A new take on growing fresh produce in the North
WWhatever you do, don’t call it a greenhouse. It’s a growing dome, and it could play a key role in changing the food system in Canada’s North, a region where high costs, low incomes, climate change and a shift away from subsistence hunting are among the factors playing havoc with people’s ability to feed themselves. Growing North, the not-for-profit organization behind the concept, wants to mitigate the effects of those factors by empowering Inuit communities to grow their own fresh produce. After two years of research and community consultations, in October 2015 Growing North built its first dome in Naujaat, Nunavut, a community of 1,082 on the shore of Repulse Bay. By the end of its test growing season in November 2016, the dome had yielded about 45 kilograms of produce. That may not sound like much, but in a territory where 60 per cent of children and 46.8 per cent of households don’t have secure access to food,* it’s a promising start. Here’s how the domes work.
A new way to grow produce in the North
triangular-panelled polycarbonate structure can withstand wind speeds of more than 180 km/h and the weight of two metres of snow, an element its geodesic dome design helps shed, allowing the sun’s heat to be more evenly dispersed over the dome’s surface.
At full capacity,
the dome’s hydroponic towers and dirt beds will yield more than 9,000 kilograms of food, accounting for 62 per cent of Naujaat’s otherwise imported produce. A heat-and-power unit that burns organic material and wood pellets will extend the current growing season (April to November) year-round by generating electricity for lights and a water heater throughout the winter.
The hydroponic towers
are about 1.5 metres tall and can yield two to three times more food than growing horizontally. Water is pumped out of one of the two hydroponic reservoirs to the top of the towers, where it drips through and is collected in a gutter system at the bottom. The water is then recycled back to the main reservoirs.
The growing dome can stay
up to 30 C warmer than the outside temperature with as little as four hours of sunlight. A reflective barrier on the north wall of the dome directs the sun’s rays into a pool of water that traps the heat. A solar-powered central air system circulates the heat through the dome, keeping it warm even when the sun goes down.