In Nunavut, in Canada’s Arctic, shoppers pay $12.44 for for a kilogram of celery, almost four times more than the $3.38 national average, and $6.90 for a kilogram of potatoes. It’s just one of many examples of food inaccessibility in the region, which severely affects 18.5 percent of Nunavut households, a problem the government is addressing by investing $13.8 million per year to support isolated Northern communities.
To address this problem, not-for-profit Growing North built a greenhouse in the Inuit hamlet of Naujaat in September 2015 to increase accessibility to fresh food.
The greenhouse has the capacity to produce 13,250 lbs of food last year for the local community of 1,082 people, an amount that “could feed just over 50 percent of the Naujaat population Health Canada’s daily recommended amount of produce,” explained Stefany Nieto, co-founder of Growing North. With the success of the Naujaat greenhouse, the organization is expanding to Arviat, Nunavut’s third-largest community, in August.
“It is completely unacceptable that many northern and Indigenous families cannot afford to put healthy food on the table,” the Office of the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada told Motherboard in an email. In an effort to “support families and hunters – and improve access to country foods,” in 2016, the Canadian government invested an additional $64.5 million over five years, and $13.8 million per year ongoing, and have now expanded full subsidies to an additional 37 isolated northern communities. Investments in local greenhouses could help grow fresh food and make it more accessible.
Growing North is exploring alternative and sustainable ways of feeding Canada’s north by using some of the latest in vertical farming techniques.
What was a once far-fetched idea is now a sustainable option for providing food to a growing population. Vertical farming allows farmers to have a 365-day season without having to use pesticides or worry about traditional farming concerns like sunlight, rain, or drought.
Over the last ten years, a number of companies have popped up around the world using old warehouses and other unconventional urban spaces to grow fresh produce. Many of these farms operate in densely populated places like China, Japan, Belgium, and the United States. The largest floor-to-ceiling farm is currently in New Jersey at nearly 70,000 square feet. And the phenomenon is only going to get bigger. By some estimates, the vertical farming industry is projected to be worth USD $13 billion by 2024.
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