It’s our great pleasure to present this award in celebration of a remarkable woman whose contributions to the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) have not only made an impact locally but have resonated far beyond the borders of Niagara. The STEM Award recognizes the achievements of women in these disciplines, and it is an honor to announce Darby McGrath as this year’s recipient.
Darby’s journey in STEM is nothing short of exceptional. Born and raised right here in Niagara, she embarked on a path that would lead her to outstanding accomplishments in her chosen field. Darby joined Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in 2013 as a Research Scientist, and her dedication and contributions led to her promotion to Senior Research Scientist in Environmental Horticulture.
In 2018, she assumed the role of Program Leader for the Plant Responses and the Environment program, where she oversaw a team of scientists, technical staff, and external partners on multiple projects. She consistently secured grants to fund her research, from federal, provincial, and private sources. In recognition of her leadership and expertise, she was promoted to Vice President of Research and Development at Vineland in 2022. In this leadership role, Darby guides the direction of Vineland’s innovation portfolio, working with a team of more than 50 scientists and technicians.
Darby’s educational journey has been equally impressive. She holds a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in Social and Ecological Sustainability from the University of Waterloo. In addition to her work at Vineland, Darby serves as an Adjunct Professor at both Brock University and the University of Waterloo, sharing her knowledge and expertise with the next generation of STEM leaders.
Darby is also deeply committed to the community. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests (LEAF), a testament to her dedication to environmental sustainability.
Throughout her career, Darby McGrath has been at the forefront of innovation in Canada. Her work as a scientist at Vineland has been instrumental in addressing urban forest health and connecting the urban tree value chain, from tree production to planting. Her contributions have played a pivotal role in promoting urban ecosystem resilience.
One of Darby’s notable achievements is the invention of the Rootsmart tree propagation tray, for which she holds patents in Canada, the United States, Australia, and has filed patents in New Zealand and the European Union. The Rootsmart tray promotes healthy root development and prevents root defects during propagation, ultimately reducing tree failure in urban landscapes.
In 2020, Darby designed a state-of-the-art outdoor research facility for urban green infrastructure and an indoor soils and substrates laboratory. This innovative initiative supported soil health analysis and has since become an invaluable resource for producers and suppliers across the country.
Darby McGrath’s impact extends far beyond her research. She has worked tirelessly to establish pathways between municipalities and tree suppliers in Canada, ensuring the seamless flow of trees to meet the changing demands of the market. Her dedication to developing evidence-based resources for those in the tree value chain has been invaluable.
In addition to her work at Vineland, Darby authored the Ontario Landscape Tree Planting Guide, further demonstrating her commitment to the horticulture sector. Her influence is not limited to Canada but extends internationally, as she advises on similar challenges and issues in the United States and Europe.
As Vice President of Research and Development, Darby supports Vineland’s transition to a more client-centric business model. This shift allows the organization to respond to industry needs with greater agility and innovation. She leads an interdisciplinary team of over 50 scientists and technicians, ensuring that they collaborate to bring the best solutions to their clients. The success of Vineland, under her leadership, is measured by the acres of land impacted and the shelf space in grocery stores.
Vineland’s mission is to enhance the economic viability, sustainability, and competitiveness of horticulture in Canada. Under Darby’s guidance, Vineland’s R & D team is dedicated to delivering results to their clients and partners when they need them and how they need them. The organization has a competitive edge in its interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving.
Furthermore, Vineland prioritizes health and safety, and has implemented an Environmental, Social, Governance framework for the organization. Within this framework, the number one priority is “Workplace Safety,” emphasizing a work environment where all employees are safe and supported. The second priority is “Employee Health and Mental Health Care,” highlighting the importance of employee well-being and support.
Darby McGrath’s contributions to the STEM fields are marked by innovation, resilience, and an unwavering commitment to promoting environmental sustainability and urban ecosystem resilience. Her dedication to her community and the STEM sector is incredible.
We celebrate Darby’s outstanding achievements and the indelible mark she has left on her field and the region of Niagara. Her pioneering work in urban forest health, tree propagation, and innovative solutions underscores her commitment to environmental sustainability. Her leadership and innovation have significantly impacted the horticulture sector and beyond, making her the worthy recipient of this year’s STEM Award.
Congratulations, Darby McGrath, for this well-deserved honor, and thank you for your invaluable contributions to our community and the STEM fields.