Vegetable harvest in Nunavut | Polarjournal
This shipping container in Gjoa Haven is a new research station and greenhouse used to grow vegetables. The solar and wind powered project is called Naurvik, which means “the growing place”. (Photo: Thomas Surian)

Ripening cherry tomatoes grow from green to red in a sea container outside Gjoa Haven in Arctic Nunavut. Betty Kogvik and Susie Kununak make sure these little fruits of the community’s new agricultural research station thrive. The heat and light they need comes from wind and solar energy and it is already the second harvest.

The Arctic Research Foundation describes its new greenhouse project in Gjoa Haven as the northernmost agricultural growing site powered by wind and solar electricity. (Photo: Thomas Surian)

The two women are responsible for the operation of the plant. The Kitikmeot community named the prokekt “Naurvik”. This means “the growing place” in Inuinnaqtun. The first crop of lettuce grew in about four weeks. The result was awarded to the elders of Gjoa Haven, who have played a major role as advisors to the Naurvik project, which is run by the non-profit group Arctic Research Foundation.

“It was so fresh. Not like we get in the store. Sometimes when we get lettuce in the stores, it’s almost rotten. The lettuce we harvested was really fresh and delicious,” Kogvik said. “One elderly lady even danced for joy when she got her salad.”

Seedlings of potted cherry tomato plants thrive under LED grow lights. They will be the second type of plant to be harvested at the Naurvik growing facility in Gjoa Haven. (Photo: Arctic Research Foundation)

The research station consists of two shipping containers, two wind generators and a series of solar panels. Next to it is a diesel generator for support when wind and sun are scarce. The station itself is located on a hill near the bay. There should always be a lot of wind here, according to the elders of the community. The place is only a few minutes away from the city by snowmobile.

Every day, technicians, including Kogvik’s husband Sammy, monitor the station. The current crop consumed only a quarter of what the station could handle. In the summer we will run a trial to grow peat berry and blueberry plants. “It was really difficult at first,” Kogvik said. “We didn’t know what to do, but we’re getting the hang of it now.”

The cherry tomatoes are closely monitored and cared for in the containers and can then be easily harvested when ripe. (Photo: Jill Macyshon, CTVNews)

In the spring Sammy wants to travel to Taloyoak to help that community run its own version of the Naurvik growing facility.

“For the Arctic Research Foundation, Naurvik’s focus is on improving food insecurity and exploring how food can be grown most efficiently in remote and harsh environments. It’s a mini mobile research station. We can add units if we want to expand,” explains ARF project manager Adrian Schimnowski. “It’s based on what the community wants.” But the whole thing should also be economically profitable for the community. Schimnowski explains that it should run on a scale that the community could also export the products.

Gjoa Haven is a town in the Kitikmeot region of the Canadian territory of Nunavut, with a population of about 1,100, 94% of whom are Inuit. In 1961, only about 100 people lived here. The community is one of Nunavut’s fastest growing settlements as many previously nomadic Inuit settle here.

The foundation funds the program with the help of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the National Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Space Agency.

“When I first heard about the project, I thought it would never work here,” Gjoa Haven elder Peter Akkikungnaq is quoted as saying in the press release. “Not in this minus-40 degree area. Now I know that anything is possible if you have the right idea. I had a taste of vegetation. It was fresh.”

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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