Agricultural cultivation of vegetables and herbs is a rather difficult undertaking in the Arctic. After all, cold and long periods of darkness are not exactly suitable for the growth of plant foods, and greenhouses are energy-intensive and costly. But four young entrepreneurs from northern Sweden have found a way to solve the light and heat problem and thus get fresh vegetables and herbs in arctic regions. They have now received an award for this from the International Polar Foundation IPF.
At the annual Arctic Futures Symposium, which focuses on the development of the Arctic regions and is one of the most important meetings of its kind, the “Laurence Trân Arctic Futures Award” was presented for the first time to the start-up company “Containing Greens” from Luleå in northern Sweden. The company’s director, Moa Johansson, accepted the prize of 7,500 euros and explained, “It is an incredibly important feeling for us to receive this award, a confirmation of our work and the path we are currently on with Containing Greens. It also feels like a receipt for us that we are on the right track and motivates us to keep going.” The award was presented by IPF Executive Director Nicolas Van Hoecker and Arctic Economic Council Director Mads Qvist Frederiksen.
The start-up company, which consists of four members, received the award for its innovative idea on how to grow vegetables and herbs in cold regions that are difficult to farm. To this end, “Containing Greens” uses heat from server systems in a pilot plant to grow vegetables and herbs in special containers. Special LED light and hydroponic plants, which are placed both horizontally and vertically, provide the remaining conditions for growth. Cabbage and various herbs are currently growing in the experimental plant in Luleå, and the four young entrepreneurs plan to deliver more vegetables soon. Commenting on the award, Mads Qvist Frederiksen says: “Containing Greens combines some of the benefits of being based in the Arctic with solving a challenge in the Arctic. They received the award for their visionary, ambitious and idealistic work – based in the North – and for providing a much-needed service locally.” He alludes to the issue of food security in Arctic regions, which is likely to become more acute in the future, not least due to increasingly frequent extreme weather events and a warming climate. Several projects in Nunavut, Russia and other places are working on possible solutions.
The idea for Containing Greens came to Moa Johansson and Adrian Arrosamena Mellgren, the current research and development manager, in the summer of 2020 during a summer program in the Swedish north for students to develop business ideas. The focus was on developing innovative solutions to problems that the northern Swedish region will face in the future. And that includes the food and supply issue, which is becoming more of a problem in many parts of the Arctic. Together with Ellinor Emilsson and Andreas Eklund, the two initiators developed the idea of using existing structures that produce a lot of heat. The region around Luleå is particularly suitable for this, as numerous IT and Internet companies have expanded their presence there in recent years. Thanks to a collaboration with the Swedish research institute, the four young entrepreneurs were able to set up their pilot plant near the server rooms and have now been operating it for two years. “The next step for us is to start a large-scale pilot project that can provide us with the final pieces of the puzzle and then take us to market,” Moa Johansson explains the next steps. “We want to take the step of supplying Luleå’s restaurants and stores with locally grown vegetables year-round.” For this, the award ceremony is very accommodating to entrepreneurs and provides a grant and the necessary attention.
Behind the prize, awarded for the first time this year, is Trân Van Thinh’s family, who had established the award in memory of their daughter Laurence, a gifted dancer and writer who died at the age of 26. After awarding the prize for many years in the field of literary art, they now want to honor young and innovative entrepreneurs with the “Laurence Trân Arctic Futures Award” who are helping to drive the development of the Arctic in a better, more sustainable direction, one of the core ideas behind which the International Polar Foundation and the Arctic Economic Council also stand. And with “Containing Greens” as the winner, a project that takes a greener path to the future of the Arctic has been awarded.
Dr Michael Wenger, PolarJournal
Link to the Containing Greens website
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