Growing food security in the North
March 19, 2015
Whitehorse – Zucchini, beans and other vegetables have been growing in the dead of winter at Yukon College. Cold Climate Innovation (CCI) of the Yukon Research Centre (YRC) has partnered with AgriArctic Yukon Inc., to explore affordable technologies for growing food year round.
The vegetables are housed in a small spaceship-like dome lined with Mylar; a shiny silver material that reflects the energy efficient lighting. The vegetables lay within an aeroponics unit where their roots are exposed to the air. No soil is used in this system and the vegetables receive nutrients through a fine nutrient-rich mist or spray which is applied directly to their roots. One of the major benefits of using this system is the reduction in the amount of water usage compared to traditional farming techniques. Also by arranging plants vertically, rather than horizontally, northern growers will optimize space and energy efficiency.
“Food security is an important issue in the North and we are committed to supporting innovative and affordable technologies to grow our food”, said Stephen Mooney, Director, Cold Climate Innovation, Yukon Research Centre. “The Agridome is like none other and we look forward to working with AgriArctic to develop a product that works for Northerners with the potential of commercialization”, said Mooney.
While southern climates use domes successfully to grow food, it hasn’t been used in the North. During construction, temperatures in the Yukon were -30 degrees Celcius and the partially insulated dome maintained a temperature of 15 degrees.
“I am combining a number of innovative technologies in a way that has never been done before”, said Glenn Scott, Owner, AgriArctic Inc. “The support of Cold Climate Innovation has been critical to putting these ideas to the test, and investing in not only a local innovator but in food security for the circumpolar North”, said Scott.
One of the factors that make this project promising is the potential for commercialization. In order to protect their patent possibilities, Scott and CCI are only sharing the general concepts of the dome at this time. This feasibility study will be based upon data loggers that will measure pH, water quality, and air temperature. These data loggers send information to a control system that can then alter these factors without the presence of staff.
A feasibility study will be completed later this year and the results will determine whether improvements need to be made to the system to increase the domes potential for
The Yukon Research Centre will be offering the media tours of the dome on the morning of Friday, March 20th. Please contact Tanis Davey to arrange a visit. The agridome will also be featured at the 2015 Research, Innovation, and Commercialization Workshop that takes place next week. This year’s theme is Innovation in Cold Climate Greenhouses and more information can be found at http://www.RICworkshop.ca.
This project is funded by the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Cold Climate Innovation of the Yukon Research Centre.