Smart Christmas trees becoming a reality with help of P.E.I. company

A P.E.I. company is buying into so-called Smart Christmas trees, which are balsam fir trees bred to stay fresher, longer.

'We have better-growing, faster-growing, bushier-looking trees'

Phytocultures, a P.E.I. horticulture company, has invested in the new SMART Christmas trees. (Submitted by Don Northcott )

A P.E.I. company is buying into so-called Smart Christmas trees, which are balsam fir trees bred to stay fresher, longer.

The technology, developed by Dalhousie University researchers, was officially licensed for commercial use in November.

"We have better-growing, faster-growing, bushier-looking trees," said Don Northcott, who owns Phytocultures in Clyde River, P.E.I., a horticultural company specializing in research and development on plant propagation.

"They hold their needles better, they have a better fragrance, and they have a propagation technology that will allow us to produce hundreds of thousands, even millions, of almost-identical trees bearing these positive traits."

'Quite an involved process'

Northcott has been working with the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia for a year now, and has hired two full-time and three part-time people to work on the tree project. 

Researchers at Dalhousie University developed the trees, which are designed to stay fresher, longer. (Dalhousie University)

Phytocultures has invested in the trees, and has already helped create about 150,000 seedlings that will be grown out by growers in Nova Scotia. Northcott anticipates that will grow to millions per season. 

"It's quite an involved process. It involves embryo genesis as opposed to traditional type of propagation as you would with potatoes where you just cut pieces of potato plant into sections and then propagate them," Northcott explained. 

Researchers are not playing with the genetics of the plants, but rather the propagation methods, he adds. 

Northcott is not sure when the first SMART Christmas trees will be available, nor how much they will cost.  

With files from Laura Chapin