Canadian Geographic - - DEPARTMENT­S - By Michela Rosano

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

The re­cy­clable,

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.

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