A B.C. solution to taking the sting out of honey fraud

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A B.C. honey producer may hold the key to helping Canada fight back against honey fraud.

In the last fiscal year, more than 23 per cent of imported honey products tested by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency contained additives, despite being labelled pure.

The agency found the honey had been diluted with rice and corn syrups.

Chilliwack beekeeper Peter Awram’s family has been in the business since the 1970s and he says the industry is becoming less lucrative.

So Awram is taking honey fraud into his own hands by creating a database to track honey in hopes it will help take the fake stuff off the shelves.

Weeding out fake honey

Awram uses nuclear magnetic resonance, one of just a handful of people in North America with a machine capable of  the technology.

The machine detects added syrups in samples.

Beekeeper Peter Awram shows off his nuclear magnetic resonance machine. Awram hopes to use it to build a Canadian database for all of Canada’s honey. (CBC/Mike Zimmer)

Nuclear magnetic resonance may sound complicated but the process is quite simple.

“You drop it down into the centre and then it shoots a magnetic pulse at it, and you see how it reflects back at you and that lets you figure out what is happening in that sample, what all the molecules are.”

Awram says people from across Canada have been sending in samples, with the goal of having a big enough database to determine the true proportion of the country’s diluted honey.

“The extent of honey fraud is just skyrocketing. It’s getting out of control.”

Keeping Canadian honey clean

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says it regularly inspects and analyses domestic and imported honey to verify compliance.

But Rod Scarlett, director of the Canadian Honey Council says more needs to be done to keep pace with those producing diluted honey.

“They’ve upped their game to the extent that it appeases a lot of our international marketers but there still remains an issue because there are too many people trying too many things to beat the systems.”

Scarlett says the council is aware of Awram’s work and wants him to continue.

“We’ve been encouraging Peter to do more to work with the CFIA, to become accredited and to get a Canadian database together; to work together with some labs in the U.S.A. so that we can get a North American identification system in place.”

Beekeeper Peter Awram prepares a new jar of honey. According to the Canadian Honey Council, honey is the world’s third most fraudulently traded food product. (CBC/Anita Bathe)

Identification is important according to Awram because finding out where the diluted honey is coming from can be difficult.

“Most people suspect China is the majority producer of it.”

China can’t directly export honey to Canada — its standards don’t meet Canadian regulations — but its honey still lands on our shelves via other countries.

WATCH: How to tell if honey on a store shelf is more diluted than another product:

Beekeeper Peter Awram demonstrates an easy way to tell which honey products are more diluted when you’re at the store. 0:48

There’s an easy rule to remember if you’re worried about buying honey at the grocery store: If one sample moves faster than another, it’s more diluted.

But Awram’s hope is if his machine gets enough buzz, you won’t have to worry about fake honey at all.

“We need this to happen now or there may not be a honey industry here in Canada in the next five years.”

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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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