Dedicated to creating and caring for a better berry, Dr. Eric Gerbrandt’s research takes him from the fields of his Yarrow farm to labs and conferences around the world.
For this and more, Eric has been named UFV’s Distinguished Alumni Award winner for 2023.
Eric has been leading the BC berry research portfolio as the as Research Director with the BC Blueberry Council, Raspberry Industry Development Council and BC Strawberry Grower’s Association since 2018, while owning and operating Sky Blue Horticulture —his living laboratory for developing the most efficient production practices and identifying the most desirable fruits possible through horticultural research and variety trials. He doesn’t operate alone, connecting with other growers and scientists in Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia to form the first Canadian Berry Trial Network.
“The best part about my research is that it’s edible,” he says, kneeling beside one of his laden bushes while performing a daily inspection of the many exploratory strains he grows for experimental trials.
With deep roots in UFV’s Agriculture Technology department, Eric started his relationship with UFV when it was still known as UCFV and was among the first graduates of the newly name UFV in 2009. He was the convocation speaker for his class, winning NSERC’s Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarship which launched his degree at the University of Saskatchewan, where he was named an esteemed NSERC Vanier Scholar.
Building on his undergraduate studies at UFV, Eric returned during his PhD studies with the University of Saskatchewan to conduct field-based research and collaborate with UFV’s biology and agricultural departments. Until 2019, Eric also honed his teaching skills as a sessional instructor in agriculture at UFV, providing a platform for him to impart knowledge and give back to the community.
Tom Baumann, a now-retired UFV agriculture professor and one of Eric’s undergraduate mentors, remarked on Eric’s excellence and energy, which were evident during a large-scale thesis experiment hosted at Baumann’s farm. Eric’s practical applied research led to multiple peer-reviewed publications, further cementing his place as a rising star in the agricultural world.
Since completing his PhD, Eric’s commitment to improving berry production through horticultural research and variety trialing has earned him acclaim both locally and globally.
“As an early career scientist, Eric has accomplished so much in advancing the knowledge base that has already borne great fruit in advancing the competitiveness of the BC berry sector,” says Mark Sweeney, former Ministry of Agriculture and Food berry industry specialist.
“In addition to ensuring that the best science is done, Eric takes a grower’s perspective to ensure that work is results-focused and of benefit to the agricultural community.”
Eric’s dedication extends beyond the laboratory and field, encompassing outreach and extension work. Recognizing the industry’s diverse grower population, he has tirelessly built relationships and worked alongside the community.
“The most important thing I think I’ll remember about my time with UFV is that it gave me so many opportunities,” Gerbrandt says.
“Not only did I get to collaborate with UFV professors in my research as a graduate student, but I got exposed to a lot of field-based agriculture during my time in the Agriculture Technology diploma and that’s really where I got my passion to do what I’m doing now.”